Autoweek; Published: 6/26/2000
Come July my daughter is packing her daughter and her son into a far larger than necessary Buick and wandering from Tucson to Portland; about time, too. It is a grand tradition in her family. She is a late-blooming Bedouin, her mother and I took to the road well before she was a gleam.
There are such things as carefully planned trips, but they were not for us. A summer's voyage should begin with the discontent of a city Spring, the lure of an unexplored horizon. A delicious May evening descends, filled with the scent of the unknown and there, at the curb, is your car.
It is ready-it is always ready-because you keep it that way for exactly this moment. You have no idea where you are going, nor why, but you can no more stay where you are than you can stop breathing. It is the migratory urge.
It began for me one year-began and continued without reason or particular awareness-when I pushed out on the West Side Drive of Manhattan every night farther and farther to wherever, coming home for no particular reason in the early dawn, until one day I just kept going to discover thereby there was no reason why not.
It seemed only natural that this should spill over into college where my then fiancee and I would wander over upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Do you remember the allure of places never seen, names long known but not discovered? Wall Drug Store ("Offering Famous Free Ice Water to Thirsty Travellers for over 50 Years") or Little America (The Only Truck Stop in the Nation with a Concierge).
Your neighbor came home with slides of the Grand Canyon, you came home, if at all, with grainy black-and-whites of the Sacramento Mile, Pikes Peak or race shops with signs that said "All American Racers" or "Vel's Parnelli." Thus did car people migrate; in this way were whole new careers created out of nothing but movement. Car people went to California, of course, and Nevada and from there up and down the West Coast. The names of the frontier camps would have been familiar to Mark Twain or Parnelli Jones: Virginia City, Altamount, Carson City, Monterey. Wherever car people gathered to show or race, there we were. Did you say Aston Martin? My wife was offered a ride in one in Denver. How about OSCA? A fine fellow called Jim Simpson thought it would be nice to see me drive one of his at Janesville, Wisconsin-the very idea terrified me and I never did. I crewed at Riverside; my wife worked communications at Pebble Beach for Mary Jane Rothermel.
So now my daughter is wandering up the West Coast with her kids. She is settled in Portland and immune, I suspect, to the migratory urge; but her children aren't.
To this day I feel the freshness of the first moments of travel, its adventure, the breathlessness at the prospect of what lies ahead. It will be there for my grandchildren if only they are open to it, and if they are, it will live in them forever.