….and all kinds of other goofy things the publisher wrote on the cover that make me laugh and smile in retrospect. This isn’t a dramatic story about endless miles of open roads or my love affair with my car. The Drive North: A Swing Down Memory Lane is instead the story of my road trip from Denver down to the Mexican border in Texas, up to the Canadian one in North Dakota, and back to my boyhood home in Minnesota before returning to Colorado.
Contrary to what the back cover may say – “nothing in his globetrotting past can prepare him for the expedition he’s about to take” – I was most certainly ready for the trip. I had the days I was to be away planned down nearly to the last detail. That’s just how I’m wired. I’m a planner. But if I’m such a planner, and I knew what to expect, why did I take the trip?
I wanted to get out and explore some of the lesser-known national parks. Author Wallace Stegner said the parks were “America’s best idea,” and I can’t argue with the man. They’re gorgeous. And the ones on my trip to, from, and along U.S. Highway 385 are some of the best. Carlsbad, the Big Bend, Scottsbluff, Wind Cave, Teddy Roosevelt – they’re all some of the most beautiful places in the country, and also some of the least visited. Many people may struggle with that, but I’d take it most any day over the crowds at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone.
Along the way, despite all of my planning, I had several unexpected and sometimes hilarious moments, since toothless hotel clerks, hookers in Amarillo, tourist-trap museums, and tour guides all make for some very interesting stories. But through all of these parks and small towns, what I remember best were my boyhood family vacations; oddly enough, none of them by my recollection were to national parks. Nonetheless, these are the trips that inspired me to be who I am today – a traveler and writer.
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