Devil’s Tower National Monument in Northeast Wyoming in May 2003.
A few weeks ago, I went to Las Vegas for a gig. I was there for 3 nights before flying back for another one in Montgomery. I flew because I had places to be and was in a hurry.
But I prefer to drive. In fact, I insist on driving when time is not an issue.
I enjoy the alone time. I enjoy having time to think. I enjoy blasting my radio to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash, although, sometimes it’s Anne Murray, Carly Simon, and The Carpenters. It’s just me, so no one will ever know.
One of my favorite movies is National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase as the incomparable Clark W. Griswold. When asked by his children why they weren’t flying to the fictitious theme park, Walley World, Clark replied, “Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”
I know that.
When I was in the seventh grade, we traveled in the family car to Washington DC for Spring Break. The family car was a 1980 Pinto with a spoiler.
THE 1980 Pinto with the spoiler!
While my mother and brother shared driving duties up front, I rode in the hatchback alongside the ham sandwiches and Piggly Wiggly sacks.
Had we flown, we would’ve missed America’s splendor along the Blue Ridge Parkway and throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
We likely would’ve missed a picture with the bowl-mullet, pies, and fake Members Only jacket, too.
Oh, we also would’ve missed a chance encounter at a Shoney’s located 308 miles away from Opelika in Asheville, North Carolina, with our eighth grade home economics teacher, Miss Boothe.
There is just so much to see, do, and eat along the highways of America.
Another classic line from Vacation is when Clark says, “Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”
While I have yet to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, I have seen the world’s largest bottle of catsup in Collinsville, Illinois.
The world’s largest bottle of catsup in 2003.
Upon graduation from my Officer Basic Course at Ft. Eustis, Virginia, I was assigned to Ft. Lewis, Washington, which is a journey of 2,900. I know some people that would’ve made the trip in three or four days, but why?
I took 28 days of leave and embarked on the trip of a lifetime. I drove close to 8,000 miles and saw Yellowstone, Yosemite, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon, and, yes, the world’s largest bottle of catsup.
I recently drove to Arizona for the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference. The drive out there and back added to the overall experience of the trip.
As this young man went west, I spent the first night with friends in New Orleans. We enjoyed an amazing meal at NOLA, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in the French Quarter. Bam!
The second night I had a great meal and conversation with a friend in San Antonio, before trekking through the seemingly endless West Texas at 80 MPH the next day. I stopped for barbeque, twice.
I also experienced a monsoon in rural Southern Arizona and a sandstorm in Tucson that came with tumbleweed and all. It was fabulous!
As always, I experienced a magical time at our stuttering association’s conference but knew the trip back would be the proverbial icing on the cake to what was already a wonderful trip.
On the way back, I stopped at Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona, home to the nation’s largest cacti, before having dinner in Tombstone at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, located near the legendary O.K. Corral.
Saguaro National Park near Tucson.
The next day, I was able to put a checkmark on my bucket list when I went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Throughout the years, I’ve been to many caverns but none quite as spectacular as these. Pictures and words simply do not do the “8th Wonder of the World” justice. I felt as if I was on another planet. I was overwhelmed. It was truly awesome.
Likewise, it was AUsome hearing a “War Eagle” from the depths of the caverns, too. Although lighting is limited throughout the cave, my orange Auburn shirt clearly stood out.
The next day saw a stop at the Botanical Gardens in Ft. Worth, as well as lunch with an Opelika buddy featuring barbeque goat.
The last day of the trip included crawfish étouffée in Shreveport, a stop at the Duck Dynasty headquarters in West Monroe, followed by a sunset at Vicksburg National Military Park along the banks of the Mississippi River before embarking on the final lonesome stretch of highway through Mississippi and Alabama.
I could’ve flown, but why?
There’s just so much to do, see, and eat along the way, but we are often in such a hurry to reach our destination that we don’t take the time to truly enjoy the ride.
Besides, getting there is half the fun. You know that.