Despite it snowing all around Colorado this weekend (ugh), it is in fact spring. I mean, it’s Sunday Night Baseball and right now I’m watching the Dodgers take on the Giants! There’s nothing more quintessentially spring than that.
A funny thing happens to me this time of the year. Well, two funny things. First, I forgot about the past 28 years of Dodgers’ history and for a minute I actually think, “Hey, maybe this will be our year.”
Second, and in far more realistic a dream, I start fantasizing about hitting the road.
My family didn’t take faraway vacations while I was growing up. The only times we got onto airplanes were when we traveled to Central or South America to visit my parents’ relatives. As far as actual summer vacations, though, we did something even cooler: we took drives, and usually those drives led us north from our home in Los Angeles to Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia is an incredibly special place to my whole family, and I think the fact that it’s such a happy place for me is a big reason why I love road trips.
Up until I left for college, I’d spent nearly every summer of my life at Sequoia–including the summer I was born. We’d always load up the family van the night before our trip, and we’d set our alarms for 4 a.m. so we could be on the road by 5 a.m. But I didn’t really need the alarm; some of my earliest memories are of me tossing and turning all night long in my darkened bedroom, too excited to ever fall asleep.
The drive between L.A. and Sequoia National Park is only something like five hours, but it was just long enough to feel reeeeeeeally long when I was a little kid. And then as I got older, the drive morphed into feeling just long enough to give me that feeling that I was on a journey, and about to be transported to somewhere magical.
Thanks to all this, the joys of our summer camping vacations have become inextricably linked to taking a long drive, no matter what the final destination is.
So once the weather begins to turn and the sun begins to feel warmer, I get that familiar itch to get into my car and just go. I don’t even care where; I just want to drive.
Thankfully, I’ve had lots of excuses to do just that. I’ve been on more drives longer than 1,000 miles than I can even count. And now that I live in Colorado, I’m only 875 miles away from home. That means, on any given non-snowy day, I can leave my apartment in the morning and easily get to California in time for dinner with my parents.
So, I do! And years later, I still set my alarm for 4 a.m. and still have trouble falling asleep.
If you’re not a frequent road-tripper, you might be asking why. Surely my childhood memories aren’t enough to keep me entertained for 13 hours, by myself, on lonely highways.
Well, you’re right. There’s so much more that keeps me entertained.
There’s something really wonderful about spending time alone in a car. It’s time that is purely and 100% for me.
I don’t have to check my email, I don’t have to answer phone calls, I don’t have to talk to a single person or be responsible for a single thing except for being a safe driver.
I can use that time to listen to new music, or to my favorite music, and to sing along as loudly as I possibly can. I can “read” an audiobook, or I can practice my slowly burgeoning French skills alongside my favorite language podcasts. I can look out the window and appreciate our beautiful and varied natural landscapes, and get inspired by the cities I pass. And I can think.
One of my favorite pastimes is introspection. I believe everyone would be well served to spend more time just quietly examining their emotions and their lives and their dreams and goals. Long drives are my perfect time to do that.
And, by the way, have you ever thought about all the work that has gone into building this massive network of roads and rest stops, zig-zagging all across the United States? I have, pretty much every time I take a road trip. I find it amazing that I can get into my car and go pretty much anywhere I like. There’s a big sense of gratitude that goes along with that, honestly.
So, all of the above gets rolled up into this big jumble of emotions and excitement, and there you have it. That’s why I love road trips, and why–if time and weather aren’t pressing concerns–I will always choose a car over an airplane. There’s no better way to see the United States, in my opinion.
And it’s why the itch always begins right about this time of the year…and why I’m thrilled I only have to wait a little more than a month before my next visit home.
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.