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  • Writer's pictureMark Stefan Reinoso

The Road

"You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget." Cormac McCarthy If it seems that road trips are part of the American experience, it's probably because they are. Highway 80, Interstate 10, the PCH or Highway 1, Route 66... they are all iconic roads in this nation. Before the economic availability of plane travel, we took to the roads: for visiting friends and family, for new experiences, or just to avoid weather. Even now, road trips are part of the American psyche, movies are constantly made with that theme: Thelma and Louise, Little Miss Sunshine, Rain Man, Road Trip, Easy Rider...the list can go on forever. What's interesting is that road trips are not uniquely American, people have been hitting the road since the beginning of time. Nomads have always followed seasons, and native peoples follow the food source. 5000 years ago, the Israelites hit the road after leaving Egypt, and drove around in circles for quite a few years, eventually making it to Canaan. Alexander the Great took a giant road trip for 10 years, and he wept when it was over, "because there were no more worlds to conquer" It doesn't take much for me to hit the road, all I need is a flimsy excuse. I recently dragged my wife and 2 youngest on 25 day road trip, mainly because I thought the rental car was way too expensive. For the last few years, Abby has asked me to go to a dance convention with her students, and this time I said yes to Wisconsin in June. I've always wanted to go there, easy choice. Our plan was to fly to Chicago, spend a few days there, and then spend 5 days at the tourist trap known as the Kalahari resort in Wisconsin Dells. Once that was over, we would fly to Portland, Oregon to stay for the summer. We keep our old minivan there, so its a seamless transition, right off the plane. That seemed like a good enough plan, but as is the case with my family, things got complicated: My eldest daughter called and said she wanted to come, and that her boss had a cabin in northern Wisconsin on a lake and that he had invited us to spend a few days there. I love to spend time with Lauren, and I think her boss is hilarious, so it was an easy choice, no issues! Except there was an issue: the rental car. Apparently rental cars are very expensive now, and when I checked for 9 days, it was $2200. NO STINKING WAY. There are things that I will pay for, and things I won't. I know it seems petty and ridiculous to embark on a giant road trip just because you don't want to rent a car, but then I realized that women can design a whole wardrobe around just a pair of shoes. Yes I know that's not the same thing, but it's the same myopic spark, even though profligacy is inversely proportional in these matters. Road trips are highly evocative. You are in this metal canister, trapped with other people all day, every day. You see things you normally don't, you feel things you haven't felt in years. You eat things you normally don't, you listen to music you wouldn't dare to otherwise. Your thoughts, feelings run the gamut of emotions and ideas. The scenery whizzes past you like a blur, the natural world around you starts to look the same. You pass by all these other living creatures, scurrying about, worrying about things that don't concern you currently. They don't know you, and you don't know them. I've often wondered if birds feel the same way as they fly past us, stopping only to eat on their road trips to warmer climates. Traveling with my children and my wife made for a great adventure. I was in awe of the landscapes, frustrated with the children for arguing, stressing about work and focused on state of the world, worried about crashing, irritated at the heat, frustrated that I had to drive 95% of the time. We had great times singing along, laughing at jokes, playing games, rolling down the windows when people started stinking. Just when we got tired of the road, we would stop for a few days and rest. It was relaxing, stressful, exciting, maddening, frustrating, exhilarating and hilarious. It made me laugh, cry, reminisce, be melancholy....sometimes all in the same day. We saw America the way Lewis and Clark did, and also the way Clark Griswold did. That's the beauty of The Road, it's timeless and modern, all at the same time. Towards the end, when we knew we were almost to Portland, I just wanted to be home. The last day or so, it was all I could think about: things I needed to do, work to catch up, diets to start and personal hygiene to resume......a complete opposite of how I started the trip. It reminded me of the words of Colin Fletcher in his first book: "When I left, I couldn't wait to get away from it all. Now I can't wait to get back to it all..."

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