A Report From The Road

by John Geysen

The weather has gone bad in Baltimore. It’s late at night and I’m staring at myself in a hotel mirror. The family and I are returning from a trip to Disney World. Fifteen hours ago we left Orlando in a vain attempt to outrun the storm that put us here.

Florida was everything you’d expect and the massive Disney World, carved out of swamps and orange groves, was fun. Still, I like the road. It can be monotonous but there’s something American about it, probably because it’s an all purpose metaphor.

Six hours from home and my young family is asleep. The snow’s coming down. I’m pacing back and forth with bags under my eyes and feeling heavy from a week of eating cheeseburgers and ice cream sandwiches. I’ve watched the Weather Channel loop a dozen times, looking for a definitive explanation of what to expect tomorrow. My mind moves from tire pressure, to my job, to the upcoming holidays.

If I take anything away from this trip down south it’s this: Jesus and college football are way more popular than I ever imagined. I’m not sure if this realization makes me feel better or worse. Either way it beats the evening news.

However, as bad as the economy supposedly is I can report few signs of a recession in Disney World. People were spending like crazy. A LSU fan said as much to me in line for Space Mountain. I looked back and said, “These people are all broke. They just don’t know it yet.” He didn’t see the humor.

Each mile of our trip fascinated me. In South Carolina there were billboards for cheap cigarettes, churches, fireworks, and civil war battlefields. Every exit (marked by countless gas stations and motels) seemed to be pulling at the cars on the road, desperate for those tourist dollars.

On a long trip you’ll see the best and worst America has to offer. Here in Baltimore I’m feeling patriotic and a little spooked. We ran into great people from all over the country. But there are two sides to everything. For all the kindness we encountered we had to deal with evil parents pushing their rotten kids past us. There’s a contagious me first attitude out there. How can someone try to cut in line past other families that drove all night from Indianapolis to see Donald Duck and not expect violence?

All the down notes are forgotten the next morning. I’m gulping old coffee in the lobby and watching Pearl Harbor Day observances on the news. The little things don’t matter. The weather has cleared. It’s time to roll. Even with my chance to rest wasted, I still had a good night. I was stuck without all the usual distractions, pulled over to the side of the proverbial road. Things slowed down for a few hours. My son gives me a smile and that’s what this has been all about. With him it always feels like we are at the beginning of a new trip.

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle

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