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Wanderlust Is An Essential Element of Adventure

Gold Hill, NC (03/17/2008) - My father was a wanderer, and he emulated his father. Grampa was the kind of guy that would drive his pickup truck hell bent for leather along any rural road or trail in order to reach the other end. His back road adventures scared my mother. I was only eight when he died, but I remember Mom would scowl at the old man as I clambered into the seat next to him, “BE CAREFUL, I want my boy back in one piece!” Gramps and I would both smile and wave as the grey Pontiac truck left the driveway. 

The next couple of hours were complete adventures for both of us. We would turn right and left onto gravel roads seemingly without reason – other than the road went somewhere nobody else went. If a bump lifted us from the seat or a quick dip in the road made our chins droop momentarily, so much the better. The thrill was always there, right ahead of us.


When Grampa died Dad proudly inherited the insatiable wanderlust. He didn’t get a pickup truck until years later, so the speeds we saw while going down dusty back roads were more suitable to a ‘57 Chrysler New Yorker convertible. The big Chrysler had an advantage over the pickup; more people could enjoy the ride! Aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody got their opportunity to wander around with Dad. We followed Michigan highways wherever they went; north to the Straits of Mackinac, west to Lake Michigan, or east to the Canadian border at Port Huron. Ohio and points beyond were reserved for infrequent vacations.

Mom didn’t exactly enjoy these day trips; she endured them with gritted teeth. She was expected to produce a picnic basket to satisfy our various appetites. That always meant a long evening before the adventurous dawn arrived. And then, when we arrived home after an arduous day, she was expected to muster the energy to put dinner on the table. Her grin wasn't as eager as that of the men of the family.

All the while I sat in the windy back seat of the convertible, and later in the hot back seat of a large Pontiac sedan. I gathered scenes into my memory. Billboards touting the next tourist trap, "See Shell City", or "The Mystery Spot!", and broad vistas from the tops of large hills were my favorite sights. Fifty years afterwards, I can envision the windshield filling with the view of a rusty old bridge. I can feel the car rock slightly as the bias ply tires hit wooden planks and thumped across a lonely creek or river. Mom had a deathly fear of bridges; maybe that’s why I remember them so vividly.

Eventually I inherited the wanderlust. Dad’s been gone over thirty years now and Mom almost twenty. I’m sure it would not surprise either of them that I’ve been planning this new adventure for several years. Nor would it bother them that I’m doing it the hard way, on two wheels. I know it would please them to know I am taking one of my sons along with me to enjoy the road less traveled. And it would also make them happy to know the main purpose of the trip is to honor those that have served in uniform.

Young boys usually dream of all the great things in the world, and how the dreams will become part of their life. Old men look back and wonder how they missed the signs that pointed out an important turn. I’ve dreamt my share of dreams. I have missed too many turns not to give myself another chance to find what lies at the end of all those distant roads.

I’m really looking forward to this trip . . . and it starts in just a few days!



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