My earliest vacation memories are of my mother and I basking in the Myrtle Beach sun. For as long as I can remember, we drove annually to the coast of South Carolina to spend a week on the beach. I loved being in water as a child, so it made sense for us to choose a family-friendly location with lots of pools and beach access. The location, however, is a 10+ hour drive from our Northeastern Pennsylvania home. Each summer, my mother braved the journey basically on her own. If I wasn’t asleep, I was oblivious to the road and the stresses of driving.
Though I’ve hated driving since the day I was first taught, I’ve grown to tolerate it. It terrified me for the first few months, but soon became only a nuisance. Until two months ago, I would never pass up the opportunity to hitch a ride with a friend because it meant less stress for me. Once I accepted the internship in Death Valley, it dawned on me that 40+ hours of driving was imminent. My boyfriend accompanied me on the westward journey, so we shared the burden.
We dealt with tight cities, wild highways, and a snowstorm, but I arrived safely and saw so much of this country along the way. Every part of this country has such a distinctive look and feel. It often amazes me when I consider just how large the US actually is. We have mountains and deserts, beaches and cities, grasslands and tundras, etc. I feel so fortunate for having been able to see as little/much as I’ve seen so far.
Now, my mother and I have embarked on the journey eastward, taking an entirely different route than the one I took before. As we drive adjacent to historic route 66 and through the surprising sites of the South, I realize how I’ve come to appreciate driving. It has allowed me to see this country, the middle of this country, that is so often overlooked. Through meal, gas, and bathroom breaks, along with the planned excursions, the country is broken up into scenic segments. This kind of touring cannot be achieved on a plane, a train, or a bus which makes only the most necessary stops. By forcing one’s eyes on the road, we see what makes this country ours.
Though the highways and byways surrounding Las Vegas and Dallas might be strewn with careless drivers speeding to their ever-important destinations, I press on and keep my eyes peeled for the magic the road brings. The road offers us time to be introspective, to talk to one another, and to appreciate our shared love of music.
Perhaps when I’m back at school and driving seldomly, I will lose this deep gratitude for my worn-out wheels gliding along the open road. Though I hope this doesn’t happen, I know that this feeling will return once I hit the road again.