Full Circle: Tales from the Road

I began writing this column while on a road trip—the first one in quite awhile for my husband and me. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones journeying more than 50 miles from home for a long weekend escape. According to AAA, more than 27 million people—or nearly 83 percent of all travelers—kicked off the 2009 summer travel season with a road trip.

On previous vacations, we rushed to our destination under deadline pressure to arrive by a certain time. In fact, we were always rushing right up until the day we left and continued the frantic pace throughout our vacation. And then there was the long ride home.

I can say, without a doubt, that I did not like trips by car.

We wanted this trip to visit friends to be different, to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Isn’t that what American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said life is supposed to be all about? We would take our time and stop along the way whenever something struck our fancy.

Our only hurdle was agreeing to a departure time. Tony, an early-morning riser, likes to leave before daylight. When we lived in a big city his reasoning made a lot of sense—we had to beat the traffic or lest we would add extra stress to the trip. I, on the other hand, like to make the bed, wash the coffeepot, check and re-check the locks on the back doors, and give some extra attention to the cat.

We compromised and got out the door somewhere around 7:30am. Not exactly early by Tony’s standards, but we didn’t have to fight any rush-hour traffic either. And I didn’t forget anything important like my toothbrush because I had time for a cup of coffee to awaken my brain. The first step of the journey was accomplished with good moods intact. If I learned anything on this trip, it’s that starting with the right attitude is crucial to success.

From then on, the drive was a piece of cake. We decided to avoid those other 27 million people who were probably traveling interstate highways. We took back roads where we could find a little more scenery and local flavor, even if it did add a few extra miles.

In fact, “think local” became our motto. We looked for local eateries instead of fast food chains and found some real gems. Having a smart phone with an application that lists restaurants in any given area was a huge help but not a necessity. We asked a stranger for her recommendation as she was leaving what looked like a hole-in-the-wall establishment.

Thinking local also meant listening to appropriate music. The coastal highways called for a little Jimmy Buffett. As we traversed farther west, some Mississippi blues and New Orleans jazz replaced the steel-drum beat. Of course, this took a little planning but it sure added to the upbeat moods we had when we left home.

Finally, we stopped before we were tired. Even though we were ahead of schedule and could have driven a little farther, we stuck to our plan of spending the night on the road. Tony and I explored the area and officially began relaxing. We still arrived at our friends’ house before noon the next day, and we weren’t exhausted.

Although we had a wonderful time at our destination, this road trip was memorable because, as Mr. Emerson recommended, it was all about the journey.

Happy trails,

Mary Ann

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