“The Open Road”, was written in 2002 after Alexis and I took a “simple” road trip to Corpus Christi.

 

THE  OPEN ROAD

 

          I don’t know if it’s those warm Summer breezes, or the endless possibilities romanticized by Kurault and Waller.  Either way, the pull, the lure, of the open road has never left us.  The hormonal urge to just jump in the car and go is the same now, at 35, as it was when I was 18.     Ah, but the times they are a changin’…and so are we.

          One of my most memorable road trips was back in 1992…when I was much more resilient.  I’d thrown my 35mm camera, a couple of changes of clothes, and a big, heavy Mexican blanket into the back of my ragtop Jeep Wrangler, left San Antonio and headed West on IH-10–with absolutely no destination.  I drove…and I looked…and when I saw something “neat”, I stopped.

          The Caverns in Sonora, Texas, sunset over Holbrook, Arizona, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  My final stop was the North Face of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest.

          Four and a half days on the road with my thoughts, my music, and my camera.  I slept in different places along the way, rest stops, truck stops, national parks, but always in back jump seat of the Wrangler covered by that blanket.  In the mornings I’d grab a shower at the closest truck stop and be back on the road.  Meals I worried about when my stomach growled so loud the people next to me looked, or when I realized that I couldn’t remember when I’d eaten last—whichever came first. 

          It took me about 20 hours—straight through—to drive back to San Antonio.  I came back a little sunburned, a little windburned, and very much at peace.  16 rolls of film and countless memories tell the story of that trip.

          Fast-forward 10 years…my 5 year-old daughter, Alexis, and I planned an overnight trip to the South Texas coastal town of Corpus Christi, about 2 ½ hours away from our home in San Antonio.

          First of all, I had to get out the maps and figure the quickest, most direct route with easily accessible gas stations along the way.  Then I had to make sure there was a hotel room, with air conditioning, available—it was 90 degrees and 85% humidity!

          Then came Barbie luggage filled with clothes, pajamas, a bathing suit, books, crayons, and Barbie, of course.   My backpack with a few changes of clothes—they’d have an iron in the hotel room, books, and my camera.  A cooler packed with juice packs, snacks, soda, and water.

          Four trips to the Jeep—a Cherokee Sport now—later, we had things packed away, we’d both gone to the bathroom, ‘cause we’re not stopping!’, and off we went!

          Within 30 minutes I had lost the folk-laced rhythm of Jackson Browne to the chatter of Blue’s Clues and my study of the open road was broken by “How much longer?”

          We made it to Corpus, both physically and psychologically intact, checked into the hotel, and hit the beaches soon after.  I’d forgotten how much fun it was to just sit and watch my daughter, bound and determined to catch herself a seagull!  She must have chased those poor birds over half the beach!

          We ate out…watched cartoons well past our bedtime…and slept in.  I drove back to San Antonio feeling very much at peace with things.

          Maybe one of the better things that came out of the 9-11 attack is a more universal awareness of what we have, and what we have around us.  The realization that maybe we need to slow down a little and, like through the eyes of a child, re-discover the world around us.

          For one day, forget the “to-do” lists; throw away the map, loose the organizational tendencies.  Just throw the camera in the Jeep and go…

 

        –Doug Clark