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My dear nephew called me about a month ago and asked if he and four friends could stay at our house over the holidays. They were driving from Nashville to New York City to see Coldplay.

Of course, I said, only half sure it would ever happen.

As the day approached the weather worsened. Blizzards were forecast, temperatures dropped and they began hearing from parents and friends that making an 18-hour trip was ill-advised.

Brad, 20, asked my opinion.

“Making that kind of drive with you, someone who’s never driven in snow, is absolutely foolhardy,” I said. “That’s why I think you should do it. If you don’t do stupid things when you’re young you may never do stupid things as long as you live.”

The ill-conceived road trip is one of the stupidest things young people can do so it invariably provides some of life’s best memories.

I’ve been a reckless road tripper since I’ve been old enough to drive.

Nothing pleases me more than loading a car with friends, coolers of beer, great tunes, a distant destination and a lamebrain mission.

I guess my first real road trip was with my old buddy Pete in September 1981. We were 18. We drove from Athens, Ohio, to Buffalo to see George Thorogood and  Journey open for the Rolling Stones. It was the “Tattoo You” tour and the debut of the concert staple “Start Me Up.”

We’d spent the night in the parking lot where every individual was drunk or high, none more so than these rowdy Canadians who’d road tripped in from Toronto. They seemed like great guys.

But I know at least one guy who I guess doesn’t think so. He was in the port-o-john when the Canadians for some reason turned the thing over with him in it -- door side down.

I haven’t set foot in a port-o-john ever since.

Throughout the ‘80s there were roadtrips to see girlfriends, visit buddies, crash parties and visit things like Florida snake farms.

I guess my most epic road trip was the summer of 1983. My friend Doug had an entrepreneurial bent. He’d purchased a radar gun and a pipe and net stall and was convinced he could make a fortune traveling the great Midwest hooking up with carnivals where we’d let hicks heave fastballs: Three throws for a buck, guess the speed of the third and you win a 25-cent batter’s helmet.

He persuaded me to tag along with the promise that we’d make lots of money and meet lots of girls.

We made practically nothing and had to struggle to meet girls who thought we were just like all the junkies and ex-cons who make up your typical traveling carnival.

Most of the carnies were what we all consider scum. I learned that summer that scum can be a lot of fun. We’d spend nearly ever night drinking beer and turning the carnival into our own personal playground.

While we didn’t make much money, I also learned there were ways even shiftless people can always earn a little scratch.

That’s what the man known only as “Judge” taught me. He was called “Judge” because carnies were always asking him for legal advice. He had no law degree, but he’d appeared in court so often for so many different transgressions he’d become courtroom savvy.

He was covered from head to toe with crude jail tattoos. And by head to toe, I’m including horizontal directions.

He’d meet adventurous strangers and say, “I’ll be you $20 I have your name on my penis.”

You’d be surprised at the number of people who’d fall for a bet like that.

I’m unable to verify, but legend has it that he’d pull out his pride and there on the shaft were the words, “YOUR NAME.”

I don’t have any tattoos, but if I’m ever forced to get one I’ll consider doing that before getting something like “MAMA.”

Looking back, I don’t know how my parents survived that summer. They must have been worried ‘round the clock.

I remember clearly being at the Elkhart County Fair in Goshen, Indiana, and calling my parents collect. They always wanted to know where we were the next day.

“Dad,” I said, “it could be one of five different states.”

Brad and his friends couldn’t have been nicer during their visit. We had a wonderful evening with them. Our daughters just adored both the boys and the girls. It was a very special memory.

That’s why I felt paternal wariness as I watched them fishtailing down the mountain in a snow so heavy I wouldn’t leave the house that day. I told them there’d be no shame in missing the concert in favor of some cheap hotel. It was a dangerous day to be driving.

Here’s what happened:

They made it to their friend’s house outside New York in about eight harrowing hours.

They spent the next day in Manhattan. They rode the subways, saw Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the 9/11 memorial.

Outside the show, tour organizers noticed their enthusiasm and swapped their nosebleed seats for the front row the band reserves for its most ardent fans.

The drove straight home 16 hours the next day. Brad posted a Facebook scrap book with more than 100 pictures under the title, “The Best Weekend of My Life.”

And now he’ll know forever more that stupid can sometimes in the long run be a  real smart move.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Road Trips (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are absolutely wonderful!

    RESCU Foundation Inc ~ Pledged to the health of the company.

    by liz dexic on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 11:08:18 AM PST

  •  Great diary. Thanks for sharing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hanging Up My Tusks

    "I'm totally pro-choice in the matter of abortion. But of course I'm also so radically pro-life that I think every person from birth onward must have full and affordable access to healthcare." - Gail Collins

    by gritsngumbo on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 11:29:40 AM PST

  •  Roadtrip junkie here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Grew up in NM. Mom's sisters lived in OH and CA, so almost every summer Mom would load us into the car and off we'd go, east or west. I remember being very excited the first summer I was able to help with the driving (age 15) until we reached a part of OK (pre-interstate days) where the 2-lane highway had a small lip at the edge. I was frightened near to death when a car going the other direction was passing and didn't have enough time to make it back into his lane. I drove off the highway and, let me tell you, it was exciting when I hit that lip. I'm fairly certain Mom heard new words come out of my mouth that day.

    Took a couple of epic road trips (one was approx 2 months and 8,000 miles long) with my kiddos that we still talk about. And my daughter inherited the roadtrip gene, too. When she was just out of college she drove from CA to Boston, camping and sleeping in hostels along the way. One full-moon night she spent at White Sands National Monument; said flashlights were unnecessary because the light from the moon bounced off the white dunes and provided enough light to set up camp at midnight.

    So, cheers to youth and roadtrips!

    The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but did you bring in the ship.

    by Hanging Up My Tusks on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 12:07:21 PM PST

    •  Great stories! (0+ / 0-)

      What wonderful memories. Thanks for taking the time to post them here. Happy New Year!

      •  BTW, I went to your blog and saw some of your (0+ / 0-)

        musical faves. A couple of months ago I would have wondered who Todd Snider is, but my wonderful son-in-law introduced me to his music and I love it, too. I'll have to check out some of your other faves. Another group my sil got me hooked on is the Austin Lounge Lizards. Very talented musically and lyrically.

        Happy New Year to you, too.

        The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but did you bring in the ship.

        by Hanging Up My Tusks on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 04:51:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So much Texas (0+ / 0-)

          Thanks for visiting. Yeah, Todd's the best. We really love a lot of Texas-based alt-country -- Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton, Ray Wylie Hubbard . . .

          Then there's Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davies.

          We should roadtrip!

          •  Not familiar with Ely, Hubbard or Davies, (0+ / 0-)

            but will check them out - especially now that you mention McClinton whom I've loved for years. Getting to know Knopfler through my sil and Morrison's been around for a long time, but I don't really know his music. My sil loves music and he has a lot of odd things that I've never heard before. His latest love is the Punch Brothers; he has two of their albums on his iPod and I love their sound and creativity. There's a fun radio station in Santa Cruz that we listen to, KPIG. They play an odd mix of music that's always interesting and a lot of fun: Southern Culture on the Skids, Shawn Mullins, Todd Snider, various blues bands, etc.

            So, roadtrip? Yeah. I'd love to hear your music collection and I'll play all my CW honky tonk stuff till you yell "uncle".  ;-)

            Seriously, thanks for the recommends above - I spend lots of time on YouTube looking for interesting stuff and suggestions from someone who already enjoys artists I like? Well, those are golden.

            The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but did you bring in the ship.

            by Hanging Up My Tusks on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 10:30:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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