Newness and the Open Road


road-569335_1920September 10, 2015

In another life I’d probably be a nomad.

Newness draws me. It’s easy to adjust to new circumstances, new people, and new surroundings. When we go to restaurants, the search commences. What have I have never tasted before? What’s new in the food realm? I’ll have that one, please.

This summer we took a road trip through Illinois east from Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque’s not exactly new. I was born there and lived there until we left when I was five. But the countryside on the way was new to us, as was beautiful Galena, Illinois, where we spent an afternoon in fascination.

Illinois Countryside

Illinois Countryside

Galena IL

Galena IL

New sights and experiences stimulate the mind and the spirit, bringing freshness and opportunity for gratitude.

Travel has beckoned since I was a small child. Motoring down the road, watching the countryside slide by, is one of my favorite things. This goes back to earliest memories.

Why is newness so satisfying? Is it because I am bored? Not really. Strong intellectual curiosity continually distracts me from the task or focus at hand. Some folks might call that ADD. I call it curiosity and an ongoing thirst to know more. Whether this is good or bad I do not evaluate right now. It’s just a fact of my life.

Our family vacations were rare. There were two in all my years through high school. (Maybe that’s partly why my interest in travel and learning new things is nearly inexhaustible.)

The first was a three-day trip into the North Idaho wilderness, from our home in Southwick, when I was in 7th grade.

My Dad Pastored a Small Congregation That Met Here - Southwick

My Dad Pastored a Small Congregation That Met Here – Southwick

Our family joined another family from our small country church to go camping on a riverbank in the wilderness area. We fished, slept in tents, and explored the forest. In a less gratifying event, I almost cut off the tip of my middle finger wielding a hatchet to split wood. Amateur.

Our other vacation happened the summer after my junior year of high school. We had a big blue 1958 Pontiac station wagon.

Ours Was Just Like This

Ours Was Similar To This – Except All Baby Blue

In hindsight, the thing was close to hideous – swathed in chrome, top to bottom, front to back. But it had the horses to pull the camper trailer we borrowed. I do not know where my dad found that trailer, but I was glad he did.

Our trip started from our home in eastern Oregon with a westward trek down the new Interstate to Portland. This is probably why Portland is to this day one of my favorite cities. It seemed near magic seeing freeways, green vines softening the concrete walls on either side.

We proceeded through the city, headed toward the coast – a Technicolor memory. We moseyed down coastal Highway 1/101 all the way to San Francisco. We camped along the way, often in sight of the beaches. Heaven. Sights to see. Fragrances to imbibe. Gorgeous vistas lined up to present themselves in panoramic spectacle to our wondering eyes.

I wonder what people thought of the rubes in that odd-looking travel conveyance combination as we wandered through tiny seaside towns. Particularly in San Fransisco, picture a baby blue, chromed behemoth lugging a creaky camper trailer over metropolitan hill and dale. This was 1965. San Fransisco was cool. We were decidedly not.

When I was in college we took cross country trips in Decembers and summers between Eastern Oregon and Central Oklahoma. Always eager to take my turn driving hundreds of miles at a time, the prospect of taking command of the road energized me. (That is, except when my sleepy-headed travel companion commenced nodding off at the wheel at 2 am, after only 40 minutes in the driver seat – this after I just completed a four-hour shift.)

Something happens when you change locations. Something happens when you get a sweeping overview of the country. Perspectives are rebooted. Freshness is stirred. New ideas dawn. Tension seeps out of your core. I don’t know how to articulate it fully, but it refreshes and invigorates.

When I was a child I dreamed of being a truck driver. I realize now there is not that much glamour in it, but the profession still appeals to me. In fact, I seriously looked into it during our sojourn in Poulsbo, Washington. My wife was not so enthralled with the team driver idea.

Here We Go

Here We Go

During my years shepherding a youth group in Pocatello, Idaho, we made three trips to The Summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That involved driving either a big bus or a van. I was in my element: a pile of exuberant teenagers and the open road. The travel was in the summers, so it was good and hot – added bonus.

The fascination never ended. Passing through the high desert of Southeast Idaho, the empty barrenness of Wyoming, the red dirt and rocks of Colorado, the freeways in the Mile High City, and finally threading our meander through Manitou Springs.

Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs

All good.

When we arrived, I would go to my assigned room, unpack the suitcase, put everything in drawers and hang the clothes. Within an hour I was “home” – home for two weeks.

Adjustments came easily.

They still do. Just unpacking everything psychologically settles you. Out of the suitcase – into my new pad. That’s how I always do it.

Some folks despise air travel. I anticipate it. Let’s go to a new place. Let’s go to well-loved familiar scenes. Let’s just go.

Yep. I could’ve been a nomad.

I suspect part of the reason is we’ll never feel fully settled in this temporary world, waiting for its redemption to be complete. But I also suspect I’ll have an eternity long curiosity with endless exploration possibilities on the other side.

Let’s go.

Photos: Unsplash via Pixabay, Tomcio 77 on Flickr, Author, Kendrick-Julietta and 7 Ridges, Concept Cars, Go Capital USA, Wikimedia

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