(Reader’s note, this entry is from a road trip in 2019. Such an adventure would not possible in 2020 due to the coronavirus global pandemic.)
I have road trips in my blood. In a classic woody station wagon, my parents drove my brother, sister, and me to the national parks of the American West. As a student at Arizona State University and later as a teacher in Anaheim, California, without the means to fly, I drove 13 times cross country over 18 months in the late 1960s/early 1970s. I’m a travelin’ man. – Ricky Nelson
With our three kids, Hannah and I drove to the Rockies and the Pacific coast from our home in Maine during four summers in the 1990s, hiking and camping. The last road trip included a 4500-mile, six-day drive from York, Maine to Fairbanks, Alaska.
But cross country road tripping no longer gets my juices flowing. In fact, at the dawn of my eighth decade, the tediousness of day after day Interstate driving leaves me cold. Over the last ten years, when we travel to the West, we fly in less time than a one day’s drive. With the money to fly, we are soft (and comfortable!).
But this past weekend (April, 2019), Hannah and I take our later-day version of a road trip by driving 400 miles to Ithaca, NY to see Will, his wife Laurel, and our grandson Brooks. Since we were so far west anyway, we decide to turn our “road trip” into a pilgrimage.
Two hundred fifty miles to the south of Ithaca near the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania lives my Uncle Bill, my mom’s kid brother, and Aunt Carolyn, who are in their 80s. When my brother Richard and I were in college in Ohio, we would hitchhike 130 miles to Bill and Carolyn’s home in Toledo to be wrapped in their warm embrace, playing cards and board games and eating far better than we ever did in the dorm.
At their place in Lancaster, PA, it’s like old times.
The following day we head northeast, first hike at Bear Mountain on the Hudson River in New York, then take the second stage of our pilgrimage to see my 101-year-old Aunt Ilene at my cousin Suzanne and her hubby Lou’s place near Newburgh, New York.
Aunt Ilene grew up on a farm in Newburgh, NY that I visited as a kid, and she married the love of her life, my uncle Harry, my mom’s and my Uncle Bill’s older brother. Rushed into WWII in the spring of 1945, Harry was killed in Europe three weeks before the war ended in May.
As was Bill and Caroline, Aunt Ilene is a link to my past as are Suzanne and Lou. We take a pilgrimage (and by that I mean family road trip) to hug them, feel their love, and acknowledge their importance in our lives.
Maybe my road tripping days are not over.