The best vacation that I ever had growing up wasn’t really even a vacation. Dad got home from work on a Friday afternoon, asked me if I wanted to take a road trip, and we packed a few things and headed out. I was 15.
When we got to the end of our driveway, he said “left or right?” We didn’t have a plan in mind, and at each intersection that we came to we chose which way looked the most interesting. Before long we hit Kansas. In Dodge City, we went to Boot Hill. We visited the world’s largest hand dug well* in Greensburg, KS and the world’s largest ball of twine* in Cawker City, KS. I also recall a museum, maybe for trains or something along those lines. Nothing as exciting as a hand dug well or large ball of twine!
From Friday to Sunday, Dad drove his normal just-under-the-speed-limit pace across Kansas, into the corner of Colorado, across the western part of Oklahoma and back home. We didn’t discuss the meaning of the cosmos, debate the greater good of our existence, or try to understand how the opposite sex thinks. Mainly we just drove. We were amazed that there always seemed to be a grain elevator in sight as we drove across Kansas. Western swing mixed in with an occasional Paul Harvey story played on the radio. Powdered donuts got us started in the mornings. A bag of Bugles and Mt. Dew held us over until we would find someplace that looked good for a burger, usually a small diner or truck stop where the service was friendly and the food cheap and tasty. At night, we watched old westerns on the hotel TV. It was just one weekend, but the impact was huge. Dad was 100% with me. Not on a phone. He wasn’t checking his email (and not just because it hadn’t been invented yet). Not worried about anything, but enjoying our time together.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that. In many ways Dad showed me how to live it that weekend. If our destination had been to see the world’s largest hand dug well or ball of twine, I would have been very disappointed. After all, how exciting is a big hole in the ground or a bunch of twine? I wish I was more like him. I drive 10 miles per hour over the speed limit so that I won’t waste time on the road. I rush my kids along so we can see everything there is to see instead of letting them linger at something that fascinates them. I plan my trip based on the most direct route, not what looks most interesting at each turn. I wonder what I’ve missed. I’m not concerned about the largest collection of Precious Moment’s figurines, but I do hope that I don’t wake up one morning and realize I was in such a hurry to get “there” that my kids grew up without me sharing their journey and discussing together whether we should go right or left.
* My recent research has uncovered that the world’s largest well in Greensburg, KS is not, in fact, the world’s largest hand dug well. It may be able to claim the title of 3rd largest hand dug well, though. And the world’s largest ball of twine has since added “Sisal Twine” to its official title. I assume this was added to avoid any erroneous claims from Cawker City and prevent potential lawsuits from a larger ball of generic, lesser quality twine, possibly in China. Either way, these new facts do nothing to diminish my memories of these two great American landmarks.
-by Herb McSpadden