Slow down. Look closer. Pay attention. Breathe. Be present.
These simple mantras weave their way through our lives in the form of inspirational posters, journals, planners, in any form of media. And yet, we fail. We fail to slow down. The speed at which we live is moving ever faster. The speed drives us to an insane amount of busyness, which is why the need for constant reminders to “live slow” are omnipotent. Then, when we are able to use our precious bit of vacation time, we spend inordinate amounts of money to pack in as much “entertainment” as possible.
This is not an article arguing against highly action packed entertainment. But it is an argument for slowing down. Simplifying. Forcing yourself to be present. I believe, when it comes to vacations and family time, there is no better way to force yourself to slow down, than to take a road trip. No starting the day on one side of the country, and in a few hours being on the other. Though, I’ve been known to drive across three time zones in one day. Take the back roads. Take the side roads. Take the winding roads. Notice things. Look out your windows and watch the terrain change and the small towns that dot your journey. Drive your family crazy with off-key car karaoke. Listen to great speeches. Listen to podcasts. Listen to hard rock, classic rock, screaming rock. Get lost in your own home state. Discover a small town restaurant with amazing pancakes and coffee. This is my ode to road tripping and a call to rediscover the great American road trip as the family vacation of choice.
Take the back roads. Take the side roads. Take the winding roads.
I remember, as does my husband, taking long road trips as children with our families. Hours and hours of being stuck in the car with only our crayons, coloring books, and imaginations. And we survived. My sister and I honed our wit and creativity while entertaining each other in the backseat. My husband and his brothers did the same. For my husband and his family, packing for the road trip also involved loading up a big cooler. Filled with everything needed to make epic sandwiches. They stopped at the roadside rest stops, feeding their family of six out of the cooler and tote packed with food. Throughout our childhood road trips we camped, we stayed in some fantastic hotels, and some pretty creepy places. All of which provided excellent fodder for storytelling as adults.
As an adult, our journey into choosing road tripping grew out of necessity. My husband’s career moved us far away from any family. Restless with missing family, I decided to try making the 14 hour drive by myself with my children, over the course of two, maybe even three days if necessary. And I discovered something: I could do it. It was hard, scary, and exhausting. But it was also exhilarating and exciting. As my children got older and I grew bolder, we began taking longer trips. Often chasing down whatever whim struck my fancy. Some of our most incredible stories take place down side roads that I had the courage to wander down.
Some of our most incredible stories take place down side roads that I had the courage to wander down.
The storyline in the movie “Cars” tugs at my heartstrings, specifically the story of Radiator Springs and the town that the interstate passed by. The interstate systems we have are a civil engineering marvel, and I do appreciate them. But I also have a soft spot in my heart for the small towns that sit in decay because of all of the drivers choosing to make good time instead of have a good time. A revival in the great American road trip will also give these little gems of towns a chance to thrive again. One of my most favorite pieces of Americana history is Route 66. We have “gotten our kicks” more than a few times on that old road. By choosing to chase down some history, we discovered a small patch of the old Musical Highway that still exists outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. By driving precisely 45 miles per hour, with your tires just over the right side, the rumble strips play out one stanza of “America the Beautiful.” It’s completely silly and completely amazing. In its prime, that stretch of Route 66 had whole lengths of the highway with music. It was designed as a speed control mechanism. They encouraged folks to slow down and listen to the music. An apt lesson that still needs application today.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the small towns that sit in decay because of all of the drivers choosing to make good time instead of have a good time.
That’s really the whole lesson. Slow down, and listen to the music. The music that is the beauty of a sunset while driving west. The music that is a conversation with a depth you haven’t felt before, carried out as the miles tick along. The music that is watching fields of crops wave in the wind. The squeaking brakes of the old car in the one horse town, or the clanking of coffee mugs in the roadside diner early in the morning. The music that is the sound of your own heartbeat as you gaze at the night sky. The music that is the peace in your heart that has only been waiting for the chance to show itself.
Coming up in part two of my Ode to Road tripping: my most favorite trip, and most epic, trip that we have done. Three weeks, thousands of miles, and a pause to howl at the moon in the middle of an eclipse. Head back to main page to subscribe to our email list to be notified when the next part of the story is live.