Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The summer after my second year at Lake Forest, I asked one of my friends, Ned Black, if he wanted to drive home with me. Ned, who was from St. Louis and had never been west of Kansas City, Missouri, was eager to make the trip. I'd provide the gas and pay for our accommodations, and he in turn, would entertain me for the long hours from Chicago's wealthy northern suburbs to southeastern Idaho. We planned the trip for weeks, and when the day finally came, we set off in Cleo, my red, '89 Nissan Sentra. As anxious as I was to put Chicago behind me and return to my familiar desert and mountainous part of the world for three months, I quickly realized that the trip itself could be more enjoyable than the arrival at our destination. Because Ned had never seen a real live mountain I decided we'd take the most scenic route afforded us, traveling across weary Wisconsin and monotonous Minnesota at night, avoiding the unending flatness and methodical scenery of the upper Midwest. There was no way around eastern South Dakota, so we made the most of it, stopping at every giant prairie dog statue and ridiculous tourist trap that populate these vast and empty states. We smoked more marijuana than I care to recount and felt the kind of joy only people in road trip movies seem to experience. We spent an entire day in the Black Hills, visiting Rushmore, Crazy Horse, pulling over to see if we could tap into the power of the universe the Sioux claimed resided there. We spent six hours laying on top of boulders at the base of Devil's Tower (my favorite place in the entire world) listening to the enormous gears inside the earth slowly pushing that pillar of rock up through the surface and out into blue, pine-scented Wyoming sunshine. It took us two days to navigate Jackson Hole, the Tetons and the mind-boggling Teton Mystery baked out of our minds. I drove through Yellowstone, stopping every half a mile to point out buffalo, eagles, moose and elk. But then, on day five I realized I had nothing left to show Ned and turned Cleo's nose toward Pocatello. We pulled into the driveway just after the sun had set, and even though Ned still had three days until he flew home, we both knew the vacation was over. The journey, not the destination, had been the adventure.For the next two days we lounged around, ate junk food and hardly spoke; we spent twelve hours watching a Soap marathon on Comedy Central, and it was with some relief that I finally drove Ned to Salt Lake City, put him on his plane and saw him off.

My walks with Duncan are nothing in comparison to the wild road trips of my youth, but he reminds me every day that it's the journey, not the destination, that matters. This afternoon we walked down Leawood to the elementary school. I was tired and gassy and didn't feel much like being dragged behind a dog. I imagined a nice leisurely stroll that would find us back home before the sun set. Duncan, however, felt compelled to sniff every shrub, every mailbox, every clump of lavender growing at the edge of every driveway. He didn't have to mark his territory but he certainly wanted to explore the option, regardless of how long it took. On the playground at the school he had to inspect the swings and slide, and took a keen interest in the tetherball pole. Regardless of my desire to get home, Duncan was enjoying the place between where we left and where we'd wind up.
It's a good thing to remember, to enjoy the scenery and adventure as you go. Another lesson from my dog.


Kelly said...

Love the labels :)

Kelly said...

I forgot to mention that I liked the shadow photo of you two.