For those of you who don't know me, I've spent the last three months at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, MD. I'm learning how to be a news broadcaster for the Army. It's been a long three months because my wife and I have been apart this entire time. Well, that's not entirely true because we saw each other once in April and once in May. I graduate from the course on Wednesday. The next day the wife and I start a seven-day road trip back home to Fort Worth, TX.
I've always loved driving cross-country. One of my favorite jobs was working for my friend Brad as an insurance inspector. My territory was West Texas north of I-20. I think I saw every small town from Monahans to Perryton to Seymour when I had that job. I also think I stayed in every cheap motel in Lubbock, but that story is for another time. The thing I liked the most about that job was the endless driving and seeing different parts of the country. That job also took me to places like Houston, Galveston, and the Fort Worth/Dallas area. I would go 1,800 miles in four days if I could. It was always better doing that sort of trip with someone else because you got to share that adventure with someone. The best shared trip I ever did was down in Houston. Brad and I had to inspect some slum houses in Houston's 9th Ward. As we roll into the place a big black man comes running up to the car screaming "HEY, What are you guys doing here?" Brad calmly explains we are with the insurance company and just have to check out a house or two. He gives us a once over and lets us pass. We get through about five houses before I have to get out of the car and get a house with about seven guys sitting on the porch. Keep in mind when we got to the neighborhood there weren't but three people sitting outside. By the time we got to the last house, every porch had someone on it. So these guys are giving me grief about my WorldCom shirt and I ask if I can get a photo of the house. The guy says, "not my house!" So I ask if I can get a photo of the house next door. He proceeds to explain to me that it's not his house and he doesn't give a [blank] what I do. Needless to say, I got a photo of the house next door and we got out of town. Those inspections had been sent back to brad about seven times because none of his other inspectors would do the house. To this day, I don't know how I got suckered in.
There's always been something fascinating to me about seeing the gradual change driving across America. I love seeing how the landscape changes and talking to different people in different parts of the country. The most dramatic change in scenery I've driven has to be between Lawton and Tulsa. Lawton is in Southwest Oklahoma. The only terrain features are the Wichita Mountains. They are really only used by the boy scouts and artillery units out of Fort Sill. Then Tulsa is in Northeast Oklahoma. It's surrounded by forests and lakes. These two towns are separated by about three hours. The only place I can think of with more diverse terrain is California. You can ski at Bear Mountain and then visit Monterey in the same amount of time. Whether you prefer Oklahoma over California is a matter of taste. I know I never heard my brother-in-law rave about the skiing near Fresno. Then again, the only reason I can think to visit Lawton is to see family.
Most people I know seem to have at least one family vacation road trip story. My favorite growing up is driving to the Grand Canyon. The actual driving to the Grand Canyon from Oklahoma City isn't the interesting part. My sister got lost while we were walking around the National Park. I think it's an understatement to say that my parents freaked out. My sister turned up at the ranger station about an hour later. We learned that she wandered off the path and ended up in a cemetery. It only freaked her out a smidge. I was oblivious to all of this at the time because I was hanging out with the boys in the other family. We didn't know any of this happened until it was all over. There's also the time we drove back from Lake Wister, OK to Oklahoma City. My sister was very sick and started throwing up about an hour into a four hour drive. For some unknown reason, she was sitting behind the driver's seat and always had to climb over me to throwup on the side of the highway. It only occurred to me to swap seats with her after I noticed throwup stains on her side of the car. Isn't it amazing the things we remember? I hope my sister doesn't hate me for telling those stories.
One of my favorite Steinbeck novels is Travels with Charlie. That was his ultimate road trip. The part of the book where he goes back to his old bar in California has always resonated with me. There are so many other great movies about road trips like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run.
I wonder what will happen to the road trip with $4.00/gallon gas? America can't keep buying gas on its credit card. Then again, do families take long car vacations? Gas may be high, but the invention of the portable DVD player has helped the trip become more bearable.
My wife and I will be on the road for about seven days after being apart for three months. I'm really looking forward to the time we'll get to spend together in the car. The road trip is an adventure we can share together. I have a more details of our road trip on my regular blog, The Stone Report: 2,057 miles of fun.
You can read Adam regularly on the Stone Report.