On and Off the Road

Road trips are the ultimate test of a relationship. A long drive for a weekend can be a quick read on how a long term relationship will work – or not. It’s hard to remember how many boyfriends fell by the wayside early on when their curiosity failed or they demonstrated an inability to riff off a provocative All Things Considered piece.

On the other hand – it was our first two-week road trip along the right coast of this country that let me know Jacques was a keeper. He noticed odd roadside spectacles, asked interesting questions, and added context to radio commentary that was hysterical.

And here we are – 32 years later crossing half of the country from the left coast to the North coast, and it’s still fun. We toddled from Los Angeles to Minneapolis with a few detours along the way and experienced spectacular vistas mixed with mind-numbing prairies and landscapes that were merely puzzling.

What was with that smoking and steaming ground in Nevada’s Great Basin?

Why did anyone choose to live here?

And why was there no wildlife visible anywhere?

That’s where Jacques began a deeper relationship with his iPhone’s Siri. Suddenly we had an authority to answer all of those questions that occur as you’re staring at miles of nothing. And the nation’s network of relay towers really stepped up to answer our questions despite a few predictable gaps in service.

The drive took me back to a cross country drive from decades before when my father joined me in Scottsbluff, Nebraska for a drive to see his brother Uncle Paul and Aunt Marge in LA. This was 1980 so smart phones – heck, even radio towers – were absent in the country.

It was during that first day of straight line flat-open-spaced driving that Dad came out with the comment that makes me laugh to this day. 

“Isn’t ear wax wonderful?” he said.

I knew I had not heard that correctly.

“Excuse me? What did you say?”

“I said isn’t ear wax wonderful?”

“Uhhh – I have no idea how to respond to that, Dad.  Are you feeling ok?”

That brought a soft chuckle from the passenger seat.

“OK. Let me explain. There’s a fly in the car, and I was just sitting here thinking of how awful it would be if that fly flew into my ear.  Just imagine. That buzz, buzz, buzzing would drive me insane.”

He was quiet a minute while I pondered the impact of a fly buzzing in my head.

“And then I remembered ear wax. If a fly flew into my ear, it would get stuck in my earwax and wouldn’t be able to drive me insane after all. So… isn’t ear wax wonderful?”

That’s when I laughed. 

“You’re an amazing human being, Dad. I’ll bet few humans have ever realized the true value of ear wax as an insanity prevention device.”

We both laughed and that ear wax comment kept us company into the mountains of Western Wyoming. 

Today I realize that we really do marry a version of our fathers. For me, it’s a tech-enabled quietly funny version who is still good company for more than 2000 miles. Jacques, his new best friend Siri, and continuous access to music made this a much easier trip than the one of 30-odd years ago.

This drive really needs a sound track and curiosity and humor.