You know that saying, “today is the first day of the rest of your life”?
Nobody ever thinks about that. I don’t. You know you don’t either.
Sure every once in a blue moon, something happens, some massive national tragedy, some major personal tragedy to you or to someone’s nephew’s brother’s cousin’s roommate. Something happens and you think about it, but it never lasts. The appreciation for every day wears off and you’re back to square one.
I’m not scolding. I’m just like you.
But my little sister wasn’t.
She was different. Today really was the first day of the rest of her life, every single day.
I talk about her like she’s gone, but I don’t really know. She got tired of the rest of her family never understanding how special today is, because we just didn’t. Just like you.
And she left.
I haven’t seen her in years, now. She used to send postcards, once a week, then once a month, then maybe once a year. We couldn’t write back to her, not that anyone wanted to, other than me. There was no telling where she was going to be.
She left to have adventures. I know she was having them while she still sent postcards, but now, I don’t know.
But I always like to think that she is. That she wakes up each and every morning with a smile on her face to greet the day, and with that burning curiosity to find out what this new day will bring.
I guess since that’s how I remember her, that’s how she still is.
Have fun, sis. I miss you.
When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she was hitching a ride with a van full of hep cats. Who knew such creatures still roamed the streets unchecked, preying upon innocents like Frannie? Well, we do, now. Frannie, however, is not quite so innocent and helpless as she may seem at first glance; she is intelligent, resourceful, and highly competent, not just for her age, but as a human being. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
As the van trundled down the highway at its top speed of 52 miles per hour, Frannie began to really get into the staring contest that she and her seatmate-slash-possible-new-mom were having. Blinking seemed to be okay, but breaking eye contact was not. At long last, the mostly-grown girl threw her head back and laughed like her life depended on it.
Frannie shrugged off her mild confusion, and continued the staring match with the girl’s funny-looking hair. It was so ropy and thick, like an old dirty mop. She wondered if the girl would mind Frannie touching it.
“Can I touch your weird hair?” Frannie asked.
The girl was still laughing, but she nodded and leaned her head over a bit so Frannie could cop a feel. It felt ropy and thick, just as she’d suspected.
“What’s wrong with it?” Frannie continued on the hair-related questioning.
“Nothing, it’s just dreaded,” the girl replied.
Frannie mulled this odd term over for a moment or two before moving on without a worry. “Where are we headed?” she asked.
The driver leaned over to his right and hollered back over his shoulder at her, “Wherever the wind takes us, little dude. We’re on a pretty sweet adventure right now, man.”
“I’m a girl,” Frannie muttered to herself as she crossed her arms sulkily. “Not a dude.”
The driver paid her no mind, and Frannie gave up the sulk to pull the grocery list from her back pocket once more, mulling over the list. She’d already come to the conclusion that these were not her new parents, and knew that she’d better get a move on to the next prospect before it got too dark. She didn’t want to spend the night in this van.
“Can you drop me at the store when you get there?” Frannie asked, very politely. “I don’t believe I’m up for a sweet adventure on top of the one I’m already having, thank you very much.”
The driver didn’t seem to hear her at first, but as his head bopped up and down, sometimes in time to the music playing, he gave a bit of an extra nod. “Sure thing, little dude. Sure thing.”
Frannie rolled her eyes. “I’m a girl,” she grumbled yet again.
She was dry and dusty and parched. Just the thought of that backseat-warm fruit punch in her (former) parents’ car would have been enough to make her mouth water, had she saliva to spare. The perky attitude she’d had when the woman in the red car had stopped had withered away in direct proportion to the amount of time she’d spent trudging along the side of the highway.
Frannie had never considered that a road might not see tires on its pavement for hours at a time. This experience was not shaping up as it should have.
Just as she was vowing to herself to make do with the next set of parents that rolled by, an old brown minivan squealed to a stop right next to her. The sliding door popped open to release a great big cloud of smoke, and Frannie waved her hand back and forth, trying to clear it enough to see who her knight in shining armor was.
“Hey, little dude, hop in. We’ll give you a ride,” said the driver, who Frannie judged near enough to the proper age to be her new dad.
“Okay,” she quickly agreed. This day had dragged on far too long for her to be picky.
She climbed right in and wiggled herself into a comfy spot on the middle bench seat, next to a girl with funny hair. Frannie smiled at the girl–maybe that was her new mom. The girl smiled back.
Frannie already felt a million times better, in spite of the acrid smell in the van. Maybe this adventure wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
I had the strangest thought the other day. I thought to myself, I have a good life.
Is that crazy or what? I mean, I’ve put up with some serious crap over the years.
But think of the adventures.
I climbed glacial rocks in Yellowknife, the Land of the Midnight Sun. I’ve mentioned this before, but I promise you, it was a fantastic trip!
I spent a month on a sheep farm in rural Alberta. Also an incredible trip. I saw the Northern Lights. And I shook the bucket.
I went on a school trip to Washington, D.C. when I was ten. On said trip, I chipped a tooth on my umbrella.
I took a road trip to California with a guy I met on the internet days before. On the way home, his car died and we walked for miles in the middle of the night before a truck driver stopped to give us a ride. With a machete in my pants. Just in case, you know?
I show me something, sister‘d on Bourbon Street.
I published a novel, for crying out loud!
I have a good marriage!
You may now writhe in envy.
I’ve taken a lot of road trips, more than just about everyone I know who’s never been a truck driver. I love it. My roadtripping heyday was between 1997 and 2000, no cellphones, no GPS, just me, my car, and my road atlas, devouring the miles, listening to the radio stations come and go.
I took most of my trips to meet friends I’d made on mIRC. I logged a ton of hours chatting, and I was fortunate enough to have a work schedule and finances conducive to this hobby of traveling thousands of miles to hang out with strangers.
I worked seven days on and seven off, and made my ‘local’ trips on my weeks off. By ‘local,’ I guess I really mean continental US. I made several trips to Virginia, St Louis, and Des Moines, and one to California. I quit my job to take the two big ones to Canada, Edmonton and Yellowknife.
I’m thinking of starting a series of tales of my adventures. What do you guys think? Do you like road trips? Where have you been?