On the Road Again

by Dick Carlson

Some of my favorite memories involve cars. I'm not in love with the automobile, though; I'm infatuated with the road.

Way past midnight, in my '66 Plymouth Fury II, rolling through Wisconsin forest on a high school ski trip. Willing the Volkswagen Squareback up one more hill, heading to Winnipeg on vacation. Or lounging in the Ford Crown Victoria, cruise control rock-steady as we fly up I-5 from Seattle.

The road. Such a simple equation: Man + Machine = Freedom. Endless possibilities, with always another exit coming if you pass this one up.

I always feel a twinge as the overpass comes near, and my chance for Gas/Food/Lodging is gone. Was it the right choice? Will I regret not stopping, and having to wait for the next off-ramp?

But that's what freedom is, bunkie. Freedom to fail, freedom to be wrong, freedom to make a terrible blunder and live with the consequences. Without that chance, we live life with the training wheels firmly down on the ground.

Every big choice in my life has included that moment when, as I pass the exit sign and head on down the road, a little voice inside my head pipes up.

"Shoulda turned there, dummy. There's not enough in your tank to make it. You're too hungry. Your tires are worn, the shocks are gone, and that pinging sound is getting worse."

I know people who seem to have their life's roadmap clearly marked, and no questions in their minds about the next exit or the route to take. Not me; every time I get that damn map folded, my trip runs right off the edge, and the doubts start up again. Sometimes, I pull over and stare at my map, looking for answers, surveying the different routes to my destination and the districts I'll pass though, checking the legend for the symbol that represents happiness.

But my road is still under construction, and the flagman is at lunch. So I slow to 30 and drive on.

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