Elwayville: The Road Trip Not Taken

Basketball players have a saying: You miss every shot you don’t take. The same could be said of road trips.

In college, I missed out on a trip to ski New England’s legendary Tuckerman Ravine with three other guys named Pete. I think I stuck around campus for some memorably unmemorable barbecue or keg party, while my buddies returned with spring-piste tans and tales of campfires, steep corn chutes and an angry moose.

Another time, I gave up my ticket to the legendary U2 Under a Blood Red Sky tour—yes, the one where Bono strutted across the Red Rocks stage in a withering rain—to study for a biology test. Even after all the cramming, I still got a C-minus.

In high school, I even blew a chance to snowboard the Great Sand Dunes—maybe before anyone else had ridden them—because The Nuggets were in the playoffs, and I wanted to watch the game. It’s been a long time since anyone’s had to worry about that.

The only road trip I’m grateful I missed was when a few friends called after college to say they were moving to Telluride, and did I want them to pick me up? When their car broke down in Nebraska, another friend called to ask if I wanted to move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, instead. That move changed my life.

Bigger Than This

As stunningly beautiful as Telluride is, if I had stayed here in Elwayville at that personal crux moment, I’m afraid I might still think Colorado is all there is of the Rocky Mountain West. I would never have lived beneath the jagged teeth of the Tetons and felt the thrilling mix of terror and awe at skiing a bigger, wilder, steeper mountain than anything I had ever experienced.

I also wouldn’t have eventually seen the many lonely blue ranges of Montana—the Bridgers, Crazies, Absarokas and the Beartooths. I wouldn’t have felt like I was traveling in a lunar lander as I traversed those great yawning landscapes in a silver Volkswagen Golf. Or camped under so many stars it made me dizzy to see them, sharing tobacco, whiskey, stories, dreams and all that open space with ranchers, hippies, soldiers and ski bums, and a host of other travelers.

Those events, and those people, continue to teach me life lessons—little mantras and big ideas that sometimes keep me up at night. Like the visceral relief of having my own memories to share of spring-piste tans, late-snow couloirs and some half a dozen angry moose.

Moving to Jackson eventually led to me traveling across the oceans to South America, Japan and Europe. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of being a stranger in a strange country rather than shrinking down to the two-dimensional cutout of another angry local, sitting on my duplex porch, in Sunday Broncos traffic or on the first-day chair at A-Basin, bitching about how much better Colorado was before “all the newcomers ruined it.”

Say Yes

Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Only John Wooden, Yogi Berra and Seinfeld can compare to Mark Twain when it comes to quotable quotes of grassroots wisdom. Although I might disagree, at least for a moment, with the global implications of our current national wisdom. America right now is a country looking for itself on the Internet. We stare at our phones to speak with our friends, vow to hate strangers in newspaper comment sections and on Facebook, and personalize every random nuance of sports and politics. Every morning, we seem to think some new piece of online information might save or doom us, then immediately move on to something else.

What we really need to do right now is go out on a trip to rediscover ourselves. You know, the kind of open-ended adventure full of possibilities, unknowns and even a little danger that might entice Hunter S. Thompson or Jack Kerouac to jump in the car, chip in for the beer and the gas, and offer up a place to crash for the night.

It’s time for all of us to take a long look at each other, and ourselves, and to be reminded that the adventure is us. You’re not going to get that on the couch, or your phone. You have to hit the road to find it. The next time someone asks if you want to go on a road trip, just say yes!

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