I’m writing on the same day that Don posted his wonderful piece on journeying cross-country with his family. (What Makes a Journey.) He described how much of the trip was enhanced by the people they met—something that can’t be predicted by AAA, Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Fodor’s, or any other supplier of travel guides.
I’d venture to add that what makes a journey truly memorable is defined largely if not entirely by what happens that wasn’t or couldn’t be planned.
Example: On a recent cross-country drive, my wife and I stopped in Taos, NM, to visit with a college friend of mine. While there, we learned that Victoria Willcox, author of a trilogy of historical novels based on the life of Doc Holliday, was giving a talk the following night in Glen Springs, CO, just west of Denver. (Glen Springs is where the infamous gambler and gunman died.)
I was working on my own project involving Doc Holliday at the time (The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday), and so this seemed like the luckiest of happenstances. We made it to Glen Springs in time for the talk and I got to meet Victoria (who is simply lovely), describe my project, and get her blessing.
But that wasn’t even the real coup. The next day, as we were heading west toward Utah, our GPS took us on “the most direct route,” which turned out to be an unpaved lumber road. It was pretty lovely, but slow, and so once we hit pavement again I naturally wanted to make up for lost time.
Guess who sat about a mile down the road waiting for idiots just like us?
As the very polite state trooper was writing out our ticket, my wife asked where the nearest rest stop might be. He said it was only a few miles off in a little town called Dinosaur.
My wife’s eyes almost popped out of her head: “Are there dinosaurs there?”
Well, the trooper-turned-tour-guide directed us to Dinosaur National Monument, just east of the Utah-Colorado state line, where you can actually touch fossilized dinosaur bones. (This accounts for the singularly amazed expression on Mette’s face in the selfie at the top of this post—you can’t see her hand, but it’s touching an honest-to-God prehistoric relic.)
But that’s not actually why I gathered you all here today. I actually wanted to talk about how all of this relates to—oh, you’re way ahead of me.