Nothing is more American than a road trip. It’s all that Oregon Trail, Route 66, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet” nostalgia, maybe. Or maybe we’re just a country of wanderers. At any rate, it’s America. The car, the open road, the speed. I mean, how many American “coming of age” tales involve taking road trips (be it with best friends, strangers, or family members to whom we are not speaking)? The car on the interstate says America.
And tomorrow, I am going to make an effort to rejoin this great American pastime. I will load up my little, black Civic with a tiny suitcase, a cooler, and an unholy number of shoes, and head out on an 800 mile journey to visit my soon-to-be-married best friend in Oklahoma for the weekend.
And I am terrified. I have done very little real driving in the past four years. In China, the most dangerous thing I rode was a bicycle. If I wanted to go somewhere far away, I had to walk a half mile to the bus stop, or embark on the impossible task of hailing a cab. It has been a long time since I really drove on American roads. I am terrified that I’m going to drive like a Chinese person–turn on my right blinker then turn left. I have actually sat at stop lights in the U.S. and thought, “Is that a law here, and do I have to follow it??”
Let’s just say, I keep reminding myself that in this country, it is illegal to simply put your car in park in the left lane so you can answer the phone.
But, I’m excited, too. I have developed a weird desire to stop at little greasy spoon diners and try whatever is the “house specialty.” I don’t know if, when I was living in China, I watched Cars too many times when I was feeling homesick or that Food Network binge I went on when I got back did me in with the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives marathon. But it’s there. I can’t fight my lust for Americana.
Life abroad has made me love the beauty and lay of the land like I never did before. I love to just get in a car and drive. I take backroads to Walmart or the grocery store and I avoid the interstate whenever possible. I really, truly, enjoy just seeing America–see little towns and cities and farms and forests and everything else. Everywhere I have traveled to in my life has its own, special kind of beauty. But the more often I come home, the more I am convinced that this land I call “home” is exceptional. It’s lush and diverse. And tomorrow, I’ll strike out on my own to see it again. Tomorrow, I’ll be driving down the road, cranking up Life is a Highway and experiencing my homeland again for the first time.