Dream of the Open Road


Have you ever heard of people doing crazy things like trying to eat pancakes at every Dennyís in all 50 states? Well, my husband Jack woke up one day with a bee in his bonnet, suddenly determined that he had to play golf in Florida. And right away, too.

'Why Florida?' I wanted to know, 'Why not someplace closer, like Iowa?'

'Because,' he said, 'Florida is famous for golf Iowa isn't. Its just something I want to do before I die, you know?'

In fact, I did know. Just a week or so before, I'd come across a diary of mine from my teenage years. It made for pretty good reading, let me tell you, all full of whining and moping and worries about boys, that sort of thing. But what really got me about it was the list I'd made on the very first page, a list I'd naively titled, 'Things I'm Going To Do.' Naive, I say, because of course I haven't done a third of them! I've never sung on TV, never kissed a quarterback, and never swum in the ocean. I've never even been to California (except once to change planes, and that doesn't really count), and that's the number one thing on the list!

So when Jack said his piece about wanting to golf in Florida before he took the last turn in the road, so to speak, it got me thinking. There were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish. They werenít all the same things Iíd been determined to do when I was sixteen, but there were plenty.

When Jack came back in, I brought us each a cup of coffee and got settled. 'Honey,' I said, 'I've been thinking about what you said, about playing golf in Florida. And pass me the creamer, won't you? Thanks. What I've been thinking is that I have some things I want to do before I die, too, like see the Grand Canyon and swim in the ocean. And I really want to see a manatee.'

'A what?' Jack has no patience for nature shows.

'A manatee, one of those animals they have in Florida. Theyíre like big, peaceful, sea cows. I want to see one.'

'And swim in the ocean? And see the Grand Canyon?'


'Well hold on there partner - if you get three things, then I should get three things too, don't you think?'

That was how it started, on an icy day in Southern Minnesota, when two people had dreams of sunshine and warm weather. Now we have our life lists all written out, and Jack's come up with a route that's going to carry us all across the country. I'm so excited, I can hardly wait! Florida, HERE WE COME!


Once Sally made up her mind about the manatees and her 'life list,' as she liked to call it, I knew the road was clear. We'd be in Florida before we knew it!

I got started right off with testing and restocking all the 'moving parts' we carry with us in the RV - the propane grill, the electrical cords and adapters, the holding tank chemicals, and everything we need for the computer. Sally insists on bringing the laptop so we can email the kids; I like watching movies on it and not much else.

Then I loaded up all of our home inventions -  the hooks Sal uses to keep picnic tablecloths from flying away, our elastic clothes-drying line, the box of maps, my cup of coins for tolls, and my special BBQing spice kit (don't forget the brown sugar!). After that, our packing is pretty ordinary. We divide it into sections: things for the RV (spare parts, the manual, and our tool kit), clothes, toiletry items, food and cooking gear, then fun things like fishing poles and games. Sal always packs her fun things first and then works her way to the kitchen equipment. I like to tackle the RV gear first and save the entertaining stuff for last. And of course, Sally always has to have her flower-guide and bird-watching binoculars. After twenty years, I finally know better than to leave those behind!

Once we're on the road, things settle into a nice routine. I like a hot breakfast, so we usually get a leisurely start - plus this helps us avoid any morning rush hour traffic. Then we drive. Sally works the map, pointing out fun things like mountain ranges, rivers that we're about to cross, and historical markers. She'll give us fun facts about the state we're going through and maybe even a little history to boot. While I drive, she likes to knit or watch the scenery. When she drives, we put on our latest book on tape and try to learn a thing or two.

After years of RVing, I've finally learned that the secret is to take it slow. If you're in too much of a hurry, you fly past all the things that are the most fun. What's the point in driving across South Dakota if you aren't going to stop at the Corn Palace? That's the lesson we've learned. If something tickles your funny bone, then you've got to stop. That's all there is to it.
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