Road Tripping

My friend Lynn turns 60 in July—I can’t believe it! I’m not far behind.

She’s lined up some bucket list trips to celebrate. Now, Lynn has been everywhere—she worked for Nokia and routinely traveled from London to Helsinki to Australia and back in the space of days. I think her record was 32 countries in one year.

So you would think it would be challenging for her to come up with a dream list of destinations, but no. Whenever I’ve asked, thinking she’ll be stumped she easily rattles off half a dozen places she’d like to see.

So she’s rounded up a group of people to go to the Glastonbury Festival in June. The line-up is unbelievable: Foo Fighters, the Who, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West, Motorhead, Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige, Patty Smith, Alabama Shakes, and Burt Bacharach (!?). The downside? Camping in a heaving-with-humanity, mud-filled field with porta-potties.

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Lucky for me, Lynn’s list includes New Orleans, and I’m in on that. I’ve been to NOLA, but will be happy to return. It’s one of those places, like Los Angeles, where anything goes—where no one pays any attention to you if you’re wearing a clown wig or are half naked. Or completely naked. Not that I will be walking around naked, but you know what I mean. In the Midwest we have a narrower tolerance. Maybe that’s why one of our prune-faced stock phrases is, “That’s different” or “That’s interesting,” to mean, “That’s weird and I don’t approve.”

Lynn and I met in Oxford and shared a house for six months. I’ve enjoyed the generous hospitality of her and her husband Richard’s home in the Scottish Highlands half a dozen times. We’ve traveled together to Prague, Venice, and Berlin, and she’s been to Minnesota. So we know we can tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies … not that I have any.

Vince has been writing about drugs lately in his blog. My drug is travel. I think about New Orleans and immediately the possibilities begin to flag out:

“As long as I’m going, why not go down to Shreveport or Baton Rouge? I wonder what they’re like? Or, why not drive down from Minnesota!?”

My heart stars to race.

Google maps aids and abets me. A quick search reveals that I could stop in St. Louis, Nashville, and Jackson, Tennessee. I’ve never been to those last two!

My palms are sweating and my breathing is shallow.

Then Lynn throws gas on the fire:

“Why don’t I fly to St. Paul and we can do a road trip together?” I hear her pronouncing “St. Paul” the British way, “Sen Pauuuuls.”

I’m also emailing back and forth with my Turkish friend Ferruh, a former neighbor who now in New Orleans and teaches a Tulane. He’s sending me links to shotgun houses we could rent. Now we need to find a place with multiple beds because our Australian friend Christine, aka Possum, is going to join us.

It’s zero outside today in Minnesota. I troll from listing to listing of B&Bs and boutique hotels with lush courtyards with fountains and pools and all within walking distance of the French Quarter and Frenchman Street.

WOW man! The colors! My head feels like it’s going to explode.

Wait—what if, as long as we’re doing a road trip, I just blow all my vacation time and take us through southern Wisconsin (very scenic in the springtime)? We could see Spring Green, the Frank Lloyd Wright home. Then on to Madison, where my cousin Bob lives … his wife is Native, maybe she could hook us up with a pow wow—foreign visitors love that kind of thing.

Then—on to Chicago! We have to go to Chicago, right?

As long as we’re that far east, maybe we could go through Kentucky—Hey!—When is the Kentucky Derby? I’ve always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby ….

My mother calls and when I tell her what I’m up to she suggests we go through the Smoky Mountains. Where are the Smoky Mountains? I am clutching a paper map now, my hands are trembling with excitement. Half the day has passed without my noticing.

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