Where The Road Trip Takes You
By Morgan Baker
As I drove my new little black Ford EcoSport from Santa Fe to Boulder on Interstate 25, my husband, Matt, read his emails, while we listened to our daughter talk to us on the car phone. Suddenly, I called out, “A bear. A bear. A bear.” There, on the side of the highway, an adolescent black bear was climbing the hillside.
Matt looked up just in time to see the bear as we drove by, and Maggie was as impressed on the other end of the phone as though she had been with us in the car.
We were on a road trip from L.A. to Boston. We had been living in Hawaii where Matt was working, but we left in July after a year. Once Matt realized he would be between jobs, he turned to me one night and said, “Let’s go on a road trip.”
He wanted to drive from L.A. to Cambridge. I wanted him to find a new job.
“You don’t have to come,” he said more than once. “I’ll do it by myself.” The idea of being in a car with him for hours on end when I was a little bit annoyed with him for our rapid departure from Hawaii didn’t make my heart swell.
I also wasn’t thrilled at being in a car with a driver who loved darting from lane to lane, riding up the bumper in front of him and traveling at speeds that made me grip the door handle and push the imaginary brake with my foot.
“I’ll consider going if you drive like a sane person,” I told him. “You have to promise you won’t drive like a crazy person.”
He promised. Maybe I should have offered to go on a road trip a long time ago.
We also couldn’t move back into our Cambridge home. It was rented through the end of August. We had managed to get out of our fall rental, which was a huge relief, even though I was sorry for the original renters. So rather than sit around and wonder if a job interview might avail itself to Matt during August, a month not known for job opportunities, we shipped one of our cars all the way home and my little car to L.A. where our son-in-law picked it up for us.
Adventures, I realized, are everywhere if you just look for them.
As soon as our daughter, on of one of her visits to Hawaii, mapped out a trip that included Santa Fe in it, I signed on. I was still a bit apprehensive about the time in the car, but I was ready to see the sights. We would make something good out of something not-so-good. An adventure arose out of the dust of our previous one.
Adventures, I realized, are everywhere if you just look for them, can think outside your box, and are willing to take them on.
Just like life, you don’t know what’s ahead on a road trip until you get there. We didn’t plan way in advance, we just waited until we found our way to our destination, got out a map and figured out a few important sights to see: Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Santa Fe, The Flatirons Hike in Boulder, an architectural river cruise in Chicago, The Toledo Museum of Art, and the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.
I created my own mini-adventure by visiting independent bookstores at all our stops. Matt took photos of me in front of each of them and I instagrammed them. To my surprise, friends started commenting on my posts and liking them. I bought a year’s worth of books to read and met some book-loving people.
As we drove along, years dropped off us and we were young travelers again, until I started to explain to book sellers what my project was and realized they must have thought I was a batty old lady, not the hip young thing I saw in the rearview mirror.
Instead of being immensely sad about leaving Hawaii, I was excited on the road trip. The trip, it turned out was about discovering new places, seeing old friends, turning a virtual friendship into a real one, and filling up the immense amount of time we had in the car.
We discovered early on that we drove differently. Amazingly, I drove faster than Matt who used cruise control. But when Matt did drive, he liked to listen to books, or NPR. The lull of a voice and a moving car put me to sleep, almost immediately. An hour later, I’d wake up and have to catch up to what had been happening in the book, which was not much. When I drove, I listened to music. It was bouncy and lively and I could sing along. It wasn’t distracting, the way a voice could be.
The nicest surprise was how much fun I had with my husband. It was an adventure just to spend time with him again without his two phones fighting for his attention.
We ended up listening to lots of music – we each had a play list – mine had Carole King, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Marvin Gaye and Fleetwood Mac, while Matt listened to more Motown, Earth Wind and Fire (our family’s favorite band), and music I didn’t relate to like The Eagles. We both got sick of our playlists however, and turned to Obama’s 2019 Summer Playlist and newer music we discovered along the way – Lizzo, Blanco Brown, Ava Max, and Panic! at The Disco. Just like the trip was taking us from our past to our future, the music was too.
Surprises, like the bear, waited for us wherever we went. In Toronto we heard about a graffiti alley. Matt wasn’t inclined to go, but once there, couldn’t stop taking pictures of the phenomenal artistry on the walls.
The nicest surprise was how much fun I had with my husband. It was an adventure just to spend time with him again without his two phones fighting for his attention. We laughed as I mistook an old bearded man for a friend of ours, were in awe as we looked at art, and enjoyed our time in the car being silent together or talking about what was to come.
The road was a transitional time as I left one home and drove to another. I thought about what was coming a lot during the driving. The closer we got to Boston and what was and would be once again, home, the more anxious we became. I was heading towards the unknown and Matt’s career prospects were unclear. In Toronto, however, he was offered a job in Boston and visiting friends in Old Chatham, NY he accepted it.
This is not where I thought I’d be at 61. I didn’t think I’d have to reinvent myself twice in a year. But I also never thought I’d see as much of the country as I have and laughed as much as I did. I didn’t realize how much moving, and driving, allowed me the chance to shake it up and allow me the opportunity to choose to be who I want to be at this age.
About the Writer
Morgan Baker is the managing editor of The Bucket. After a year in Hawaii, she is back in Cambridge, where her new adventure is adding a puppy to her family. She teaches writing at Emerson College. Her work can be found in The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and The Brevity Blog, among other publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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