I used to be a bit of a collector. I collected bags, key chains, postcards, magnets, mugs, eggs, alligators, Donald Duck stuff, Marie Osmond dolls, collectible tins, glass carafes, anything Kennedy related...and there was a brief foray into camping lanterns. Hellooooo, credit card debt. I also collected something that didn't cost me anything - travel brochures. You know, the free pamphlets that are in the racks in hotel lobbies or visitor centers that advertise all the different places you can visit in a town, city, or census dedicated population center. I go wild at those racks and can easily leave with a couple dozen of them! Plus, they're free! I love looking at them to see all the places that I can go! If I wanna visit a glass blowing studio in Tacoma, I can. If I want to go to the largest Christmas shop on the East Coast, I can and I have the handy brochure to tell me how to get there!
There used to be a time in my life, actually not so very long ago, that I was terrified of driving on highways. It wasn't really the driving on the highway part that freaked me out, it was the merging part that always got me so scared. I don't know where the fear came from...I actually drove on highways a couple times when I was a teenager but then I just didn't. After a while the not doing it turned into a great big, irrational fear that kept me firmly buckled in the passenger seat. At first, it was just a minor inconvenience, I went a lot of places "the long way" or I just asked my mom or someone else to take me. It only got to be embarrassing when I began to hear that the younger kids of my cousins were cruising the nation's motorways.
Back in the days when I was content to just be a passenger, I had a conversation with my old pal B. about driving. I told her that if I could drive on highways, I felt like I'd be free, I could just take off and explore, I could take road trips to wherever I wanted, I could go see all those places that I just read about in those many brochures that I collected. B. looked at me and said, "But would you?" I guess I really didn't know, but a girl can dream, right?
I didn't begin driving on highways until I was 25 years old - it was actually a caveat of my moving to Maryland for grad school. In typical Denise-fashion, there was a lot of hand flailing and panicking when my mom and I made that first trip. The turning point really came during my first solo drive from Maryland to Pennsylvania. On that drive I realized it was fun! I could go fast, there were no red lights, I was in total, complete control, and I was free! No more taking the long way...unless I wanted to. And road trips were a real possibility.
So, B., would I take road trips? You better believe it. I don't know how long a trip has to be to be defined as a "road trip" but I define it as a car ride longer than the 11 miles it takes me to get to work. Some are short - a day driving on the California freeways from Yorba Linda to San Diego to Alta Loma; taking a practice run to the Kansas City airport...only to keep going until I reached St. Joseph, Missouri (the home of the Pony Express and where Jesse James was killed); or heading for a Florida beach after two full days of baseball. Some are longer and more life-changing...like my week-long adventure in the Pacific Northwest two years ago or crossing the border into Canada last year. Short or long, they are all sweet adventures that I cherish because there was a time, highways or no highways, that I never thought I'd go anywhere.
Today, another road trip begins. My mom and I are headed from Seattle to the coast of Oregon. She's the passenger and I'm the driver. We're ready to hit the open road. And, of course, I have a dozen or so travel brochures packed in my bag!
See ya on the road!