Well, I didn’t make it to New York. I missed the reunion I was a key part in organizing and missed the music festival I was so looking forward to attending. What happened? First I got tired. Then I got logical. I wish the latter had come first, like before I packed the car and pulled out of the driveway at noon last Sunday. But so much was riding on this trip that I couldn’t just not go; besides, I’d driven across country before so in my mind I could do it again. I felt an obligation to the people I had committed to seeing, as well as to myself – I wanted to go home! This is how it all began.
Several months ago I told my husband I wanted to take a road trip this summer. I figured I would take at least a month and leisurely drive east; stopping in my home state for a visit, but the main purpose of the trip was to see the parts of the country I’d never taken the time to check out. Then I began the reconnection with long-lost family members and friends from school. Perfect! I would build my trip around this reunion. After my husband balked at the length of time I planned on going, I reconsidered and figured three weeks would be plenty of time. Then a phone call came offering me a 3-month contract job with the government that would begin in mid-July, prompting me to cut my trip even shorter.
In possession of a free round-trip standby airline ticket, I proceeded to look for available seats on any Southwest flight in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York: Norfolk, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland, Albany, even New Hampshire. I kept getting the automated response, “no availability” to my search for a seat. What now? “Shoot,” I told myself, “I’ll still drive!” I seriously did not begin to doubt my decision until two days before my departure date, but how could I back out now? So, with the best of attitudes I kissed the husband goodbye and said, “See you in two weeks!” My companions were a seven-year-old and two small dogs; less room in the car but great company.
It was the second night, when I found myself on the border of Colorado and Kansas that I wished for the comfort of my own bed, the routine of my life, and not the countless miles of pavement that stretched before me. As I realized that I was only halfway to New York, that I had only four short days to visit, and that I’d have to turn around and make the drive all over again, I began to balk. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. Worse still, if I got back to Vegas on schedule, accomplished only by pushing myself, I’d have to report on location to the National Park Service the day after arriving home. “Uh uh,” I said, “can’t be done – won’t!” It was in Independence, Missouri that I made up my mind - we were going back home.
Once the decision was made I felt the weight of the burden lift, even though I knew the trip back would be just as trying. I was in the middle to the country for heaven’s sake; I couldn’t just blink my way back to Las Vegas. But knowing that in two days, not twelve, I’d be there gave me the energy and motivation to continue on. I’ve always maintained a strong optimism about life and that attitude was needed more than ever in this case.
What lesson am I to learn from this? What was the purpose of this journey? Why in God’s name do I put myself through these challenges? I haven’t wholly figured out the answers to those questions, but they are slowly coming to light. What keeps coming to mind is that during much of this experience we found ourselves in the state of Kansas. It felt like that state went on forever and I shared with my husband, “I can’t seem to get out of Kansas.” All the while we were there we kept seeing billboards advertising “OZ”, a museum about one of my favorite childhood movies. Over and over in my head were the words, “There’s no place like home.” Is that irony or what?
We pulled into the driveway around noon on Friday, at almost the exact same hour we had left just six days earlier. I was exhausted and relieved. It’s been two days now and the long hours of driving and the fear that I wouldn’t make it is over. Yes, I’m back in the Las Vegas heat. I didn’t get to experience that reunion or concert I was so looking forward to. I have to accept the fact that I bit off much more than I could chew, but view the journey as another one of the ways in which I learn my life lessons. I’m grateful to be home where I belong; safe and without any real harm being done. I can say that the six days cooped up in a car with my grandson was the best part of the trip – he is such a trooper, never complained once and kept me occupied with his antics all 2, 863 miles!
(on the Colorado River)
Thanks go out to all of those friends and family that gave me their support even though I disappointed them; not one of them said, “I told you so” or tried to talk me out of my plan. They all know me well enough to know I learn things the hard way – and become a much better person for it.
I only wish I could have clicked my heels the way Dorothy did and found myself home when I first realized that’s exactly where I wanted to be.