It’s Spring and There’s Adventure in the Air

Spring Break. Beaches, parties that would make Bacchus jealous, youngsters celebrating the equinox of the transition between adolescence and adulthood. I’m not sure why spring break is advertised as a singularity of the young, nubile, college-aged person. When I look at my passersby on the highway, I see as many retirees tooling around in their motor coaches as I do cars full of beach-and-hotel gear. And why not? Road trips are adventures with nothing but miles of open roads and pitstops at highway drive-throughs to sustain and fortify the spirit.

If one reads the “Bucket Lists” of the YouTube genre, taking a roadtrip with friends is one of the “Must Do” items before shackling oneself down to a life of sensible shoes and Dockers. I see that, but I raise it with the family road trip. There’s nothing quite like 500 miles to the next pitstop to bring out the reality of family dynamics. We have the impatient souls, the dreamers, the drivers (both actual and backseat), the occupiers – and some combination of those qualities, all cramped up within the confines of four wheels and no bathroom.

I have two favorite road trips, both of which have happened while I’ve been a mom. The first one was when we rented a car and drove around the Arizona-Utah-Nevada triangle. We discovered that the signs posted on the side of the road recommending “only vehicles with four-wheel drive” actually meant only vehicles with four-wheel drive. After about 500 yards on the rocky, potentially breaking-the-undercarriage pathway of a road that had never been completed, we arrived back on the main stretch of highway, which was really only slightly more effectively paved. Gotta love the threat of imminent rockslide to bring out the adrenaline. Lesson learned from that experience: the kids are both comfortable with their father’s driving and don’t mind mountains. I am perpetually impressed with my husband’s driving, but I really, really mind mountainous road. I mind mountainous driving very, very much.

The second road trip of great familial significance was a multi-state trek to look at colleges and train routes. This is an unusual combination, perhaps, but it worked for us. The interesting thing that occurred was that, for people who aren’t used to resting for any stretch of time, much less for miles on end, we were happy to read, relax, sleep, and argue about whether it was worth it to drive 45 minutes out of the way for a Taco Bell (it was). We learned that veering off the predesignated path is sometimes more fun, even if it takes mom another 45 minutes to make it back to the highway.

Road trips have provided me with a zen-like appreciation of the Moment. It is difficult to recreate that presence and celebration of the now in our daily lives. Too much gets in the way. The gift of a road trip is that, yes, someone will throw up in the car, a gasket will blow off of something, you’ll have to spend the night in a place that’s … kinda weird, and you’ll have to rely on maps when the GPS goes offline. In other words, you’ll learn to rely on yourself.

For those of you who are young and glowing with youthful exuberance, get that road trip on. For those of us who have actually traveled a road or two, get that road trip on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s spring, or a vacation, or a long weekend. Go where the water bottles and the roadside attractions will take you. I suggest they’ll probably take you back to yourself. That’s a pretty great destination.