Buckle Up! It’s time for summer road trips! Enough with all the talk about gas prices, inflation and politics. Warm sunshine, green grass and the urge to pack a bag and head to parts unknown, occupies my mental landscape. Back in 1975, my parents packed their two-wheel drive, single-cab Chevy Silverado pickup truck with our arts and crafts booth, a tent, a Coleman stove, a few suitcases and my brother and I and headed west. While we listened to Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, and Creedence Clearwater on the 8-Track, we jammed our way out of Florida. Somewhere west of Tallahassee our parents had to separate my brother and I from each other because as one can imagine, we got on each other’s nerves. They put my brother next to my dad and me next to the window, which I was thankful for because it was a window to the world. Just me, a few books, and a road atlas was all I needed to drift away into my safe space.
Today, as summer approaches, I remember back to that road trip and wish I could recreate that magic. The high that I got from
seeing new landscapes, meeting people from other Tribes, and just feeling like I was really living in the moment. Our vacations
involve hotels, restaurants and sometimes air travel with plans and itineraries. We rarely do anything spontaneous. That summer we left Naples, in a truck with two adults and two children, with no more than a few hundred dollars and lots of hope. Who does that today? My parents would have me committed if we tried doing that with “their” grandchildren.
One of the highlights of that road trip was visiting the Southwest. The grand landscapes that were carved over millions of years by Mother Nature kept my nose glued to the window. I was 7 years old and a huge fan of Warner Brothers cartoons. Wile E Coyote always trying to beat the Road Runner was a highlight. Our mom would tell us to look outside and watch for roadrunners. Of course, I was looking for a tall, ostrich shaped bird to come barreling past our truck and for Wile E Coyote to be somewhere nearby with a crate of dynamite from ACME. I never did see a roadrunner that summer or a coyote but I still think about my nose glued to the window hoping to catch a glimpse before my brother.
We visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon, even as a child, the vastness did not escape me. I remember looking down into the canyon and wondering what it was like to live down there. I thought about all those who used to walk those lands and what it was like during the days of dinosaurs. I felt completely insignificant. I also felt worried and didn’t want to get too close to the edge and fall. After we left the Grand Canyon, we drove back east towards New Mexico and we stopped at several overlooks that had Navajo and Hopi vendors setup selling their traditional arts. Our parents bought us Navajo ghost bead necklaces which were made of seed beads and cedar. We were told to wear them to help ward off bad spirits that may be around. I wore mine for months until it broke.
As we drove through New Mexico, we also made a stop in Carlsbad. We stayed at a small KOA campground outside the National Park. Before I continue, I want you all to know that I am deathly afraid of spiders. I will literally sacrifice myself to the spider gods trying to get away from them. I know it’s an irrational fear. So anyways, where was I? Yes, Carlsbad, New Mexico. My dad took my brother and I into the campground’s A-frame registration area. We always had to go with him so we could check out two things… 1. The Candy Supply and 2. The Arcade. We had become pinball wizards that summer. As I was scoping out the candy aisle, I heard the woman behind the counter tell my dad that we had to make sure our tent didn’t have any holes and that we plugged up the zipper really good at night because at sundown the TARANTULAS came out of their holes…. I slept inside the cab of the truck and was irreversibly traumatized!
That summer left indelible memories for me that stay at the forefront of all of my travels. If I knew how to capture that magic for my own family, I would do it in a heartbeat. Although I longingly skip back through time I hope that some of the adventures I’ve taken my own children and now, grandchildren, on have left them with their own bit of melancholy. So, here’s hoping that everyone’s summer is filled with a little bit of sunshine, asphalt and spiders!