"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Maybe Next Time

As the first spring breeze rushes through the windows of my home, I start planning weekend road trips. It’s time to start determining destinations and looking at all the territory between home and vacation spot. Getting from Point A to Point B requires careful research. It might be a beeline journey down the highway, but so much is to be explored on the way. Like hot fudge spilling over a mound of ice cream, I see the delicious journey expanding North, South, East, and West—maybe up to ten miles-- outside the royal blue line on MapQuest.

I research every National Historic Site, campground, State or National Park, quirky artsy backyard, famous birthplace, rest stop, and roadside monument on the route like a kid crazy with the greed and strategy of planning what attractions they must conquer in a few days of Disney World.

But in the midst of the glory of my, “This is great—just 7 miles off the highway! What a gem!” the echo of a nerve-grating phrase re-enters my brain, “Maybe next time.” First uttered by my husband on a trip to southern Missouri in 1998 as we sped past a site that I wanted to stop and see, that phrase has made me a stronger traveler: more skeptical, more strategic, yet, flexible, more out-spoken, and most likely, more annoying to whomever wants to get to Point B quickly.

Because we all know what “Maybe next time” really means. It means, “Never. Are you kidding? You think we want to really stop and see this?” or even on a kinder note, it just means, “We don’t want to make the time.”

My husband and I were leaving from the Lake of the Ozarks after a weekend-long houseboat trip with my family and were continuing our trip on to southwestern Virginia to visit his family. Back at home I had done my pre-trip research and found a State Park that sounded fantastic to explore right off the highway, only a few turns from where we disbanded our boat at the Lake. It is called Ha Ha Tonka State Park and contains acres of wildflowers, some not found up north where we lived, and the ruins of a castle. But unfortunately Ha Ha Tonka only mocked me as we drove by with, “Ha! Ha, LuAnn! We’re not stopping!”

Unfortunately, the site was too close to our Point A. My husband was ready to hit the road for our day-long journey to Virginia. He was already in highway mode while I was anticipating a walk through a dry prairie glade after days on the water. As a happy-go-lucky newlywed bride, I reluctantly agreed that it would be a long journey and we better just get on the road and go. As we passed by the road to take us to the park he said something to the effect of, “We’ll come back sometime.” As you guessed it, after 14 years we never did go back. (But I did get there 10 years later when, for my job, I traveled there and helped lead a Naturalist hike along those trails and to the castle. Thanks, Kevin!)

But, I know it’s not just my husband that gets in “highway mode.” We all suffer from it time to time.
I’m glad we took the time on the way across Interstate 90 to Rapid City, South Dakota to stop at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose. It was quirky, disturbing, creepy, beautiful, and the perfect place to pose for dramatic silly pictures. In Instamatic language, “We must have taken a whole roll of film there!”

Being an Illinois native, I had to show my daughters the corn shingles of the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Even if the inside was full of tourist trinkets, just scaling the corny walls with our eyes was treat enough.

Why stay the night in a Rapid City hotel when you can stay wake up in a peaceful cabin dwarfed by rocky peaks that surround it? Only about 10 miles south of our route, Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands National Park gave us the feel of camping out in the wilderness with the luxury of a mattress and no set-up. 

The next day we drove West through the park on our way to Wall Drug Store—another quirky stop all tourists to Rapid City are required to see.

These days my husband knows me better and often indulges me in my brief off-road thrills. On your travels this spring and summer, stifle the phrase, “Maybe next time.” It might not be there next time. Natural disasters, a job move to China, Godzilla, alien invasion, and the dreaded Highway Construction all threaten to make Next Time, never.  This Time is the moment to have some silly educated or un-educated fun and make a trip a timeline of memorable moments from Point A to Point B.