family on the hilltop

I wonder sometimes. I wonder if the technology we posses today really improves our lives as much as we think it does. My mother pointed out to me that nowadays, people are addicted to instant gratification. At first I thought I would argue, but realized quickly she was right. It's hard to argue when I spend a good two or three minutes posting a picture on a social media application called INSTAgram. I mean, they put it right in the name!

I thought about it more and more as time went on, usually during my commute to and from work. I watch, throughout the day, as people impatiently move their cars through the streets…calling, texting, insta-face-twittering. What's worse is we have engrossed ourselves so much in this technological “advancement” that we are now tethered to it. It has become our umbilical cord. So much so, in fact, that they we need its approval. We post everything we do for the approval and support of the masses.

I was driving with my father on the 15 north a few weeks ago, just halfway between San Diego and Las Vegas, when he started talking about when they built the Interstate 15. “It used to be just Highway 395,” he told me. A two lane road in both directions with a stop light at the 91. That's all it was.

I wonder what happened to the “highway.” I mean, to be honest, I'm glad Eisenhower brought over what he learned from the Autobahn. But still, what's left in the road trip? Now it's getting from point A to B as fast as possible. Where's the road between?

Stop to smell the flowers and the trees and life in general

That's why, as a father, I'm not going to ask for permission. I'm not going to make a case to my inner self to just “take off.” I'm going to drive. Pack up the boys and Chelsea (if she's willing), pick my direction and drive. I do not need any other reason other than to enjoy the world around me and hopefully the one I'm going to. I don't need to consult Yelp for best destinations or Google Maps for best routes.

Hell, my dad used to do it all the time. “Where are we going?” my brother and I would ask. “This way,” he would say as he pointed straight out over the hood of his little gray Toyota pickup. Eventually, my brother and I learned to just shut our mouths and watch the world come to us through the window. We didn't know where we were going and we didn't care. We got to know the people who lived and worked throughout our travels. Gas station attendants (when they used to have them), hardware store clerks, forest rangers and farmers. It's where I learned to talk to people. I didn't have to be in their “circle” or group. I just had to listen and learn.

I can honestly say some of my best family memories came from trips that started this way. I woke up, ate breakfast and soon after was ordered to the truck by my father. An hour later my brother and I were standing in the haunting and beautiful wasteland of an explosion estimated to be over 500 times more powerful than that of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. A volcano thought to be forever dormant: Mt Saint Helens. All the trees laid out like matchsticks. And sometimes, we found ourselves at a donut shop enjoying a glazed buttermilk and each others company. I learned that was all we really needed. Each other.

Awhile back that's just what I did. Threw the boys and a willing Chelsea into my truck and drove. Knowing food was a necessity, I picked it up along the way and took it with us. We drove, through town, past the orange and avocado groves. Then, to the foot of a mountain and the beginning or end of an all but forgotten mountain pass. When Chelsea asked, “Where are we going?” I pointed out over the hood of my pickup truck and said, “This way.”

Eventually, I found the place I knew I had driven for. A dozer-crafted turnout on the edge of the mountain. Dinner was much nicer at 6000 feet.