Sunday, June 17, 2007

King Of The Road

Long long ago, on a family vacation far, far away, we joked my father should be wearing a t-shirt labelled "Born To Drive." He logged as much mileage as the truckers while ferrying Mom, my brother, my aunt and myself in the family car around parts of New England looking for antiques. I consider it an especially generous duty, and also neccessary: nobody else could operate a stickshift.

We never flew anywhere for summer getaways. When I asked Dad why, he gave the Clark Griswald answer: wanting to see more of the country. That was the educational, good-for-you response. The expense of flying two adults and two children would stay neatly concealed in the "when you're older, you'll understand" compartment. So for several years, we rolled from Kansas City to rural Massachusetts or New Hampshire -- realm of my aunt and uncle -- in two or three days, my brother and I enslaved to our parents' music before we got our hands on Walkmans and then Watchmans, delivering us from Gordon Lightfoot. The ultimate road trip came in 1986, an adventure which took us to Disney World -- finally -- and then up the east coast to Williamsburg -- huzzah! -- and Washington D.C. before looping back to our midwest home. We flew to England in 1990, but try driving the Atlantic.

These expeditions should have mutated my motorhead genes, but it merely recessed them until I started earning a living. Now, I can do six hours in the car from Tucson to L.A. I can cruise from home base to Vegas in the same lump of time. I'll get up at 4am to do The Drive At Five and hit my destination before lunch. My iPod helps pass the distance, but a private radio station doesn't freeze the odometer. I have to have the tolerance for rear-numbing gigs behind the wheel. And since my Kia doesn't have cruise control, my foot has to be in the race from start to finish.

Dad, however, still has me beat, having logged hundreds of thousands of miles all over the country. His supervisor work for a pharmacy franchiser took him through the best and worst of America on four wheels. He called on stores armed with sales figures and suggestions for improvement, rapped with the guy behind the counseling window, and drove on. He used a radar detector back when they provided reasonable protection, although he got a few speeding tickets just like everybody else -- just a few. But stamina, not acceleration, kept him going.

I have my limits. If it's going to take me more than a day to get somewhere on the road, I'm looking at Expedia. I can see the country from the air, too. But the lure of the interstate still beckons me, the thought of revisiting the run from Kansas City to St. Louis again, or following I-10 back to Texas, or retreading the miles to Florida or through Colorado, wondering where I'll find the next pit stop with clean facilities. If I hit the Powerball jackpot, I'm taking a road trip -- a long one -- in a hybrid SUV with plenty of space and an appreciation for the person who passed me the road warrior's sword.

No comments: