It's been over twenty years since, as a high schooler, I set foot on the campus where I would eventually attend college. I was attending a summer honors program that accepted 25 high-schoolers across the country and gave them the chance to get some early college credits. I still think of this small farming town fondly, and last week I got the chance to visit. The college has since expanded into a full-fledged university, and the way this little town has grown and flourished was exciting to see. Of course, the sentimental side of me always pines for the way things used to be, and sometimes change in any form, even positive change, can seem, well, kind of sad. The dorm I lived in, for example, has been torn down and replaced by a parking lot. The pie shop where I celebrated my 19th birthday has closed. The green hillsides are covered with new apartments and condos, distracting from the purity of the view.
This visit was part of a 5-state road trip that seemed appealing after so many months of staying at home. With my co-pilot handling navigation, music, and snacks, we set out to see some different slices of earth as a way to remind ourselves of just how much there is outside of our own small corner of the world. The ultimate prize was a brief 24 hours spent in the company of some of my family, but the majority of the trip was driving, and in some ways, it's simply amazing how varied the terrain gets within just a few hours of the places where we live. Mountains, desert, and ridiculously hot weather. Each night spent somewhere new, each morning a different granola bar or piece of fruit handed over from a front-desk hotel worker. There's something peaceful about being on the road, being temporarily attached to nowhere, and despite the exhaustion of several days of driving, the less than stellar hotel beds and pillows, and the digestive distress that comes from eating foods you wouldn't normally be eating (just me?), arriving back home has felt, for lack of a better term, somewhat boring. I suppose that's the power of the open road, of not knowing what exactly you'll find just beyond that next mountain.