Back in the saddle, tanned, rested and ready
Yesterday, for the first time in nearly four weeks, I turned on my computer and stared at the screen, the blinking cursor on a blank document reminding me of the need for 700 or so words to complete this column, my first since Aug. 2.
It’s been a blessing to live most of the last month in a Trump/Clinton-free zone, to occasionally check an abbreviated version of The Daily Sentinel on my iPhone and not need to formulate opinions on local happenings. It wasn’t just the absence of weekly deadlines but more the freedom from never-ending mental machinations that accompany regular editorial page commentary.
It’s been more of a blessing (mostly) to spend those days an arm’s length from my wife, navigation “discussions” aside, while wandering through seven states in the 46-year-old Porsche purchased brand new in the early years of our marriage.
Along the way we wandered some 5,000 miles up to far northwest Washington, down the entire length of the Pacific coast to the very bottom of southern California. Normal day-to-day cares disappeared. It was a journey of discovery, a path to renewing old friendships and accidentally beginning new ones, a catalogue of fresh experiences and motivation to do more of the same.
Only two other times have we been lucky enough to take this much time away from “real life.” Once, three or four years into what felt like pretty hectic career starts in the early 1970s, we chucked it all, sold a car and put a house on the market and went to Europe for an extended tour in a $300 VW bus purchased in front of the American Express office in Paris. In the mid-90s, after selling a business, losing a re-election campaign and finishing up a project for former Gov. Roy Romer, we bought a motor home on a credit card and spent most of one summer ricocheting from the West Coast to Nova Scotia with our then 9- and 14-year-old kids.
All were welcome breaks, opportunities most of us don’t have as we try to squeeze a long weekend here, a week or so there out of busy, complicated lives.
This latest time away, the first of two bucket list trips to drive the old car that was our “first child” to all four corners of the continental United States while still able to get in and out without assistance, allowed the same change of perspective as the others.
It’s easy, when caught up in the media circus of an unusual presidential campaign, when required by professional demands and personal interest and experience to keep abreast of and formulate public opinions about local happenings, to forget about some important things we rediscovered in our travels this month.
There’s a whole different country out there when you, as we did for the most part, avoid the interstates that make travel more efficient and instead drive the “blue highways” through places that remind you there’s more right than wrong. Whether high mountains in Oregon, stark deserts in the Mohave or spaces between the big cities along the coast, a country offering stunning variety and interesting and diverse characters if you look past nasty bumper stickers and political road signs that provide temporary distractions from permanent and positive human and natural landscapes.
A wonderful way to celebrate our history is through our national parks, which not only preserve public lands some politicians would sell off or otherwise dismantle but also offer snapshots into what’s gone on over time on those landscapes. Being part of a busy mix of American and foreign travelers visiting 20 of the 100 parks Bonnie wants to see during their centennial year can’t help but make one wonder why knee-jerk reactions among some locals and a few of our political leaders leave us without a more desirable designation for our Colorado National Monument.
We’re not done yet. Sometime in the next year or two, now that we’ve determined 70-year-old backs can get along with 46-year-old seats, we’ll do Key West to somewhere in northeastern Maine. Then maybe Alaska and/or Baja in the old Land Cruiser with the new rooftop tent.
More welcome breaks and refreshed perspectives.