“The Americans have found the healing of God in a variety of things, the most pleasant of which is probably automobile drives.”
― William Saroyan
Once again I have been on a road trip, and remembered some of the pleasures of extended drives — and some of the difficulties. Which factors stand out for you?
I enjoy seeing the countryside and the urban landscapes which I would miss if I traveled by plane. Driving to your destination can provide a bodily sense of how far you are going – as opposed to the magically shrunken time required for plane travel.
Especially when the trip is along a path I have traveled before, I get to see the changes in development (commercial or agricultural) since the last trip – or since much earlier excursions. Repeated trips also provide time and opportunity to recall previous trips with others, whether they be formerly young children or older adults, now deceased. The first time I saw the Eastern seaboard was in 1968 with my parents. Then years later I drove to the Philadelphia area several times when our children were young.
Driving to my destination also means I will have a car, my own car that I know and understand, once I arrive.
A long driving trip is a great opportunity to listen to a book or two as you travel. (I optimistically checked out four books on CD for the current trip. The librarian told me her husband looked up the frequency of NPR stations all along the route for their last trip.)
Using a GPS receiver for directions gives me a sense of traveling in a tunnel. I have confidence that the next few steps will be illuminated as needed, and that I will arrive where I need to be. But I have no sense of the land I am passing through. Having a live companion to read maps — or being that companion and navigator — provides much more context for each part of the journey. (What are our other options? How close are we passing to Punxatawney?) But if I am driving alone, I much prefer the narrow but accurate directions provided by my Garmin over trying to read a map as I go.
There are some drawbacks to road trips, of course. Extended hours in a fixed position wreak havoc on human joints when movement is finally allowed. It can be surprisingly tiring to just sit there. With a car, there is no good excuse to limit the number of things you bring along, so you can end up taking along much more stuff than you need. Heavy holiday traffic can be a huge disincentive but careful planning can alleviate some of that.
Some itineraries are not practical as road trips because of distance and time required. But it can be very pleasant to drive to a marginal destination. Where are the margins for what you consider a pleasant road trip?
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
2 June 2016