Two travels bookend my life. The last time I was gone from home for four weeks, it was the Summer of Love, 1967, and I was 21, hitchhiking, and seeing the West for the first time. Michigan to Seattle to Big Sur and back. My future was a confused muddle, and I was trying to figure out what in the hell to do with myself.
Now I’m 71, and this time, I traveled the opposite direction. Oregon to Florida to Michigan, and back -- 22 states and 8,300 miles. Unlike that hitchhiking trek, however, every one of my 28 days on the road was a joy. Visiting dozens of friends from every corner of the last half-century of my life, it was unavoidable to take stock of what I actually did do with myself.
Those visits were filled with laughter, as friends recounted nearly-forgotten events we had shared. As we filled in missing years of successes and failures, I was struck by how much we’re all alike. It seems that every family has its tragedies; we find our happiness in spite of them. It's hard to regret the bad times, because they got us from there to here, and here is where we are responsible for finding happiness.
I am so grateful to old friends who opened their homes and lives to me. Universally generous, they shared their favorite stories, listened to mine, and took me to their favorite places -- backyards and parks and rivers and restaurants and museums.
I wasn’t able to see everyone I hoped to (Kathy), to stop every place I wanted to (Noah’s Ark), to stay as long as I’d wished (sisters), or to spot every bird along the way (total, a modest 163 species). Nevertheless, as with life, I’m pretty happy about how my trip turned out.
A highlight was making friends in Florida. And returning to the Diego Rivera murals in Detroit. A lowlight was losing friends in Texas. As with life, win some, lose some.
I can’t imagine ever again taking such a road trip. It was kind of like Elton John’s “Last Tour.” I’ll be sticking closer to home from now on (my travels still extending to the Grand Canyon, of course).
I can’t sing, but I can write, and I’m glad a few people have enjoyed my tales from the road. Thank you.
Last story from the road: HOW WILL IT ALL TURN OUT?