There’s something about a solo road trip that’s always been vaguely adventurous to me. Even if you know the route—even if you’ve already done it dozens of times before—each time you hit the road, it seems like you’re exploring it all over again. Just you and the car and the highway, and some coffee and a big bag of beef jerky. A destination; a goal. A reliance on no one else to get there. Just yourself. An isolation from the outside world, for twelve or sixteen or twenty hours inside that car. Something out of the ordinary.
I’ve always liked road trips. I do one at least once a year, from Colorado to Minnesota, always getting up early, hours before sunrise, to hit the road and watch the first light break across the Nebraska plains. Thirteen hours through farm country—Nebraska (lengthwise), Iowa, southern Minnesota—doesn’t sound appealing, but I love it. It’s the heartland, the calloused palm of our country, and it’s where I’m from. It’s the places you’ll never see if you don’t go past them, because you’ll never travel there intentionally. It’s windmills and rolling green hills and hog farms. It’s America. The real America.
Last Thursday morning I got the call I’d been expecting. Grandpa died, it’s time to come home.