USA – the armchair ride

They say ‘young men see visions and old men dream dreams’. After seven decades I guess I am in the dreamer category, happy to admit it. Not sure about the visions but for as long as I can remember I have been a dreamer. By dreamer I mean those reflective moments (dreamers have a lot of those) when one explores: ‘I wonder what it would be like to …’ And then the dream takes shape, waits in the shadows for a while, then bursts centre stage and becomes the glorious reality. That’s why I don’t apologise for being a dreamer.

One such dream was an American road trip – the Interstates; the National Parks; the Midwest; the pioneer museums; the Native American memorials; and of course a romantic version of Route 66. Our elder son married a girl from Pennsylvania and they settled in Georgia, so staying with them meant we had opportunity to knock the dream into shape. An early consideration is what sort of vehicle, and either hire or buy. Dreamers can be rash, so it didn’t take long to settle on buying a Corvette convertible, for a road trip is about the driving after all. No lumbering RV for this old guy. The RV may have let me see the boats from a bridge instead of a guardrail, but I would have missed seeing all those truck wheels just beside my ear. We still camped in State Parks with light-weight gear and from our tent door we watched grey squirrels fascinated with the chrome wheels on the Corvette.

We got to love the open road. I can still feel the excitement of accelerating along the on-ramp. It became a bit of a joke between us. My reasoning was that I didn’t want to get in the way of that truck, but Robyn would notice the truck was nowhere near us. We were amazed at how far one could travel on the Interstates in a day. Our pattern was mostly an early start, a late breakfast, fruit and snacks at roadside rest stops, mostly with a memorable chat to the veteran volunteer keeping things tidy, then an evening meal before either a motel or camp. Restaurant food was mostly such a generous serve it became a next-day meal. In all we travelled 8,384 miles across 22 states over eight weeks in a dream car with arm chairs. Although we didn’t camp as often as we had intended because of the cold weather in the northern states (anything like an overnight low of low thirties was out of the question), we were still well below budget. Robyn’s ‘armchair ride across America’ didn’t cost the earth.

While we loved the open roads, the Blue Ridge Parkway was a highlight. Four hundred miles of following various ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, a road without any commercial vehicles or towns, but lots of scenic views. Blessed with sunny weather, we drove it with the roof off, waved to other Corvette drivers, and let the hundreds of motorcyclists pass by pulling into a scenic overlook. We took our time, camped beside a little creek in a deep river valley. Robyn asked about bears and was told “We haven’t seen any this season …” Hardly reassuring, but he added that the dogs would bark if any came close. They did bark, I told Robyn it was definitely a Doberman bark, perhaps a Bull Mastiff, or maybe an Irish wolf hound/Rottweiler cross; all very cross so no bear would dare come near the camp. She believed me, because dreamers can be awfully charming as well as dreadful liars.

People ask about ‘best part’ of the road trip and it is difficult to list just one. However the dogs bark camp on the Parkway is certainly one. I remember the two of us after having cleaned up supper things and before climbing into the tent just having that couples chat. ‘This is as good as it gets’ we agreed. It was nearly the end of our weeks on the road and we couldn’t bring to mind a single misfortune, any car problems, roadside delays, being shot at, and, best of all, never a cross word between us. Yes, the dreams that old men dream can burst into glorious reality, and remain the memories of a life well lived.

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Merv was a teacher, trainer and therapist using the Human Givens approach to emotional health. He is the first Australian qualified in this revolutionary treatment method, and since retiring from private practice, spreads his time between running an online course in psychotherapy and sailing his yacht.

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