I’ve just returned from a three week, nearly 6000 mile road trip to California. Yep, driving all alone, our nation whizzing by me at 70 miles per hour.
When I was younger, I hitchhiked cross-country a few times; when I was at CNN, I either flew or sat in the passenger seat of a car while someone else in our crew (usually the photographer) drove.
But now, in my almost-retirement (I work 8 hours a week, sometimes just online), it’s just me at the controls of my vehicle, stopping when and where I please. Talk about exhilirating freedom.
And during these three weeks of driving and visiting with family and friends, I discovered some truths:
1) Nevada, all seven hours of it from east to west, is ugly. Plug ugly.
2) Books-on-tape are a wonderful invention for long distance drivers. I listened to three of them on my journey–The Terrorist by John Updike, Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and Bridge of Sighs by Robert Russo. Russo’s book was enormously long, 21 discs, but it made the time fly by. It even made me forget that Nevada was plug ugly.
3) Long distance driving is a great way to gain weight. Just sit in a seat for 10 hours expending zero calories, and then stop along the way to fill up at greasy diners. The pounds just pile up.
4) Have you taken a look at the calorie totals now being posted at some Starbucks? 450 calories for a scone? Add that to a latte, and your simple, little breakfast snack amounts to half the calories you’re allowed for the entire day if you want to lose weight. Good luck on the rest of the day.
5) Farm life might be the way to produce a better, healthier, happier population. I stopped at a farm in Minnesota, and found the family remarkably healthy in their outlook toward the world. Yeah, they worked like hell and they worried about the weather, but they seemed free of much of the clutter and muck that most of us sophisticates have to navigate through every day.
6) Ditto for the Mormons. I stopped in Salt Lake City, wandered a downtown searching in vain for trash or graffitti, and talked to some new arrivals there. Their conclusion? The Mormons work hard, clean up after themselves, take care of their families and communities, and prosper. Sounds like the American dream to me.
7) There’s probably no greater happiness in my life than sitting around a fire with my family, consuming a couple bottles of wine, and discussing the state of the world.
8) Karaoke can be therapeutic. Go ahead, laugh. But try it sometime, away from an audience, Just get a hold of one of those machines or buy one–they’re pretty cheap–and start singing. Loudly. It allows you to empty your mind, kind of like a noisy meditation.
9) Sun Cities-and I guess there are plenty of them now–are a wonderful place for some retirees. They’re clean and safe, and they’re loaded with activities, amenities and potential friends, but please…please…never send me there. The homgeneity would kill me. The rules would kill me. I took a walk through one of their impeccably kept neighborhoods and joked to a
resident that it looked like weeds were outlawed. His response? Oh yeah, they are. If someone doesn’t keep up his yard, he’s reported to authorities and action is taken. Yikes.
That’s enough to make me long for the dreary landscape of Nevada.