Ode on a Summer Road Trip

What is it about jumping in the car, rolling down the windows and turning up the radio that’s so appealing? If it’s faster and more convenient to fly, why is the summer road trip still so good?

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Tired of being in airports for the last 10 weeks or so, I decided to change things up and drive to my next two destinations for work meetings.  Now, the drive from Albuquerque to West Texas isn’t terribly exciting, but as I began packing I found myself longing for the days of the good old summer road trip.

What is it about jumping in the car, rolling down the windows and turning up the radio  that’s so appealing?  If it’s faster and more convenient to fly, why is the summer road trip still so good?

Is it the memories of childhood road trips?  Hours in the car, antagonizing (or being antagonized by) my kid brother?  Was it the novelty of stopping to eat along the way? Or, because my mother was a teacher, stopping to see the historic sites?  The latter I’ve become increasingly thankful for.  As an adult, I appreciate the fact that I have seen far more of the country than many other people my age because of my mom’s insistence that we learn something along the way.  (Truthfully, the stops probably also gave her some reprieve).  Or is it remembering the impromptu trips I took with friends when we were old enough to head out and explore on our own?  Jumping in the car for a weekend, heading wherever the wind takes you was a fantastic luxury of my 20s that I perhaps didn’t appreciate as much as I should have.

Maybe it’s a combination of all these things, but as I made my 4+ hour drive today, I began to think that it’s the opportunity, alone in a car, to quietly address and resolve the many thoughts rattling around my brain on any given day.  Time to be alone and clear your mind while just focusing on the road going by, letting thoughts come and go.  Thoughts like: “Why in the world does the town of Wagon Wheel, New Mexico have a U-Haul rental?”  (At last count, there were about 350 people in the area surrounding this little town).

photostudio_1494197940047There is a lot of open road between Albuquerque and Lubbock, Texas, but every now and again, driving an old stretch of Route 66, you come upon remnants of homes, gas stations, businesses that were once part of thriving communities before the latest Interstates were developed.  I found myself wondering about the people that lived in these little communities and the handful of people that still eke out their living in towns were little remains.  What happened to the owners of these now dilapidated buildings and abandoned homes?  Where did they go?  Why didn’t the houses pass on to other owners?  I really wonder about the homes that are still full of stuff…

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There are mysteries along Route 66.  One of the most mystifying is the disappearance and probable murder of two couples traveling through the town of Vaughn, New Mexico back in 1935.  The baffling story is still a mystery 82 years later.  (You can read about it here.) I drove through several sites today and found my brain wondering what secrets those old buildings might still hold…. I may never know, but pulled over at the side of the road to get a closer look.

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Lest you think there are only old ruins along the roads, you will find a few curiosities that aren’t so…serious.  Like this giant cowboy on the side of Highway 60 before crossing the Texas border.

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The popular Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, where, the story goes, an eccentric millionaire buried Cadillacs in the ground. Why? I don’t know. (Mind the million empty spray paint cans on the ground).

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Who knows what I’ll find on my return trip, but I plan relish the sound of my voice singing along with a much too loud radio and to enjoy the feel of wind through my hair (even though that means my hair will get tangled).  Let’s go on a road trip – it’ll be an adventure.

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