I recently overheard what I considered to be a sad restaurant conversation about a man who drove from Chicago to Los Angeles
1st diner: “How was the drive out?”
2nd diner: “Good trip. Uneventful. Jumped on the I-80 to the I-70, set the cruise control for 75, stopped at a couple of Holiday Inns and here I am.”
Uneventful? And that was a good thing? People most certainly travel for different reasons and, of course, have different definitions of a good trip. I will also grant that there are some trips that require speed and so flying along interstates, from Point A to Point B, might be a good thing. But the follow up questions that were asked didn’t leave that impression.
My question is, how can you have a 2,000-mile, multi-day road trip across the heart of America and equate uneventful with good? There is so much to see and experience across this great country and virtually none of it can be found on something that starts with “Interstate.” Interstate highways are designed to be boring. Steady speed, very few distractions, nothing unusual or surprising. But, the opportunity cost is giving up the chance of experiencing something new, unusual or even life changing to ensure predictability. It simply strikes me as sad.
I grant that I enjoy road trips more than most – often times more than my poor wife who has been dragged around this country’s back roads for close to 40 years. We took a 6,000-mile trip last month and have a 5,000-mile trip planned for next month.
As stereotypical as it is, I love two-lane roads – the less traveled the better. The very reason I do is that it’s the opposite of “uneventful.” It is the promise of events and not knowing what they might be that is to exciting, so intoxicating. It’s finding the great little BBQ joint (instead of driving through McDonald’s) or seeing the gas station that only takes cash and has an alligator out back, or meeting the 75-year-old man who travels across country in a small travel trailer, working odd jobs for two to three months at a time before moving on, and has a couple of books worth of stories he loves to share over a glass of bourbon.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written about the lure, almost the addiction, of true road trips. And no doubt more will be written, as each generation finds its own “On the Road,” or “Travels with Charley.” For those who know and love the road, no encouragement is needed, simply opportunity. For those who don’t (yet!), I encourage you to judge your next trip by the quality of your experiences, not the lack of them. Uneventful? I’d rather have a flat tire on a dark, rainy night in a two-lane road that I don’t know the name of than to speed numbly along an Interstate concrete ribbon.