on the road again

By Brenda Tadych
Woman Newspapers

The wanderlust gene is in my blood. I was the kid who volunteered,“I’ll go! I’ll go!”before I even asked,“Where are we going?” - because it didn’t matter. It was exhilarating to just go. My family trekked to The Wildwoods every summer. We had picnics at Pinchot Park and visited the Baltimore Aquarium and the Gettysburg battlefield. (There was a time I knew every battlefield stop by heart.) When I was old enough to drive it came as no surprise I suffered from what my parents called gas-ass - always in the car going somewhere.

My wanderlust has since become a full-blown addiction with the help of Debbie, my Canadian friend. Debbie was always traveling and knew more people in the States than I did. I visited her home in Toronto and I still remember the adrenaline rush of riding on Highway 401, my Dodge Daytona Coupe a speck among the 10 lanes of traffic, heading into The True North - strong and free. It was then I discovered my one true love was the open road.

Over the years, Debbie and I often traveled together, but as we grew older we found ourselves with more responsibilities and less free time, and our trips became fewer. This posed a serious dilemma for me because I’m not a home body. I’m not certain if it’s an effect of the wanderlust gene or a more serious condition, but now that I’m all grown up, I have to hit the road at least once every three months or I get the shakes. If left untreated, who knows what long-lasting physical and psychological consequences might develop? Fortunately, I’ve learned to travel light and go solo.

There’s nothing like the open road to take me away from the pressures of daily life. I can let go of “important” things - like ensuring leftovers are available for packed lunches. It’s not a need for speed or to escape from a problem. I figure stuff out when I’m cruising alone. The answer to the Should I’s or Shouldn’t I’s, and the what-to-do-about-this-or-that becomes as crystal clear as the icy traces of a November snowfall. 

There are also practical benefits of traveling solo. I don’t have to come to a consensus about whether to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant, a steak house, or a fine dining establishment. When the hotel’s queen size bed is actually a full size, it’s OK. There’s no waiting for anyone, I have my own budget, and there are no complaints about my car temperature or music choices. And I always break Mom’s no. 1 rule by talking to strangers.

I sense things with my heart when I’m traveling. I notice things that were always there, but unseen most of the time. The most ordinary images viewed through the windshield, from shabby old barns to someone’s charming front porch, aren’t just peripheral props on my self-guided travels. I sense the truth in their existence without the distraction of conversation.

For me, it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination. There is pure joy in setting the cruise control and driving for an hour without tapping the brakes. It’s about the treasures you may find on the way. Although it wasn’t a planned stop, I visited
the grave of Lucille Ball in Jamestown, New York. Red heart-shaped markers with a the signature black cursive “L” lead the faithful to Lucy’s final resting place. I really do love Lucy and left the cemetery with an urge to dye my hair red.

Where should you go on your solo journey? Only you can answer that. One of the most peaceful places I’ve visited has been Longwood Gardens.The kind of quiet I found there was a welcome respite from the daily clamor of planes, trains and automobiles I’m regularly subjected to. I have no green thumb - I’ve never even used a lawn mower - but I can still appreciate the beauty of this garden paradise.

Did I miss my calling as an over-the-road trucker? Maybe. Let me hit the road and I’ll figure it out.