I just completed a drive home to Little Falls, New York originating from the San Francisco Bay Area.
With a few zigs and zags, it was about 3300 miles over 8 days.
This was my 9th cross country road trip, but the first with my son Jared since 1999 when our entire family relocated from Silicon Valley to my Upstate hometown by way of a 2 week cruise in an RV. He was then 6 years old so memories were a bit sketchy for him about that experience.
Now as a young man with an experienced traveler’s curious eye, Jared’s interest in a road trip evoked a positive reaction as soon as I brought up the idea.
While the ostensible reason was to transport a car we had in California to our home in Little Falls, I didn’t hide my interest in both the road trip experience and our spending some quality time together.
Because of winter weather risk traversing the Rockies this time of year, we took a southern route heading east along Interstate 40 and the old U.S. Route 66.
Desert and high plains from Las Vegas to Santa Fe were particularly scenic, and we veered off for side stops sometimes on a whim – like after seeing roadside billboards for the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
In comparison with cross country trips I did a decade or longer ago, I was struck this time by how much easier it is now with so many enhancements in the richness and ease of accessing information while on the fly.
We began the drive with no more planning than a general idea of the route and then made it up as we went along each day.
Google map features making it easy to pick up interesting attractions and stops along the route added to the process of discovery – so there was no difficulty in figuring out options we wouldn’t be experiencing back home, including dining in memorable settings like The Big Texan in Amarillo.
In picking the route we also stopped by to see a few friends, each of who had something to add to Jared’s experience. Our most memorable being time with my personal hero and mentor Jack Stack as we re-connected with him for the first time in about a decade.
The highlight for me though was the time Jared and I spent being together without distraction of outside influences. Sharing our observations, perspectives and thoughts in a relaxed way without the pressure of the next deadline or meeting.
We know that the convenience and relatively low cost of commercial air travel combine to put a big dent in long distance family road trips.
The wider range of leisure options we can easily find also builds a subtle time pressure to pack as much as we can into any time off period, perhaps sometimes with a feeling of being ready to tell others about where we’ve been over vacation.
Call me old fashioned, but I still like the road trip as a choice on the week or longer vacation menu. There is so much diversity in scenic beauty, attractions and culture right here in the U.S. Sharing with those we love is an experience best savored without tight timelines driven by flight schedule and limited time in a single location.
I’m a lucky guy to have a 23 year old son that shares that interest and still travels with his Dad. We made some memories together that will be with us always – and that’s what leisure time in our family is all about.