4,538 miles may not seem like much on paper, but things can change quickly out on the road.
That’s how far my dad and I pledged to travel from one end of the United States to the other by car — a true cross-country road trip.
California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma, then Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia, before dragging our tired selves across the Florida state line.
A massive trip, and an endeavour we didn’t take on lightly, for a couple of reasons.
My relationship with my father had always been turbulent, to say the least. A classic case of being too similar at heart is how my mom always put it. I suppose mirror images never do quite see eye to eye.
However, I was turning 21 and preparing to move on with my life. We knew we’d see less and less of each other over the years, and we realized that this might be our last chance. With that in mind, I boarded a flight for San Francisco.
We left the historic Fisherman’s Wharf and traveled down the winding cliffs and spectacular views of the Pacific Coast Highway amid a flock of expensive, vintage cars.
By utter chance, it seemed we were visiting during one of the
largest car shows in the country. Having quite the passion for classic muscle cars myself, I began our trip in pretty high spirits.
The route led us straight to Los Angeles, where I spent most mornings on a surfboard amid the waves for hours, pondering how different my life may have been had I been born on the coast.
In the evenings we’d reunite, once to go to an LA Dodgers game and fireworks. I don’t even remember who won, but as the crowd streamed on to the field to sit and watch the show, it was worth it just to see the glow in my dad’s eye — I’d never even known he liked baseball.
But I also failed to realize what it means to travel during a heat wave.
A few days later, as we entered Las Vegas, I rolled down my window for a picture and was blasted by what I first thought was a silent explosion.
You know that feeling of standing behind a running car’s tail pipe with hot wind in your face? Multiply that by seven, and try doing it for three days. It was hot.
Luckily, I was distracted by what could only be described as adult Disneyland. The tacky surrealism is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life — maybe just once.
Through Utah and Colorado we saw some of the most incredible landscapes imaginable.
My dad and I discussed what it would’ve been like for pioneers walking across these barren lands for months on end. He mentioned something about Aboriginal relations. Personally I was convinced I would’ve thought I’d landed on Mars. Utah’s massive rock formations can have that affect on you.
One favourite stop was Golden, Colorado. An unassuming little town, but also the site of the only brewery on Earth that makes Coors Banquet beer. Every can is shipped straight from there, and their tasting tour redefined the term “rocky mountain cold”.
Finally, as we made the long crossing to Oklahoma City, it dawned on me that, whether I liked it or not, this would be a trip that I’d never forget.
I’m fortunate enough to have traveled a fair amount in my time. Three days before I was meant to fly to California, however, I was convinced there was no way I could go through with the road trip.
Personal issues or obstacles can take on many forms. In this case, I was facing some very troubling times and having fun was the last thing on my mind.
As a lot of us start classes this week, many of us will face our own personal issues.
While it may seem like the end of your own little world at the time, it is important to remember that better things will eventually come. My father told me this over his first cigar in more than 20 years, after I finally explained to him why I hadn’t been sleeping. What I realized then was that in a year from now I may have trouble remembering what I was so sad about, but that conversation will always stick with me.
We then prepared ourselves for the second half of our auto-Odyssey. The next day we’d see Dallas, and nothing could’ve prepared me for what we saw in the weeks that followed.
If you liked this story, keep reading next week online as I wrap up my trip.
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