Saturday, May 10, 2014

How I Travel -- A Mother's Day Recap

In celebration of Mother's Day, here's a trip I took with my mother and father a few years ago. We had a great time together. Thank you, Mama and Daddy, for showing me our country and for being so excited about it. Your enthusiasm for the landscape, the history and the natural wonders of our country was contagious. The following was orginally published in 2011.


I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Come here. Closer. That's too close. I like to be surprised when I travel. I do very little research before I go. Try Googling, say, The Devils Tower or Mount Rushmore. You'll get thousands of pictures of these places, countless descriptions and oodles of travel anecdotes. It takes all the wonder out of seeing The Devil's Tower appear in the distance if you've already seen a hundred pictures of it (and Close Encounters of the Third Kind six times). Hee hee. Well, OK, I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I just gave you a picture from this angle.

Did you know that Lake Louise in British Columbia is the most-visited mountain lake in the world? I didn't--of course. I didn't even know there was a Lake Louise before I went there. From our campsite the first day we hiked two hours to the lake. I had no idea what to expect. Imagine if I had already had this picture in my head. The moment I actually saw the lake would have been such a let down. I hope this picture hasn't ruined it for you. I've heard that you can get an image out of your head if you shake it hard enough. You can try it. 

My parents met me in Vancouver with the intention of taking me back to Nashville by car. I knew we had to make it from Vancouver to Nashville in around 10 days, but I had no idea where the road would take us next. In fact, I insisted on not knowing. I wanted Seattle to surprise me, Wyoming to wow me, Minnesota to, uh, mince me? You get the picture. 

But my mother wouldn't stop talking about "The Badlands": "When we go through the Badlands--" "You're gonna love the Badlands." "Just wait until you see the--"

"Mom, please. I don't want to know."

"Your obsession with ignorance is--"

"Endearing? Cute? Adorable?"

"You're gonna love the Badlands."

"Say one more word."

"I'm shutting up."

When we finally came to the Badlands, I was amazed--and so happy that I was almost completely unprepared for the beauty of this wonderful and fleeting moment in our geological history. The Badlands won't be there in 500,000 years, so you'd better hurry if you want to see them. If you don't want to see the Badlands before you visit them, then don't look at this picture. I'll understand.

I sensed that we would be driving by Mount Rushmore when we veered into South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is amazing. I'll give you a dollar if you can name the four Presidents, and I'll give you another dollar if you can tell me what German comedian one of the waitresses at Peggy's Place in Keystone looks like. Obscure, but OK. It's worth a dollar. This picture is not any of the four presidents, and it's not the waitress at Peggy's Place. It's one of the guys who helped carve Mount Rushmore. I think he's adorable. A bit of trivia: Homer Simpson's face is not one of the four Presidents--despite evidence to the contrary on The Simpsons.

Thank you, again, to my mother and father for organizing such a beautiful drive through the US. I'd do it again anytime.

More surprises on my Tour Americana next week.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to X is for Expat Interview.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.