There is a lot to be learned on the road.
Our family has spent considerable time in the car the past few months as we traveled throughout the Midwest so that my son, Chaz, could attend football camps at various colleges and universities. We had a road trip to Chicago last weekend, and this weekend we are off to Kansas for a visit to Emporia State University.
The logistics of fitting a 6-foot-8 teenage boy into a car are a challenge, but then trying to make him at least borderline comfortable for the hours-long rides compounds the issue. We ended up buying a new-to-us vehicle to solve the problem. Chaz is so tall that when he reclines the front passenger seat, he might as well be sitting in the back seat.
Our journeys have taken us to Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kansas, along with a couple of stops in Missouri. We have been stuck behind a Mennonite horse cart and endured miles of road construction. We discovered the addictive qualities of Salted Caramel Combos and just how annoying Siri can be when she scolds you to “proceed to the route” when you dare to make a pit stop. These trips also made me wonder how I ever arrived anywhere on time without the map app on my phone. I remember reading road maps (and failing miserably at refolding them), but that just seems so long ago and far away.
While the opportunity was there, we passed on the chance to see the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, which actually is a water tower in Collinsville, Ill. We did, however, extend our route a couple of times to reconnect with family in northwest Indiana (and cash in on a free meal and sleeping quarters for a night). While the camps provided great experience and recruiting opportunities for Chaz, the time spent with my aunt and uncle, cousins and their families was far more valuable for all of us.
Road trips always bring out stories and create memories. We started noticing the “Roadside Holy Trinity” as we drove across Iowa; nearly every highway exit had a Casey’s, a Subway and a McDonald’s available. We joked about how the cellular data signals seemed to be strongest in the areas inhabited by Amish and Mennonite families, who are less likely to need that service. And “Twelve!?” will forever be a reminder of just how much that boy can eat.
The best lesson, the best memory of all however was the reminder of how much we enjoy each other’s company and how much fun we can have doing little more than spending time together in a confined space. We listened to music, we talked, we reconnected. Life doesn’t have a pause button, but it does seem to have a fast-forward function. We may have been zooming down an interstate highway but the time didn’t fly as fast, for all of the right reasons.
Along the way, we learned that you don’t eat Mexican food in Pittsfield, Ill., to always have about $27 in change for the Illinois tollways and that root beer-flavored Pop-Tarts destroy children’s dreams. We’ll have to see what lessons this weekend’s trip provides, but the unknown is what makes these journeys so much fun.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.