The joy of the solo roadtrip
A vehicle and an open road. A destination without a fixed itinerary. Why does this excite me so?
I think I know the answer.
From an early age, driving was the definitive form of freedom. I got my learners permit – also known as a ’365′ in Ontario back then because of the number of days you could drive with it – shortly after my 15th birthday. And I had my full license by the day after turning 16. At 17, I borrowed my mother’s car and drove 10 hours to Cincinnati and other exotic destinations in the north eastern Great Lakes region of North America. (Could you imagine letting your 17 year old borrow the car for a long weekend road trip like that? Uh, NOT.)
My first and favourite summer jobs were driving jobs. I once worked for a medical testing company and my job was to drive 2-3 hours and pick up samples from their labs for testing. The job started in the early evening and ended about 2 or 3 am. The pay was pretty good and I got to listen to Toronto Blue Jay baseball games on the car’s AM radio and could even pick up Larry Glick’s show on WBZ Boston via the nightime skip. Independence. Responsibility. No boss hanging over my shoulder. I loved that job!
It was always an option to drive from Edmonton to Palm Springs for our planned month-long stay, but with a wife who hates road trips and three kids who have their limitations it just didn’t seem like a good idea. So, we booked flights and made a rental car reservation.
Then, we got the new vehicle. And it occurred to my wife and I that there may be some benefit in me driving while the rest of the family flies. (See where I’m going with this, guys?) After some serious consideration of the 28 hour route, I cancelled my flight and I’m driving. Just me, with the bikes and some bulky stuff that we wouldn’t fly with. Maybe even my clubs. And I’m totally excited!
A new car. A pile of music and audiobooks. And 28 hours of open road independence. When I talk about it with other people, guys in particular (but not exclusively – many women get the “open road” ethos) respond with a giddy enthusiasm. Do it, they urge. And then they tell me of their best road trips over the years.
To be sure, I am wondering whether the middle-age me will be as thrilled to be driving for three days straight as the twentysomething me was. I guess that’s all part of the adventure. Daily life happens and the years fly by as we are engaged with our partners and children and families and professional lives. Yet some of the core beliefs and desires we hold are rooted in our younger selves when we were different people. Are those beliefs and desires still relevant today? I’m looking forward to the time alone on the road to reflect on this and other questions.