But man, I love road trips.
Even ones like this one, ones that have become so frequent that they're routine, almost like long commutes instead of vacations -- I love them. It's convenient to have the ChickWagon for hops up to the grocery store or cross-town trips to Hala Kahiki, but the real reason I still hang on to my car is because I love to get in it and drive, drive, drive. I don't care where I'm going or when I get there; every little bit of it makes me feel all right. Even the occasional pains in the ass like getting pulled over by a roller or almost dying when you hit a patch of black ice and fly off the road at 70mph fades into tolerability, while the good things about it stay with me for decades.
I love turning up my iPod and hollering along to the playlist I made of songs I enjoy singing. I love it when I'm driving in summer and it's hot enough to roll down the windows at 75 per. I love it when I'm driving in winter and the trees alongside the road look like a Currier & Ives. I love stopping at rest areas at 3AM when there's only two other people there -- some bleary, drugged-up trucker and the poor schlub who's cleaning up. I love truck stops and the goofy little stuff they sell that you can't get anywhere else. I love picking out food based on whether or not I can eat it with one hand. I love buying really local newspapers, the kind where the front page headline is about how Frankie won't be working at the diner this weekend because he's visiting his sister down in Boca. I love the little mental calculating games you play when you're on a long trip, telling yourself "at this speed it will take me X time to get to X place" or promising yourself you can eat or pee or get coffee once you get to the next town. I love stopping unexpectedly to hike in a state park, see a cheeseball tourist attraction, or eat at an interesting-looking restaurant. I love scanning the edges of the AM dial to find crazy radio evangelists. I love little motels with dopey themes that were built in the mid-'50s. I love taking pictures of weird billboards or abandoned buildings. I love looking at houses a hundred miles from anywhere and wondering what the people who live there are like, wondering what my life would be like if I lived there.
There's no way to pick which road trip I've enjoyed the most; there's been too many to choose from. The solo trip from Phoenix to Chicago when I bought the ChickWagon. The trip with James through the northlands, into the Badlands, and through the hairy, scary Rocky Mountains, high off our gourds most of the time. The hellride straight burn I made from San Antonio to Chic without stopping -- gruelling and ultimately horribly bad for my car, but in retrospect, fun in a deranged kind of way. The trip with Ben and Steve up the Pacific Coast Highway, the most gorgeous drive I can imagine. The trip to Vegas with thaitea when there was only one way to get there from Phoenix, and it was a one-lane road full of hairpins and switchbacks much of the way. Innumerable jaunts from Phoenix to L.A., through the dunes 357 ugly miles. The trip through rural Ontario with Lara -- beautiful but so desolate that we thought we'd never find a place to stay. Driving all the way from the AZ to Miami, there to catch a fishing boat that took us to Haiti and Jamaica. A dozen trips to Alabama to visit the relatives when I was a kid, and had the luxury of seeing the sights, napping, playing instead of having to watch the road. Following the Mississippi River from its terminus to its origin. Every trip from Chicago to St. Paul, because ninafarina is always waiting at the end.
I have my problems with the whole American car culture, and owning one always makes me feel slightly guilty no matter how little I drive it. And of course, if I get killed on the road this weekend, this whole entry is going to be depressingly ironic. But brother, do I love to drive.