After college graduation, I drove cross-country and back again with my ex-boyfriend. The trip was planned before our relationship ended, and the lure of our planned adventure was stronger than any lingering bad feelings. We had 26 days to get to California and back in time to start work and our adult lives.
Not to sound like a doddering old lady, but back in those days, there were no cell phones. You truly could fall off the grid. We set in his topless blue Jeep with a brand new copy of the 1995 Rand McNally Road Atlas, a gift from my mother that she had nervously inscribed with the advice to look at the scenery instead of fighting. I’m not sure if it was definitively closing the door on romantic future or my mother’s advice, but I have nothing but colorful, amazing memories of our journey. Tanned feet on the dash, hair whipping around my face, wearing only torn jean shorts and a bikini top, I discovered America. When we got back in to New York City 26 days later, we were ready to start our adult lives, apart. The trip was a long and memorable goodbye.
We ate Texas oysters in a Hill Country saloon decorated with hundreds of cowboy hats (surprisingly tasty when you get past the yuck factor), walked across the salt desert of Utah, and gambled in Reno. More than any individual experience, I remember being alone on the open road, having it snake ahead of us like an invitation.
The road has called to me ever since that trip, and although our family travels a lot, I haven’t experienced that freedom again, until last week.
With the big kids away at summer camp, I spent a week in Northern California with my little girls, and reunited with the open road. We had 6 days together with no schedule, no obligations, nowhere to be. Every morning we woke up and decided which parks to discover, which beaches to explore. Hugging the rugged Big Sur coast, devoid of any cell phone service, we fell off the grid, driving with no GPS, stopping randomly, on a whim.
Just like I remembered, the open road was delicious, luring us around bend after bend in search of new sights and adventures. We’re back home now, loving the comfort of our own beds, but it’s good to know that even with kids in tow, the joys of the open road are still possible.