Marolt: On the road again
I like road trips. How much? I’ve fantasized about driving a truck. You can imagine it being great — listening to the radio, taking in the views while they absorb you, checking out the small towns and imagining the people there being the lonely ones, riding insulated from problems — it’s new every day. There’s a stretch of highway through the hogback out in the middle of Utah that would inspire anyone with a soul to do it.
Yet I know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be — fatigue, bad food, loneliness, boredom. It’s pretty unhealthy, too. The grass is greenest just on the edge of the pavement, but you never get to walk on it.
If someone would teach me how to drive a big rig, I’d do it for a couple weeks for free — maybe go coast to coast and back. Seems there might be a profitable business angle in that. I’m on a road trip with my family and have another thousand miles to go. Maybe I’ll work out the plan along the way.
Instincts die hard. My oldest child has been off at college for two years now, yet I often feel like we’re momentarily one short when we stop somewhere — someone is in the john or trying to decide what kind of candy they want from a different aisle in the convenience store. Last night I told the hostess we needed a table for five. Hey, they’re always on your mind. It’s a blessing.
I like to wake up early on the road. So I don’t disturb everyone, I usually head to the motel restaurant for a cup of coffee. In Green River, I went for a table in the empty breakfast room and was stopped by a young man in charge. He asked how many were in my party, and I told him four. He said I would have to wait for the others before he could seat us. It was apparently a custom the hotelier picked up in a city without wondering why. I grabbed a cup and sat down in the lobby instead where he followed and we talked for about 40 minutes because he was caught up on his duties.
Las Vegas recalled the many times I passed through in my 20s when rooms were cheap and meals cheaper. Now they’ve made the slots and tables looser so you have a better chance of winning, but the rooms and food are expensive almost everywhere. There also is lots of upscale shopping and a wider variety of shows to see and stuff to do than in the old days. I guess they figured out that people think of gambling winnings as windfall, if not a rarity, and the mob now gets it all back in those shops, restaurants and jewelry stores, plus a little extra, most likely.
Disneyland never gets old, but your kids do. It’s still fun, but not the same. We spent 14 hours there to prove it to ourselves. Walt figured out how to reconnect with adults, but they need to be willing participants by having kids of their own. It’s hard to say when we’ll see the Magic Kingdom again.
The good news is that surfing is its replacement. As for us soft surfers, we got spoiled in southern climes. The waves are more erratic and a whole lot colder in California. As soon as you start shaking so much that you can’t stand up, it’s time to take a break and just enjoy the beach scene. If the sun isn’t strong enough to warm you up, there’s always another day. I understand why easterners only ski the west.
Until then, there’s tennis. We haven’t played in years — decades? The place we’re staying at in San Diego has lots of courts and nobody using them, so unlimited tennis is free, including the equipment. How did that sport ever die? It’s really fun. The kids played for the first time and loved it, too. It’s easier than I remember. It’s the modern rackets. Because they’re so user friendly, maybe the thrill wears off quickly — note to ski industry. We’ll see. We’ve vowed to play often this summer.
Its the last round of college tours for my son. He’s already in, so we’re meeting with baseball coaches instead of administrators. We talked to one who said he was supposed to tell us that the emphasis there was on academics. He didn’t agree, though. A full life is diverse. Sometimes you have a test. Sometimes you have a game. Sometimes you need to chill at the beach. The person who goes furthest is the one who shifts gears quickly and cruises the fast lane of the freeway he is on. An LA-ism from one roadie to another.
Roger Marolt found birthday-cake-flavored M&Ms in Baker, Calif. Contact him at email@example.com.
I watched from that other valley for nearly two decades as the ATW flagged, then was reborn, re-energized, surely for good this time, at last, things looking up. Only to slip and the cycle begin again.