There used to be a time, years ago, when it was commonplace for a small group of friends to take a week or two off from work and travel to a place more interesting than where they were standing. Armed with nothing but a car, clothes, cash, and close friends, they would cruise down a long, two-lane freeway in the green fields of The Great Plains or the desolate deserts of the Southwest. Discussing ideas such as the downfall of the 70’s porn mustache, wondering what the fuck happened to Crystal Clear Pepsi, and insulting each other’s taste in music, they would steadily make their way to whatever destination they chose.
What I'm talking about of course, is a road trip, one of the many great American pastimes. Sadly, as of late, this pastime isn’t nearly as prevalent and is rather becoming a part of times past. With gas prices above three dollars per gallon, the economy in the shitter and society’s ever-growing obsession with consolidating unused nanoseconds, we all seemed to have lost something. What have we lost? Sight. Sight of how necessary it is to drop everything and just get away for a while, using the two million miles of asphalt rivers and streams that have been laid out for us.
It’s strange how doing something virtually uneventful such as driving a long distance turns into an event itself. Many times, the destination isn’t really that important. They just need to make a trip, to get away from their normal lives, and temporarily live in another. It’s a little romantic, in the classical sense of the word. A handful of people amongst the awe of the entire country, conquering the (to them) untamed open road and strengthening their friendships because they are with each other every step of the way.
Clichéd but great thoughts always come along with the idea of a road trip. Stopping at obscure small towns in search of beer and breakfast food. Photos with four nameless guys standing near a dusty car and staring off into the distance of a nameless desert somewhere. Those same four guys creating their own fake personas and portraying them to the strangers they meet on the road. The possibility of falling for a cute farmer’s daughter, getting chased out own town by her shotgun-wielding father… and immediately planning to visit her again on the return trip. Meeting toothless people they would only want to meet once, but then buying them a beer anyway… at a bar named after some guy who was killed by a renegade cow.
I’ve wanted to experience something like that ever since I hit twenty-one. Periodically, I’d have the opportunity to travel with some friend to pick up a car they bought four states away, or take a vacation and drive by myself to the East Coast or the Florida Keys. However, each time it would end up fizzling out. Whether it be the lack of time, the car sale falling through, or my ever-powerful apathy setting in, I would be left sitting in front of my desk at home or work, left with nothing but my routine in the near future.
Then one night, recently, the serious need for travel hit me like the hand of a girl I had just insulted. “I NEED to get out of here!!” I thought to myself. “I NEED to do something at least a LITTLE adventurous! With all of this unused vacation time built up and a surplus in my bank account, I NEED to break the monotony!!” With this fresh desire for a change in my mind, I did what anyone else my age would do: I lazily left a Facebook status about it. “I'm entertaining the idea of putting together a road trip for this summer. Anyone interested?”
Minutes later, people responded.
“If I am around, for sure.”
Then a friend of mine commented, “Route 66”.
“Hmm, that’s not a bad idea…” so said the gears in my head that were already turning. And being the sponge for information that I am, I immediately began researching… a lot.
Allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes on Route 66. The “Mother Road” was made official in 1926, as a 2,400 mile long freeway that stretched from Los Angeles to Chicago, but since has been changed around a bit and is now mainly comprised of three main freeways, specifically I-40, I-44 and I-55. It has gained notoriety over the decades as being a pathway for many things Americana, and the residue of these historical marks and communities are still present along the side of the road in the form of small towns, hotels, roadhouses, diners and weird “touristy” shit like the Barbed Wire Museum.
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After learning all I could on the subject without turning myself into that douche bag-type that will look for any opening in a conversation to rattle of countless facts on a specific subject… I can safely say that I will travel the Main Street of America this summer. How do I know this? My excitement. I very rarely stay consistently excited about something for so long, especially in this situation where I know that it won’t be happening anytime soon. I know that the ideal time for me would be in the summer, right after the Fourth of July… mainly because I get paid on the fifth. Past that, my “Week on 66” is now just in the air. All I can do now is plan what I can… to a point. I also do not want to become that douche bag-type of traveler that has the entire trip planned out, up to the minute. That just takes the fun out of the whole damn thing. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll hold off on the planning for now all together. What I will do instead is simply imagine about what clichés we all associate with road trips might actually become part of my experience on the road.
Like the cute farmer’s daughter. That one has my vote.
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