The Long Road Home

As we start our journey home from Colorado to California (with a two night layover in Las Vegas) I find myself a bit weepy.  I’m not sad.  In fact just the opposite; I’m so happy right now I can hardly stand it.

I think it’s the nostalgia of the car trip that’s getting to me.  My husband Dave and I are listening to “The Best of Van Morrison” – a road trip staple – while the kids zone out to Star Wars in the back, their huge wireless headphones blocking out the music and our terrible singing.  I find myself thinking of our first real road trip over 16 years ago when I set off on a cross country drive sitting next to a man I loved more than any man before him.

On December 27, 1991, after putting all of my furniture into storage, I shoved my entire wardrobe and everything else I deemed essential into a rented Uhaul car-top carrier attached to my 1984 Toyota Celica and Dave and I set off towards New York.  (Okay, technically it was New Jersey, but you know…)

Dave and I started dating in the summer of 1989.  I fell hard for him right away.  I think he fell hard for me too but HEDIDNOTWANTAGIRLFRIEND so he was very non-committal.  (Once after we were dating for about a year we went to Phoenix for the weekend and he introduced me to his uncle – who lived there – as his date.  His date?  To Phoenix?  Yeah, he had serious commitment problems.)

In January of ’91 he got a promotion that required him to relocate to New York.  And even though I still never heard him ever utter the word “girlfriend” we decided to carry on long distance to see what happened. We managed to see each other for long weekends about every six weeks.  In October he asked me to move to New York.  I’d been ready since February.

I really think that if he hadn’t moved to New York we wouldn’t have ended up together.  It was the distance and missing me that made him realize he was in love with me.  If he had stayed in California I think I would have grown tired of waiting for him to commit and left him or I would have started nagging him for a commitment and he would have grown tired of that and he would have left me.  It turns out the distance that  separated us is ultimately the thing that brought us closer together.  It’s funny the little curve balls life tends to throw at you.

So two days after Christmas, after giving up a highly coveted job in the music industry and a really great apartment, I kissed my friends and family goodbye and set off on the road trip of my life.  We had a great time.  We tried to visit the Grand Canyon (well we did visit the Grand Canyon, we just couldn’t see it because it was socked in with fog), we stayed with some friends in Houston and had the best Queso Fundido I’ve ever had in my life, made it to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve, and got lost on some Louisiana back road that provided us with a story we still tell today.

When we were living in New York (okay, okay New Jersey) Dave actually lost his job due to a merger but was still under contract so he was still getting paid.  Talk about the time of our lives!  One day we were walking down the street in Hoboken and Dave turned to me and said, “It’s so cold.  Let’s go to Florida tomorrow.”  And we did.  We drove all the way down to Key West.  A few weeks later we drove through New England all the way to Montreal.  Four months later he got a job in Los Angeles and we loaded all of our belongings and my Celica onto a moving van and drove his Honda back home.

We’ve been on many crazy road trips since then – LA to Seattle and back, and twice we’ve driven roundtrip from Los Angeles to Wichita (once to pickup heirloom furniture and another time for his grandmother’s funeral).  When Chandler was just shy of four and Marley was only 3 months old we drove from Los Angeles to the Canadian Rockies and back.  We had to stop every 3 or 4 hours so I could nurse Marley, but that was one of the best and most beautiful trips of our lives.   3,000 miles in 10 days.  We both wish it could have been longer, though that probably would have meant driving even farther.  Not counting this trip where we are sure to log in over 2,000 miles, we’ve probably driven over 20,000 miles together on road trips alone.

There are things that remain constant for all of our trips:  two travel mugs and a Thermos full of coffee to start our day, music that is (for the most part) mutually agreed upon, whenever we stop for gas he fills up the car and I wash the windows, we always have a big box of Gobstoppers to suck on (the passenger pops them into the mouth of the driver), and the air conditioning is only turned on once the outside temp reaches 83 degrees (that’s his stupid ass rule – though you know, with all the fluorocarbons the A/C releases into the air I put up with it without complaining.)

This is actually our first vacation car trip since that trip to Canada almost 8 years ago.  Sure we’ve gone on some 5 or 6 hour drives for camping trips, but that hardly counts as a road trip by our standards.  And today, as we start our journey home and sing “Have I Told You Lately” to each other, the first song we danced to together as husband and wife, happy tears escape from the corners of my eyes -tears shed in reminiscence of the road trips of our past and in anticipation of all the miles we will surely travel together in our future.

*This post originally appeared on skirt.com on August 24, 2008. I have archived it here after learning that skirt will be shutting down the blogging portion of its site on November 30, 2013.

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