About the Road

Note: This post is part of the Donna G Project. This is written to and for my boys.

In the spirit of the Donna G Project, I wanted to impart wise words to you boys about the road and about driving. People have fantasies about what it’ll be like to be a dad. In most cases, guys picture themselves throwing a ball in the yard with their son. Me, I always imagined myself teaching a son how to drive. (I am an excellent driver.) Then from there, I’d teach them the true beauty of the road. (I am a once-in-a-generation road tripper.) This post will be about those two things.

So here’s what I have to say about driving:

This one is simple. My list of demands has only 2 items.

Demand #1)

When you drive, you are in control of a 1.5-ton hunk of metal that is moving at 60 mph. With the movement of mere inches with your hand you can instantly kill others or yourself. Never – not for one second – take this for granted.

If I strapped a bomb to your chest, gave you a trigger to detonate it, and then asked you to walk around a mall, you would be filled with terror, right? Well, a car has the equivalent potential for destruction.

By no means do I want you to drive with fear; I want you to drive with joy and wonder. But at all times, respect what driving is and let that respect influence every decision you make.

Demand #2)

Understand the principle of having multiple goddam lanes and STAY THE HELL OUT OF THE PASSING LANE UNLESS YOU’RE PASSING.

If you are in the left lane and not actively passing another vehicle you are an asshole. I’m sorry to use that term with a 9- and 11-year-old, but no other word is up to the task. You are dragging down the GDP, you are compounding your contribution to global warming, AND YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE! The highways are filled with drivers who fail to realize this principle. Do not be among this group. DO NOT BE AN ASSHOLE.

Whew…OK…Ok, that really covers driving. Get those two and we’re good…Deep breath…Let’s move on to a trickier subject.

Here’s what I have to say about the road:

I’ve been mulling this over for weeks, trying to figure out what message to give you. I’ve been trying to list out the principles to guide you to know what the road means to me. But in all actuality…I think you already know it. Sure, I could prattle and preach, but it’s already in both of your guts. Both of you can shrug off 6 hours without a second thought. You’re there. It’s there.

In 2009 we took our first serious family road trip. On Day 3 your mother took this photo and posted it on Facebook saying: “Who knew? My boys are Road Warriors!”

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God, what fun we had!

We stopped at those weird corn statues and played tag for an hour. We stopped for ice cream at least once a day and I’m pretty sure that was our dinner a few times.

At your mother’s high school reunion she went out with friends and I was alone with you guys in the hotel room. Alex, you fell asleep, but Jack didn’t. We lay there in the dark and talked until midnight. My brother had just returned from Afghanistan, and in that sweet, tiny 6-year-old voice you asked me all about it. I could sense your little brain sorting through it all in the dark next to me. Such a big, crazy, conflicted world and how the hell was I supposed to explain it all to you when I don’t understand it myself? I must have said “I don’t know” at least 100 times.

We camped in Shenandoah National Park and your mother and I shared a bottle of white wine by the fire after you guys were asleep. I still have the label from the bottle.

Alex said “dood” instead of “good” and soon we were all saying it.

And I know you guys won’t ever forget when Jack spotted the bear as we were driving out of the park. You’d have thought we won the lottery.

That road trip was a milestone in my life as a parent. That was when the world opened up. Suddenly we were free – I wasn’t stuck on kid duty anymore. You guys weren’t baggage – you were companions. All the amazing stuff out there was available again. You weren’t holding me back anymore – you were coming along. In my head, that road trip was the debut of who we are as a family. It was just the 4 of us, as a unit, on the road, responsible to no one but ourselves. No one was waiting for us; no one was scheduling around us. Everything we had to consider was right there in that car.

Road Warriors. My job here is done.

I don’t have a list of demands for road trips, but I do have some rules that I follow. I don’t care if you follow these or not; you’ll develop your own stuff.

  • I never let the tank get below 1/3 full.

I was once driving in Wyoming and I just wanted to go go go and I kept passing gas stations until I was nearly empty and by that time it was midnight and the next few stations were closed. I had to pull over for the night and it killed me. So I’ve never made that mistake again.

  • When I have to pee, I pee.

Look, some guys hold it like crazy. It’s a point of pride to make as few stops as possible and make good time. Me – I pee. Granted, I’ll literally pee almost anywhere too, so it never slows me down too much. But I pee when I have to pee.

  • I honk when I see a dog pooping.

Whenever I see someone standing there uncomfortably while their dog is taking a poop, I honk and I wave. And then I laugh my head off.

There you have it. I’ve got no real advice to end this one with – you guys don’t need any. I’ve attached my resume.

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And here are a few more photos from the 2009 Road Trip.

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