Columnist: It’s all about the ride
I decided to drive to Ft. Lauderdale the other day instead of flying. My granddaughter was graduating from elementary school.
I try to miss nothing when it comes to her. However, this story is not about the most precious thing in the world, it’s about the ride.
Flying to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta takes two hours. Driving there takes 11. That is why I usually fly.
However, I needed to take some furniture down from our storage that my children wanted. I thought now would be a good time. I had dreaded the long drive for days.
I-75 south is, how do I say, not the most scenic route in America. Then top that off with the Florida Turnpike, and the word “boring” takes on an even more monotonous meaning.
The sun was just barely over the horizon when I pulled out of my driveway looking like Ma Clampett heading to Beverly Hills. Furniture stacked in the back of the SUV with bungee cords holding it tight and clothes thrown in bags in between.
I had not yet closed the car window when the smell of Confederate Jasmine seeped in. I smiled and looked at the vines in full bloom scenting the air with their sweet aroma. I noticed the beads of water on the grass and the green of the trees bursting with glorious new growth.
“Wow, I sure wish my drive could look like this!” I said to myself as I drove away. Yes, I forgot to mention I was taking the drive with only my furniture and bags. Pa Clampett would join me later via a plane from a business trip. Lucky guy!
Traffic was light to my great surprise and before I knew it I was heading toward Macon. I would stop there briefly.
After filling up on coffee and gas I continued my journey. I turned the radio to the ’60s station and listened to the music I know well. Songs evoke the strangest feelings if you let them. I remembered my friends from LaGrange High School and College. Why do you always, always miss your buddies from school? You just do.
The road became flat and straight, so I started reading the billboards that line the road. You can have the world’s greatest meal at Papa Somebodies for $5. Then there is Cordele, “The Gateway to South Georgia.” There is Jolly RV park, antique malls with thousands of square feet, and a King Frog beckoning you. Some signs made me laugh out loud.
There is something for every traveler on this road. How could one be bored?
When I reached Valdosta, I sent a message to a friend that calls this town home.
“I am waving to you as I pass through to Florida!” I guess my friend thought that silly, but I refused to not be entertained.
The sun was shining as I decided to start looking beyond the billboards to the hill-less land of South Georgia. My son was born in Moultrie, where I lived for only a year. I loved Moultrie, and those South Georgia bugs didn’t bother me that much. I had great friends there that never bugged me.
I passed pastures that were rich and green where cows grazed and laid among shade trees. Farm land was abundant with new crops and an occasional tractor siting made me think of my granddaddy.
Finally, I crossed the Florida line. New billboards advertising Disney discount tickets. A rest area and Welcome Station were coming up. Had to stop.
I watched kids getting their picture taken in front of a molded 5-foot-tall dolphin statue. Their father trying to get them back in the car.
“Come on guys, Mickey Mouse is waiting on us!” That did it; they headed toward the waiting car.
Gosh, I remember my fist trip to Disney with my kids. How special was old Walt for building a park that would delight so many children? Special indeed.
The world’s largest alligator was just a mile ahead along with free orange juice. I remember seeing that gator with my parents on the first vacation we ever took. We rode in a hot, unair-conditioned car for 12 hours and I wouldn’t take anything for it.
The next thing I knew I was on the double boring Florida Turnpike and the Beach Boys were playing summer songs. How I always loved the beginning of summer.
Every year thinking, “Whew, I made it through another school year!” Vacation, visiting my grandparents, swimming, sleeping late. I loved catching those lightning bugs, watching fireworks, watermelon feasts, picnics with my cousins and hayrides.
“Oops, my exit is here! How did that happen so fast? My back doesn’t even hurt!!”
The following morning at 9, I watched my most precious thing in the world graduate to middle school with honors. I was very proud.
However, I needed to be sure to tell her something when we got back to her house:
“Avery, life is not about the destination, but more about taking the time to enjoy the journey. Take time to smell the jasmine, listen to an old song and think often about wonderful friends and family. Take the opportunity to laugh as often as you can at silly stuff, and learn from any mistakes you make. Keep your eyes focused on the God that turns the pastures green and provides a shade tree for all of us. Remember it is an honor to take the ride. If you do, the journey will never be boring, but instead, downright beautiful.”
Just like my drive.