There was a time when nothing sounded more romantic to me (in the fun and adventure sense of the word) than driving across America and seeing all that she had to offer. I grew up as an Army brat overseas in Europe, so I’ve been to most of the European countries that were a simple hop, skip or drive away. I remember when my mother bought a brand new Volvo and she was told to keep the speed to 65 miles per hour or below for the first, like 1,000 miles or so. So what did we do? After driving around for a week for work purposes and stacking those miles, on the following weekend, she tossed my little sister and me into the new whip and we drove from our home in Bad Homburg, Germany, to Strasbourg, France, for a day trip JUST to get over the last few hundred miles she needed to put the pedal to the metal.
I vividly remember the moment she hit that threshold, too. I was asleep in the car and then all of a sudden the car accelerated at such a rapid pace, like we were blasting off, that I knew she must have just hit the 1,000 mile mark. It was 100 miles per hour back home from there; my mother is a speed demon.
When we moved back to America in 1993, I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to see all sorts of places in this country. I had an odd fascination with Rhode Island for years and Seattle was very high up on my list of places to visit. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really started to see parts of America that I’d only read about. I went to New Orleans the summer after my freshman year with the homies (and then over and over again, because New Orleans). My Spelman sister is from Philadelphia so I made it there driving up the East Coast checking out various cities along the way. I made it to New York City for the first time in the summer of 2001 before 9/11.
I made my first trip past the Mississippi River in 2004 when I went to Vegas for the first time and then again when I went to Los Angeles for the first time later that same year. And I saw so much country from those plane windows that I became enamored with the idea of loading up a car and driving from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles and then back through, like, Montana, and the Dakotas and Idaho. I felt like I needed to see some Idaho. The country looked so vast and also like there was tons of land up for grabs that was entirely uninhabited. I definitely started thinking there was more than enough space for a black state in America. But that’s another talk show.
During this time, I started thinking about how when I had kids, I’d rent an RV and load up the family and we’d go National Lampoon’s-style across the nation, stopping in national parks and taking pictures by lakes and shit. You know, that solid American roadshow shit. For all of the political issues of the country, America is a beautiful place.
According to the Waze app, my parents live exactly 716 miles away from me, door-to-door. With minor stops and a good traffic day—again, according to Waze—the trip should take just a little over 10 hours. I have three children, aged 10, 4 and 3. We’ve made the drive to my parents’ home in Alabama several times and it’s been fairly uneventful. Once, I even flew my wife back to D.C. for an event and drove the kids back home from Alabama by myself, when my youngest was still a baby. While I found the drive long, it wasn’t unbearable and that’s because my children were pretty good during the trip. My wife? She hates the trip, usually because I do the driving and she has to tend to the kids. Now, until this past trip, they were pretty good and I found her complaints unfounded. We’d made the trip down and back several times, no biggie.
What a difference a day makes.
This Thanksgiving we decided to make the trip down to Alabama for the holiday. We left my house in D.C. at roughly 8 a.m. and by 10 a.m., no lie, I was ready to put the whole family on a plane back to D.C. from Alabama and make the whole drive back by myself. Spoiler alert, a version of this did happen. It wasn’t the 10-year-old, for the record. She had her iPad and was chillin’. But the 4- and 3-year-olds? Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuh.
Almost as soon as we made any real progress, they started getting antsy and taking off seat belts and trying to get out of their seats. We got out of the car, we took breaks. Nothing worked. And traffic got stupid dumb. What should have been a 10-hour drive ended up being about 13 and a half and that’s a long time for tiny children to be cooped up in a car, EVEN if the car was specifically purchased to maximize comfort on family trips with multiple DVD players, HDMI inputs, and RCA-connectors. If you want to play a video game in the car, you can hook up a console. We are set. But confinement at this point for my kids? Eh, no sir. They were so over it that I asked my wife to drive for a few hours when I felt myself getting tired, and I started looking up plane tickets for her and my two youngest to fly back.
When we got to my parents’ house, a whole half a day later than when we left, the first thing I did was PURCHASE the tickets for them to fly back on Saturday morning. And they did.
It also made me realize that I don’t enjoy driving across country as much as I thought I did. While making the drive down, I just kept thinking about how I needed to make more money so I could fly my family everywhere because these 13- and 14-hour drives are for the birds. I know it’s super easy to do when the kids are really small or much bigger. But now I personally don’t even want to make the long drives. Fuck those long drives, B.
And that means driving across the nation in an RV is out. Sure that shit seems cool. It seemed exactly like the kind of family vacation I always dreamed of. Now, though? I can’t imagine spending days on end driving across the highways of America. Like, I really want to see Mt. Rushmore for some odd reason, but a thug is gon’ have to fly to wherever you fly to in order to see Mt. Rushmore. The Grand Canyon? Yeah, we’re flying there too. Basically, I need to hit the lottery because I have a family of five and those tickets hit different nowadays. I’m sure America is still as beautiful as it was the first time I flew across the nation and wanted to make the drive. And I’m sure it will still be beautiful when we fly over and I point and say, “Look kids, America” from 10,000 feet.
Because I’m over that shit now.