At the beginning of 2013, Q and I finally cracked open a self-help book given to us the previous Christmas. The book promised wealth and happiness to new married couples, and we felt obligated to at least give the book a shot, considering we hadn’t done much in the way of financial planning since we got married. Plus, the couple on the front of the book looked so darn happy.
The book asked each of us to make five long-term goals for the following year. It felt dopey at the time, but you are reading goal number one, so I suppose I can’t discount it entirely. We also discovered that both of our number two goals involved a desire to travel. We’ve both been fortunate enough to study abroad in Europe and Japan, but oddly neither of us has spent much time west of the Mississippi River. The west coast is still an enigma to me, and I have as much of a grasp on the middle states as I do the middle part of A Tale of Two Cities. Which is to say, none whatsoever.
So Q and I have decided to hit the road for a month, starting in our home state of Virginia and making a loop across the country. We’ll work our way north to the upper peninsula of Michigan, head west until Seattle, ramble south along the Pacific Coast Highway until we hit Southern California, and then cut across Utah and Colorado until we return home. While Q prepares the food, lodging, and transportation logistics, and I handle the much more crucial music playlists and audiobook selection, I mention our trip to friends, coworkers, and anyone else who asks me how I’m doing. I get responses that vary from, “You’re going to learn things about yourself that you never before knew,” to “If I had to ride in a car with my boyfriend for a month, I’d kill him.” My guess is that we’ll end up somewhere in the middle.
Frankly, I’m not sure what I want out of the trip and perhaps that’s a good thing. At the very least, I want to check these destinations off my bucket list and have more fodder for party conversations. “Did you say you grew up in Kansas? Surely you must be familiar with the biggest prairie dog that ever lived. I’ve seen him in the flesh. I am a very interesting human being,” and so on and so forth.
But there’s a part of me that believes it isn’t happenstance that this trip coincides with my year of discovering masculinity. Maybe a trip out west will effect my personal manifest destiny. In fact, I was becoming sure of it.
With an entire month of new opportunities to prove my manliness, I can knock out several challenges with Q as my de facto MANtor. She’s a worthy one at that; Q has that wilderness bug and love for adventure that seems to be lacking from my DNA. Though in the spirit of vacation, I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself. I’ll look at the results of each man challenge only on a pass/fail basis – I’ll bold them when they appear in the post. In addition, I’ll mention tips and/or tricks about road tripping in general I gleaned during our journey. And with that, we’re off.
The plan is to travel as quickly as possible to a state we’ve never been before, so on Day 1, we make the nine-hour car ride from Virginia to Michigan. We’ve restrained ourselves from listening to the most recent This American Life because it was entitled “Hit the Road,” and we figured it would be essential listening as we took its title literally. Ira Glass says something in the first few minutes of the radio show that caused me some concern. He mentions that road trip stories have become so prevalent in popular culture that they’re no longer interesting or unique. And I believe him, despite the fact that he follows up his statement with three fascinating stories.
So what does that mean for our trip? Before we left, I really began to believe that I would be transformed after the trip, but what if we end up in Virginia after a month with nothing more than a couple thousand photos and a depleted bank account? Maybe this will be a normal vacation like any other, and maybe the movies and television I’ve seen have romanticized the cross-country road trip beyond reality. I knew it was an irrational thought, but I carried it with me in the first few days of the trip nonetheless.
Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.
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