In November 2012 I drove from St Paul, Minnesota to Los Angeles and back…in 10 days. This was an ambitious road trip to begin with, but I never realized how ambitious until it was 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday night and I was two hours south of the Twin Cities, barely able to stay awake. I have gotten tired driving before, but nothing like this. My morning began in a Walmart parking lot, at 4 a.m. in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and 980 miles later I was almost home. Well 120 miles away from home. I will say, nothing is quite like having all four windows down, in Minnesota in early December, radio on full volume and slapping oneself.
I wouldn’t have done anything differently though. I loved every second of those 10 days, whether I loved some more than others is irrelevant. I left 20 degree (F) weather and 5 days later I was putting my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I once tried to track my road trips on Google Maps, but it cut me off at 10, apparently they’re not equipped to keep up with the Alexanders, because road trips are definitely a hereditary trait in my family.
My father has never been a fan of flying. Every trip we took as kids was in a van (Party Van 1, Party Van 2 as they were christened), and a lot of times did not include hotels on the way to our destinations. I know, the first question you probably have is: “Are your parents insane????” Well it was no honeymoon for my brother and I either. It was constant back and forth, but for the most part nuclear war was averted, barring one incident in Wyoming I believe it was.
I may have not enjoyed every bit of those road trips at the time, but looking back I am so happy we did it that way. I got to experience Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta, six National Parks, Daytona Beach, Disney World, Charleston, SC, and countless other places. However, some of the best memories are of the places in between home and the destinations. Places like Cadillac Ranch in Texas, I saw The Osborne Brothers play Rocky Top at the Ryman Auditorium (you know how many people are jealous of me for that? I know a lot of hillbilly’s), and Custer’s Last Stand to name a few.
I would say the biggest result from these road trips (other than family bonding), was learning how not everywhere in North America was like Michigan. Now you’re probably thinking “Yeah, no kidding,” but a 7-13 year old doesn’t understand that concept, because they’ve never experienced. But there me and my brother were, seeing people in Arizona who thought a Canadian quarter was counterfeit, meeting people who had never seen snow in person before, or learning what poutine is (its freaking awesome is what it is).
I also think its a great way to get to know the History of this country and continent. Now this is not a flag-waving, glossed over version of it. When you go to Custer’s Last Stand you learn the whole story, from both sides. When you visit the Grand Canyon you learn how it formed. When you visit Calgary you see the 1988 Olympic Park and learn about the athletes. This is glossing over all the local and state parks and recreation areas.
I look back on those road trips as some of the best times of my life, and that is why I continue them today. My road trip in 2012 was amazing, I hit Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles and was able to stay with friends in all three locations. Since then I have done three more, all of which I have really enjoyed, and can’t wait for my next one.