The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your streets,
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.
The sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.
–Bob Dylan “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
Well, it’s over. Our journey to the west coast and back is completed. Now it is not a day-to-day reality, but a seedling memory, destined to grow and spread like Kudzu along a Virginia roadway.
All this may sound ponderous, but it isn’t over to me or to my wife, Mariam. This trip was the longest I’ve made in decades. It filled in many blanks in my mind’s geography. I’ve seen places I have been dreaming about since I was a child. I’ve met people in out-of-the-way places that won’t be easily forgotten. For me, some stops were repeats from trips made as early as 1964. For my wife, many of our destinations were new to her. We’ve shared a great deal.
There are a million different ways I could have gotten from Rainbow Lake, NY to Orting, WA, but I chose one. It was a ribbon of asphalt, sand, gravel and metal that led me to a certain door, of a particular house, on an average street where my grandson lived.
Don’t look for a PowerPoint “My Vacation” slide show, or a list of places I took pictures. You’ve read my humble posts. You got the general view of what happened along the way. ( I want to thank all the people who took time to read my goofy musings and please know that I appreciate your comments more than I can truly say. I hope you found these blogs amusing, informative and thought-provoking. Thank you for allowing me to play the role of tour guide in ways I hope were creative and worthwhile.)
So, how did this whole thing, this budget-busting, underestimated and exhausting trip change me? What have I learned? How am I different from I was on the morning of September 18, 2013?
The answer is that I fell in love again…in love again with emotions I feared were beginning to die inside me. I’m invigorated and in love again.
In love with my wife, for being with me every mile of the way. We argued routes, menus and which CD’s to play. But we were hardly ever out of each others sight…something I want to keep happening. The success of the trip was because of her genius and patience. All I did was keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road (with only a side glance at the girls on the split-rail fences). Remember, I can multitask.
I experienced a renewal of the love I have for my daughter, Erin, as I watched her cuddle with Elias as I did with her forty years ago. My love grew for Bob, her husband, for making my little girl happy. And, Elias. I am in love with my grandson. Within days of our arrival, he began to crawl with serious intent. This is no small issue; dealing with a ten-month old wanderer. I will never forget the sight of Elias kicking with joy as he saw his daddy pull up in front of the house at the end of a work day. If all children were loved like that…
I fell in love once again with my son, Brian, who encouraged me to continue the postings. “It’ll be strange when they end,” he emailed me.
This country. This amazing country is a place that can be loved in countless ways. America has the beauty, geography, history and people who could keep one on the road forever.
Every person, eye, rock, tree, sand dune, mountain, lake, diner, hand, gas station or store has its own unique tale–but most will never be told. Every face I saw is a doorway to ten thousand moments of joy, sorrow and all other emotions you can name.
I wish I could live a hundred more years just to open one or two of those doors.
And the land itself is a giant face…the face of “our land”, everyone’s land, regardless of any differences. The “big picture” is joyfully heartbreaking to gaze upon.
It is polite to stare. How else can you really absorb it all?
If you think it’s goodbye, it’s not. There are more blogs in my head now than ever before. I’ll be back…
So, happy trails to you, until we meet again. Now, excuse me while I scrounge through our trip stuff to find that refrigerator magnet…the one that says Route 66 on it.
Awake, awake, the world is young,
For all its weary years of thought.
The starkest fights must still be fought,
The most surprising songs be sung.
–J. E. Flecker