I think for me, the love of a road trip began at a very early age.
Most Sundays after church, the family would load up in the car with snacks and a cold soda for a long ride in the country. Not that my brother, Oba, or I ever complained but when we’d ask why we were going Papa always replied, “Gas is cheap”. And, we didn’t always know where we were going. The parents didn’t even know. Mother would explain that we were just getting out for a while, getting away and although they were not sure where we were going, they were sure we would all enjoy it.
There are also the memories of Florida getaways. I’m not just talking about the vacation itself, but the drive. Papa never took the interstate. He chose the back roads because they were more appealing. Sure, the interstate offered a speedy trip, but it killed any chance of feeding the senses. Looking back, I’m not sure we ever went the same way twice. But, it was glorious. Oba and I didn’t sit in the back seat and ask, “How much longer?” We were keen observers of our surroundings and stayed on the look-out for something fun to do. My parents made the trip down as much fun as the time we spent on the beach. No one watched the clock. There was no rush. We stopped at Civil War Memorials, old historic hotels, well-known restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries –and almost every farmer’s market we could find! Papa always took a cooler. Oba and I constantly begged for a ripe watermelon. These were usually sold out of the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. Mother had a thing for fresh roasted peanuts. I wanted mine Cajun boiled.
I never know when the desire to roam will overwhelm me. But, I’m always ready –drop of the hat, right here right now, ready! When it hits, it hits hard. And, it’s not always at an opportune time. Here it is Christmas, and that desire to go exploring has taken hold, a strong hold, and it’s not letting go.
There is just something invigorating and exciting about the spur-of-the-moment, a flip of the coin decision to GO! It doesn’t even have to be a new place for me. There are cities and towns for which my appreciation will never wane.
Perhaps, revisiting a beloved city is even better than experiencing the new. There are the familiar things you love that draw and entice.
I want to feel the excitement of anticipation; pull clothes from the closet, roll them and fill my old military duffle; pick a place, purchase a ticket and climb on board the train then sit and watch through the window as the landscape slides by, or read a good book, think about the things I am going to do.
I want to stand on the subway platform in Manhattan and listen to the street musicians; ice skate at Rockefeller Plaza with the kids; take a midnight taxi ride around downtown.
I want to rise early in New Orleans and peek into private courtyards…
run my hands along old iron-work…
wait in line at Café du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait with the grandbaby.
I want to hike Mt. Rainer in the snow again, and wander Seattle…
have fresh oysters and purchase succulent dates that are the size of my thumb at Pike Place Market…
see San Francisco with my husband for the first time.
I want to walk in NYC on a beautiful winter night with snowflakes falling, holiday lights flashing…
sip hot chocolate in Central Park under the moonlight &…
As often happens when the desire to roam strikes at an inopportune time, I return to my journals hoping to fill the need if only a little.
JOURNAL of a time in Central Park that did not make it into the memoir, We Share the Same Sky.
At last, I have found a place that bears a resemblance to home-Central Park. I cannot live without trees, trees and leaves -oh, beautiful leaves. I reach up and pluck one from a nearby low-hanging limb. My intentions are to press it, and put it away in a book so that one day when it is pulled down from its shelf, the page will fall open to this reminder, a token of a worthwhile week in the city. The words to my favorite Walt Whitman poem dance across my mind.
“…All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches; without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green…”
The light here in the park is different than in the city. The beauty of nature reflects it differently. Or perhaps it is that the light is absorbed more, rather than reflected. And the sounds are familiar. I can hear the laughter of children at play on the lawn, birds in the distance calling to one another from beneath the overhang of tree limbs. Like the children, they too are dancing, chirping. And suddenly, as though from nowhere in particular, I am hungry for home.
Mt. Cheaha Lake, December 2014. Photo by Lakeside Living editor, Buddy Roberts.
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We Share the Same Sky, a memoir