Monday, July 15, 2013

Cross-Continental Burn-Out Blues

Confessions of a Weary Road Warrior and Deep Space Minivan Pilot


It’s official, which is to say, inescapable. I’m too old for this.

I used to enjoy driving cross-country. In the late 1980s I relished the road trips I took from South Carolina to New York and Florida and points in-between to hustle comic books with James Robert Smith at conventions. As a Navy spouse in the early 1990s I enjoyed driving from South Carolina to Alabama (my wife’s home state) to Great Lakes, Illinois. After a few months in Pensacola, Florida, I drove my first trip west to California, then back again to Alabama with a toddler daughter strapped into the backseat. Nothing burned the concept of adult responsibility into me more than having a tiny little someone in the backseat entirely dependent upon my disposition at the wheel.

Not that I ever did much in the way of hotdogging. I still smile when people give me grief for not driving much more than five miles an hour over the posted speed limit because I can boast of hundreds of thousands of road miles behind me without a single accident. Not so much as a fender-bender. I don’t screw around behind the wheel. I take great pride in arriving alive and unmolested. 

In the late 1990s, back from a mid-decade, three-year hitch in Japan—and with another child strapped into the backseat—my wife and I thought nothing of making the circuit from Beaufort, SC, to Greenville, SC, to Atlanta and Huntsville, Alabama, and back over the course of a 96-hour pass. Since that time I’ve driven from Anchorage to Silverdale, Washington; from Washington state to Hampton Roads, Virginia; from Virginia to Colorado. 

As I write I realize I’m leaving out my epic New York/Charlotte/New Orleans voyage of 1988, my drive to Fairbanks, Alaska, from Anchorage in 2003. The point is made, though. What was once a happy kick-in-the-pants is now a damnable chore. I’ve been home here in Colorado for more than 72 hours since returning from my last journey to South Carolina and I’m still getting over the drive. Times were all I needed was a good 12-hour nap. Now, I need several in a row.

Overall, though, the mission was worth it. Both my children got to see and appreciate family. I made up my mind I have to write and sell enough books so I can pay down my debt, pimp out this house, sell it, and get back to where my people are. This will be a years-long process, with little margin for error throughout.

It’s nice to have a driving purpose in one’s life beside simple animal survival. God, I’d forgotten what that was like!

Back to work, then.

Related: From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 1,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 2,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 3,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 4.

The road goes on forever and the party never ends.

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