I’m still pooped.
Rightfully so, I suppose, after driving 6000 miles in two weeks.
A few weeks ago my daughter and I decided — on a whim — to drive across the country. We traveled from Columbus to Chicago to southern California, loosely following the famous Route 66. Then we cruised up the California coast on Highway 1 to San Francisco where she hopped on a plane back to Columbus. Fortunately for me, my dad flew out to San Francisco and drove back across America with me.
We never knew how far we’d get or where we’d end up each day. We ate at local diners and booked hotels on the fly. If something caught our eye, we’d stop and check it out.
A partial – and I mean partial – list of sites we visited included Millennium Park in Chicago (with the famous chrome “bean” sculpture), the St. Louis Arch, at least two thousand miles of desert, the San Diego Zoo, the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, the Brady Bunch House (apparently only used for front exterior shots), Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Big Sur, an actual California wild fire (complete with dozens of fire trucks, bulldozers, etc.), The Golden Gate Bridge, a forest of Giant Redwoods, Yosemite National Park, and the Hallmark Cards worldwide headquarters in Lawrence, KS. That last one was a total fluke. We just happened to get off at that exit to look for a hotel and there it was.
When we got home, my wife asked me how many pictures I took.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. I really didn’t take very many pictures.”
“I guess I just wanted to BE on this trip, not live it through my camera.”
“But how will you remember everything?”
“Why do I need to?”
Honestly, I’m not sure I’d remember everything even if I had videotaped the trip from beginning to end. One thing I know I’ll never forget is stopping in the middle of Yosemite at 11pm, getting out of the car, and just staring at a sky full of more stars than you can imagine. It’s first time I’ve seen the Milky Way stretch from horizon to horizon. Most people have never even seen the Milky Way because the man-made light on much of this earth keeps it from being visible. But not in Yosemite. It was the visual definition of awe-inspiring.
Another memorable moment was when I hugged a Giant Redwood. I did it to be funny and make my daughter roll her eyes (it worked), but if I’m being completely honest, the hug itself felt surprisingly GOOD. I gave that ancient tree a little love and it gave me some back. I think my daughter Snapchatted the moment to show her friends what an idiot her dad is, but a picture couldn’t possibly capture the feeling that I exchanged with that tree.
And a picture could never come close to witnessing my daughter experiencing all of this for the first time. I guess in the end I just wanted to drink that in as much as I could with my own two eyes.
This trip reminded me of some basic things in life that I truly love more than anything, like exploring the real world, immersing myself in nature, hanging out with family, and being 100% present while I do it. For me, it’s hard — no, IMPOSSIBLE — to do that with a phone in my face.
I’ve decided I’m going to stay away from technology for now. Oh, I’ll still watch the Olympics, I’ll still use my laptop to finish publishing my book, and I’ll still use Google Maps to get me from point A to point B, but I’m going to hover here in “technology vacation mode” as long as I can. I’ve done this upon returning from vacation before and technology always eventually creeps back in. This time feels different, though. This time I sense more permanence to the shift and I’m excited about that. I’m ready to spend more time in “real life” and less time in cyberspace.
This trip was a perfect reminder that real life is where the most amazing stuff is.
And yes, I’d recommend a road trip across America at least once in your life. With or without a camera it is a truly unforgettable experience.