Three for the Price of One

If you are like me, the time between trips is just the price you have to pay for travel. It’s the waiting room for the next journey. So to make the waiting more bearable, I’ve instituted a three-for-one strategy.

Plan, Travel, Reminisce.

I get almost as much joy from planning a trip as I do from going on it…maybe more…based on the hours devoted to each. I’ve got more travel planned in my mind than I will ever have time or money to realize. Driving home at the end of one trip, I pass the miles by plotting the next. Even when I am bound to the flatlands of the Upper Midwest, there are mountains looming large in my mind.

I remember laying on the living room floor on cold winter days when I was young. I spread out the maps of places we planned to go, imagining what it would be like to drive the winding roads and stand in the new landscapes.

Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet, so when we planned a trip back in the day, we would send off for packets of information and wait for them to show up in the mailbox. The days between were filled with anticipation and wonder.

My dad would spend months planning a trip, picking the best routes to drive (based on fewest curves per mile and studiously avoiding the big cities) and which campgrounds to visit (first pick, a national park…second pick, anything with clean biffies). I followed suit in the planning department (also known as the dreaming department) and as he sat in his recliner with the small brochures, I unfolded the large maps on the living room floor and traced the roads with my finger, looking for the dots that signified scenic routes or the red triangles that showed the elevation of mountain peaks.

Even now, the mere mention of a trip will send me scurrying for my tattered road atlas, looking for what might be along the way.

My dad doesn’t travel much any more, but in his basement, there is a four-drawer file cabinet filled with worn envelopes of travel literature. Every trip we ever took together is held in those drawers.

Last weekend I was down helping him with his yard. After dinner I pulled an envelope from the file cabinet and we started to reminisce. It’s his best form of travel at this point in his life.

We looked at the yellowed pages of the travel brochures and talked about all the things we’d seen. The herds of bison in the Dakotas and the wildfires that had given us unreasonably red sunsets in the Grand Tetons. The miles of beaches we’d walked on both coasts and the prairie winds that threatened to tear the canvas off our pop-up trailer. There were lava tubes in Oregon and inner tubes in West Virginia.

We talked a long time…shook our heads and smiled…and then it happened.

We started planning the next one.

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