Over the years I have succumbed to a few vices and suffered the tribulations of beating addiction. Cigarettes were the first to go followed by chewing tobacco.
The obsession with driving vehicles older than I am is now manageable. I can drive an old pick up truck and then park it for days on end. I can even drive a “new” vehicle, such as our ’98 model Jeep Cherokee, and not break out into hives because there is no crank on the dash to open the windshield or starter button on the floor.
The road trip addiction is not one that will be so easily broken, after all my folks started me down this sorry path at a very early age. In fact, our first cross country trip was in 1959, a year after my arrival in this world, and it is family lore that I was potty trained along the old double six and a few other forgotten highways.
I began nursing the addiction for myself long before I was of legal age to drive with desert journeys in cut down cars and trucks that should have been retired at least a dozen years before I was born. It seemed so harmless then – a drive down a sand wash here, a drive to Oatman on old Route 66 there. If only I had known where this would lead.
One month after turning eighteen I was on the road from Michigan to Arizona and back again via the Corn Palace, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and St. Louis with a rusty but trusty 1968 Plymouth Fury. One month later I made another trip to Arizona, this time as my dad’s assistant in relocating the family to Arizona. In late July we returned to Michigan for another load, and in late December, in the midst of blinding snow, we again rolled west.
It all seemed like harmless fun, a youthful walk on the wild side. The road trip was something I could enjoy “recreationally.”
I wasn’t an addict, I could hold a job. In Kingman, I began working and saving some money. Little did I know the power of the monkey on my back.
All went well for six months and then I acquired a well used and abused 1942 Chevrolet pick up truck. At the time I didn’t see the pattern as it became easier to make excuses for being on the road with every spare moment; a pool table that needed to be moved to Lake Havasu City, rolls of barbed wire that a friend needed in Dolan Springs, a couple of goats that needed transportation to a ranch in Hackberry.
It is all a bit fuzzy now but it was at about this point in time that I learned the addiction could be fueled and even given legitimacy with acquisition of a commercial drivers license. Now, it was hay hauled from Bullhead City and pigs to Snowflake, cinder rock from McConnico and feed from Flagstaff. Now I could be on the road during working hours as well as in my spare time.
Time and again I tried going straight but at every turn an opportunity presented itself to fall back into the old ways. The meeting of a wonderful young lady, now my wife, was the excuse for a weekly trip from a ranch near Chino Valley to Kingman, via Route 66, in my 1946 GMC. A job with a finance company led to recovery of vehicles from Oklahoma, South Dakota, and California.
It all seemed so harmless. “Lets make it a three day weekend.” “Lets drive instead of fly.” “Remember how good that pie tasted at the Midpoint Cafe?”
In our twenty seven years of marriage we have waded in the Atlantic and Pacific, watched a sunset over Lake Superior, tasted the snow flavored winds at Silverton, visited http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrColonial Williamsburg and explored the depths of Carlsbad Caverns. We have flown, taken the train, and double dated in a 1926 Ford.
I have traded my skills as a writer for two round trip tickets to San Francisco and used my sons birthday as an excuse for a trip to the Deer Farm near Williams. An anniversary was the excuse for a trip to Bisbee and even church has become a road trip of forty five miles each way on Route 66.
We have logged tens of thousands of miles and with each one it becomes ever harder to satisfy the craving. This last trip was 2,796 miles in less than a week.
That was less than three weeks ago and already we are looking at the atlas over dinner. Already our conversations are being peppered with talk of fall trips to Chicago on Route 66 “to gather material for the new book, a Route 66 encyclopedia”, summer excursions to Crown King to promote http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760326894&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrGhost Towns of the Southwest, or a weekend camping trip near Williams for photography.
Now, after all of these years, at the slightest provocation my dearest friend will find an excuse to take to the road. It is with glee that she takes the wheel of the Jeep and tears down some back road just to see what is over the next hill.
It is with complete abandon that she samples new foods, meets new people, eagerly awaits a stunning sunset in the Texas Panhandle, or packs a suitcase in a frenzy for a last minute “business” trip to the coast of California. What have I done!
Last evening we sat on the porch in the cool of the evening discussing our forthcoming harvest of fresh tomatoes, a grandson due in October, and in the wink of an eye the conversation turned toward fond reminiscing of our visit to Afton Station. Even before my feet touched the floor this morning http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=076032817X&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrmy mind was crafting an excuse for a return to Holbrook and another night in the wigwam village.
Again, as in days of old, I have found ways to feed the addiction with the thinnest veneer of legitimacy. I write books such as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, Backroads of Arizona, and Route 66 Backroads to fund my cravings without the slightest thought that I may be fueling the addiction of those to weak to resist the temptations of the road trip.
I write these words today as both an apology and a warning. Beware the addiction of the road trip!
Do not purchase my books if you can not resist the temptation of the open road and long voyages of discovery. Do not look between the covers if stunning photography of magical places such as Supai or Palo Duro Canyon fill you with wanderlust.
Do not allow temptations such as thoughts of relaxing on a sunny beach or a pleasant drive down shade dappled Route 66 near Spencer, Missouri distract you from your job. Focus!
My conscience is clean. I have warned you. What you choose to do with this warning is up to you.