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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The One That Started It All

Planning our upcoming cross country family trip has me thinking about the first time I drove across the United States.   Eighteen years ago, Steve and I took a 30 day roadtrip mostly through the south.  Newly engaged and moving on to my first real job as an engineer in Vancouver, WA, we loaded up my brand new Geo Prizm and started our trek.  Starting in Pennsylvania (at my parents Poconos home where we were later married), we set out on an adventure that would take us through 18 states (PA, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, AK, TX, NM, AZ, NV, CA, OR, WA).

We planned to see everything that the southern part of the US had to offer.   We visited friends, family, National Parks, roadside fruit stands, historic sites, weird truck stops, tourist traps and countless roadside rest areas.   While the changes in landscape were astounding, the changes in culture were surprisingly subtle.  We noticed different accents, colloquialisms and political views (especially from the Arkansas couple who sold us the best peaches ever and then apologized for unleashing, then President, Bill Clinton on the country).   These small differences could not mask the general American sensibility we encountered, though.

(Republican-owned) Arkansas roadside peach stand

Everyone was eager to hear our story:  We were just engaged and planned to get married in 3 years when Steve finished Graduate school at University of Illinois.  I was moving off to Washington state to start a great job at Hewlett-Packard while my family and Steve lived thousands of miles away.  We were kicking off our long distance relationship with a roadtrip across the country.   Everyone assured us that we could do it, that it would be tough, but we would reach our goal of living in the same state when we were married.  This was our American Dream.  While my experience in other countries is limited, I have always gotten the sense that most people tend to stay put (often by necessity) in their childhood hometowns, close to the comfort of their families.   Our type of movement and exploration is uniquely American, and you find it in small towns and big cities all across the country.

This trip kicked off  our family's continued romance with roadtrips and a thirst to see more of America.  In fact, in 1996, we ditched our tentative plans for tropical honeymoon in favor of a high adventure roadtrip through our 49th state, Alaska, pursuing our goal of driving to the Arctic Ocean and taking a dip.   Alaska was the 35th state I ever visited. Now, I have a hand drawn map of the U.S. with the 40 states I have visited filled in with crayon.   I'll pick up just a few more states on our upcoming roadtrip, thanks to a carefully planned route and a few detours.   The kids, on the other hand, will rack up the states now, giving me and Steve a run for our money.  Alex is proud to point out that he will be able to add 11 more states to his map, bringing his grand total to 27.    Visiting all 50 states in one's lifetime, I think, is an admirable goal.  There is so much to see in this fabulous country!  But to discover your neighbors, as well as yourself, is what keeps us packing.  Experiencing those subtle differences of American towns is what leaves us wanting more!

P.S.  - Fixed the comment link...you don't need id to post a comment now.

1 comment:

  1. You are right. In other countries, people do not move around as much. My relatives think it's crazy to live far from family.