While my friends traveled to Disneyland and Sea World, my parents were treating my brother and me to lunches in Europe and dinners in Asia. Traveling within America didn’t interest my father very much. Yet, out of all of the travels, it was our failed journey of the South that is most remembered and relived.
We left from Seattle in the morning and ended up across the country by the afternoon. With no direct flight to Searcy, Arkansas, we landed in Atlanta and began our road trip to see my great-grandparents. We would cross five states on this drive – almost a complete tour of the “South.” Early disaster struck as our small rental Ford Taurus nearly collided with about eight semi-trucks. Maybe it was my northwest familiarity with cautious semi-truck drivers, but the memory of those trucks driving 90-plus while switching lanes like street racers still lives in my memory. If ever on Interstate 285, drive with caution.
Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Alabama proved to be a safe-haven. We ran into little trouble and hoped to make it to Meridian, Mississippi by nightfall to take rest. Alabama’s beauty disappeared quickly into the Mississippi landscape and so with it our progress. My father gave my brother the role of navigator, and handed him a map and phone with MapQuest. We projected to reach Meridian within an hour. My brother would give us updates regularly, saying “almost there.” Time began to fade, yet my brother insisted we were closing in on the target. An hour went by and we still were driving, with no sign of Meridian nearing. My father laughed as he asked my brother repeatedly if was certain, but he maintained his stance. He would tell us that we just passed certain cities en-route to Meridian, yet it never came. It was like were chasing a rainbow’s end.
Nearly three hours later my father stopped the car and looked at the map himself. I still remember the arsenal of swear words unloaded at that moment. None of them were said in fury or hatred, but rather full of pity and humor. We had been driving the opposite way for over three hours and were near Louisiana, almost making it a six state crossing. We all laughed with a confusion of disgust and embarrassment. My father saw his own mistakes of assigning navigator duties to a boy who never used a map before and my brother just sat chuckling and apologizing for the whole situation. We finally reached Meridian in the middle of the night. Even the partying teenagers in the hotel were passing out and stumbling to bed by the time we got there.
The rest of the drive was ordinary. I saw my first tornado, which blew my mind but apparently isn’t very extraordinary in the south. We arrived at my great-grandparents house after a much lengthened trip. After all that, the first words we heard; the greeting to my father from my great-grandpa, “you’ve gotten fat” – the perfect ending to our road trip.
The trip taught me many things. First, that everything is an experience and everything can be a story. It taught me that when traveling, to not worry about meeting your schedule’s deadlines and ensuring perfection. It taught me that the moment you fall off a boat, accidentally eat eel, get stung by a jellyfish, or possibly spend a day driving the wrong direction, will be what really lasts. The key is to relax and enjoy the vacation with every minute, living each moment knowing that everything will grow into a beautiful memory.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.