"the blab of the pave..."

Road trips are in my blood--perhaps literally. Whether I got it from my roaming forebears like paternal fourth great-grandfather Stephen Addison Davenport, who after moving to the newly-formed state of Wisconsin, next headed to California with the Gold Rush; or from more recent relations like my maternal grandfather, Dana Earl Brown, who drove to Hollywood from Minnesota in 1931 just for kicks, it must be in my genes somehow.

Family vacations were part of my childhood. Growing up, my family was mostly west coast, even before I was born: mom's side in California, dad's side in Washington state. We would visit my grandparents outside of Seattle almost every summer; Thanksgivings often meant a long weekend in the Bay Area with cousins. I saw a lot of Pacific Coast Highway from the window of the station wagon.

Once we took a family driving trip to the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Caverns, then and now.

Later, while living briefly in Ohio, we went to Washington D C, Omaha, and Atlanta once each.

Even then, I wrote trip journals and sent postcards. The Nebraska trip journal, modestly titled Bob Burnett's "Around the Cornbelt [sic] in Six Whole Days," A Humorous Dialogue Based on a True Incident in the Month of August 1973, was printed in a "Special Limited Edition, Illustrated by the Author." It was full of droll observations such as "Very beautiful countryside (if you like corn and soybean)" and "Soon right before we saw Nebraska we saw many signs for a SCENIC VIEW: it was a hill!" A bit of juvenalia, no doubt, but I am pleased to see that even as a child I knew my way around a parenthetical aside and proper colon usage. I was a little more terse, if no less snarky in an (untitled) log of a trip to Northern California from my high school years: "Nondescript. Hot. Flat. Dull."

As an adult, my love of Road Trips has only deepened. One of my favorite vacations was a solo road trip through The South, hitting everything from Walt Disney World ("First Time Visitor") to New Orleans (for Mardi Gras) to the Great Smokey Mountains which were, in fact, all covered with snow. There was no real itinerary, aside from a few "tent poles:" visiting my friend Erik, who was attending North Carolina's Wake Forest University; the Boll Weevil Monument in Alabama.... Each night, in some quaint motel or other, I would peruse my AAA maps and guidebooks to create a theoretical route for the following day, although those often fell by the wayside as I would follow whatever whims and byways crossed my path.

Since then, I have found that trip planning can be beneficial, providing useful context and background, and preventing mishaps. Although as Dwight D Eisenhower, best remembered--I believe--as the founder of the Interstate Highway system, once remarked, regarding warfare: "before a battle begins, planning is everything; once it has started, planning is nothing." Road trips are the same. 

The ne plus ultra of my Road Trip planning was in 2003. Rather than one lengthy trip, we decided to explore California; every nook and cranny, mission, monument, and more. As I wrote in our trip recap-cum-holiday card that year: 

Two native-born sons with one awfully big mission: To See California. All of it. In one year.... And see it we did. Every mission--all 21 of 'em--from San Diego to Sonoma. What we don't know about adobe isn't worth knowing.

We visited every National Park, Monument, and Historic Site. From the well-known (Yosemite) to the obscure (who had ever heard of Pinnacles?), from untouched nature to the WW2 Homefront & Manzanar Memorials, we saw birthplaces, cemeteries, volcanoes, lighthouses, and more.

We even visited as many tourist traps as Stephen would allow. This too is California. Or so Robert said.... From the Trees of Mystery to the Winchester Mystery House, we saw the biggest, smallest, oldest, oddest, and--frankly--tackiest the Golden State has to offer, and we have the snowglobes, bumper stickers, and commemorative spoons to prove it. It seems only appropriate for this state of superlatives.

And superlative it is. We visited the highest (Mt Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the contiguous United States on the same day. We saw sagebrush, sailboats, salmon, sand dunes, sequoias, snow, steam trains, the Steinbeck Center, Sunset magazine's HQ, surf... and that was just "S."

We sought out--and found--the geographical center of California, as well as the cardinal points. We rode on everything from interstate super-highways to dirt roads and rabbit paths. We even accidentally wandered into Nevada and Oregon, albeit on two different trips; the no-doubt well-intentioned people at Rand-McNally have some explaining to do. We even spotted a few bits of land not in the sight of a new subdivision or Future Home of Wal-Mart ®, alas.

We saw everything from ice caves to outlet malls; attended a movie premiere, farmers' markets, and the Ramona Pageant; celebrated Earth Day in San Luis Obispo, Easter at Hearst Castle, and Disneyland's forty-eighth birthday.

We discovered (Eureka!) that Stephen will go into a swimming pool; you can swelter in San Francisco and freeze in the Mojave Desert; and that Maisie loves leftover hash browns from Black Bear Diner (convenient locations throughout central and northern California) more than any other food. Most importantly, we discovered that even after fifteen outings, thirty-plus roles of film, and over ten thousand miles of road, we have barely begun to see it all... but what a great beginning. California, here we come!

On the right is "Command Central." We hung a large map with pins, strings, note cards, and the like over the fireplace.
This was about partway through the year, with accumulated souvenirs.

That was followed by our more expansive "Rushmore Road Trip" in 2005, which took us through ten states and forty-eight hundred miles en route to that famous memorial.

Don't you brand your trips with logos and such?
Highlights of the trip included Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah, Glacier, Yosemite, Wind Cave, and Badlands Nat'l Parks, Devil's Tower and Dinosaur Nat'l Monuments, and more. Of course, it wasn't all hiking and history; we also enjoyed the Cody Night Rodeo, Wall Drug, and Carhenge (a Nebraska must-see).
That year's card. The message: Hope Your Holidays are Monumental.

In 2008, after buying a home in Ohio, perhaps needless to say we drove out, in part because we were taking Maisie and Rosie along. We saw a lot more of the country, and had many adventures and mishaps, including a wild turkey going through our windshield in Kansas. We have made three driving trips back to California since then; once along Route 66, another time, after picking up our Airstream, we dodged blizzards and had a planned six-day round-trip turn into nine.

Leaving sunny California, and in snowy Somewhere Else.

We did get to see the scenic Natchez Trace, however, and a great deal of the Mexican border in our quest to avoid further snow.


Other Road Trips we've taken from here include a recent jaunt to New York City (to see living relatives), excursions to Murrells Inlet N C (likewise) and Kansas City, and two trips to Washington D C.

Now, if you are a follower of this blog (and if you're not, why not? It's easy....), you might remember that most of my family stories here have been about Minnesota and Wisconsin, or North Dakota, and several New England states, in particular Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. And if you've been following this post (and its handy visual aids), you'll notice that I have not mentioned trips to--or even through--any of the above-mentioned states.

There are plans--of course!--to remedy that, including a Boston-based trip for next summer that will take in Cape Cod, Plimouth Plantation, Londonderry N H and the like. I have also been sketching out a Great Lakes trip tentatively titled "On the Trail of Frederick D Ketchum," [snappy subtitle TBD) tracing his life; and have another, as yet vague trek in mind to include Minnesota and Wisconsin, a sort of genealogical double-feature, since many of Stephen's ancestors lived there as well.

This year? We're going to Disney World! But we'll be driving.

1 comment:

  1. Come to Alaska! The drive through Canada is gorgeous!