I mark the moment. Iíve officially gone beyond any point Iíve ever driven. This will be the vacation of a lifetime - just me, my car and tent. This is the summer of my eighteenth year when I am invincible and know the answers to all lifeís greatest questions.
My four cylinder import is running fine and the eight-track is keeping me company. The terrain changes several times in the course of the day and there are moments I think I could really use a nap. A quick pinch and Iím good. I turn the music up and gag on a mouthful of lukewarm soda. Yep, I have achieved something memorable.
Nothing but road and trees and traffic, No one to talk to and the only voice I hear is the one coming from my throat as I keep harmony with the tinny sound of the stereo. I occasionally slap the steering wheel like the rim of a drum. Children openly stare from the conversion vans that pass me by.
Where did that wind come from? I suppose I should call it a day. I pull RodChester into a camping spot and put my tent up in a storm. I listen as the windy downpour whips the canvas as I try to sleep.
What is that smell? Bacon? I realize Iím hungry. I open the tent flap and see that my neighboring campers have broken out the quality camp wear and are in the midst of consumption - all smiles as they spot my visible lack of meaningful camping gear. I wonder if raw bacon could be considered sushi as I try not to drool. I get a pre-wrapped pastry and a soda for breakfast and Iím back on the road.
County lines are crossed and unknown little burgs are passed with no permanent recollection. A thinly layered Styrofoam glass bottle filled with the dying remains of a soda an ever constant companion.
What? My engine is running hot? I tap on the plastic casing hoping the needle is stuck - it is not. The gauge is as far to the left as possible. Ah, but thereís good news. I have just entered Montana and as everyone knows, or at least they are told, no meaningful speed limits exist. If I can just speed up a bit I am certain the wind will cool the engine down - thus I test (not for the first time) my belief in my personal immortality and the belief that my car has the heart of Herbie.
I simply press on until something presents itself for lunch. The gauge doesnít change its overheated diagnosis so I take an early mid day break and wait for it to cool down. Given enough time, it does. I give it no more thought.
A few hours pass and I am in the mountains of Montana. Thereís a camping spot. Itís time to get out of the rain - again.
I spend several days traveling mountain passes, visiting caves and mighty rivers. Nearly two weeks of glorious exploration but in the end all good things find a conclusion.
My car is repacked and I am heading home. I shift the gears smoothly as RodChester escorts me home, the grand conqueror of my first solo road trip.
I am exulting in this knowledge when I hear a thump on the mirror just outside my open window. Iím not sure what it is but I do notice a definite wiggle by one of my legs. Why does something like this have to happen when youíre traveling 75 miles an hour on an interstate highway? A rather drunk bumble bee was struggling to gain his footing on my leg. Iím pretty certain I would not have survived smacking a mirror that was coming at me at the speed I was driving, but the surviving bumble bee had my complete and undivided attention. The brakes were liberally applied and the bumble bee was dispatched in a rather artful dance by the side of the road. People stared in open amusement, a few tried not to laugh while some threw coins.
When I was young, I drove and camped and took risks like a maniac. But when I grew up, well, sometimes I embrace the same philosophy (my personal paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:11).
I am left to wonder if angels were working overtime to keep a know-it-all safe. I know my parents prayed for such a miracle. Theyíre still praying.
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