Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On the Road Again

In the past four days, I've driven 1077 miles in 5 states. A couple things I noticed:

~Kentucky has very few billboards (especially compared to my home state of Missouri). I enjoy driving so much more when the scenery is rolling hills and those great white horse farm fences as opposed to signs offering adult video superstores juxtaposed with warning signs about how I'm going to hell. I mean, really, how do they know that about me for sure?

~Kentucky also had two official state signs that intrigued me. One was a plaque stating that on May 14, 1988 a fatal bus crash occurred on this site (I drove particularly carefully for the next few miles). But, it had my writer's mind going--what were the specifics? How do the families feel when/if they drive over this road? The other sign made me chuckle. It stated that the next exit would take me to Big Bone Lick State Park. That'd be fun to use in a book someday, I thought. If I wrote erotica (I don't).

~I sing great in the car. I figure it must be the acoustics.

My trip took me to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest which was a blast. I got to hang out with writer friends I've met at other conferences and also met some other great new writers. We were the ones hanging at the bar. I then extended my trip to go up to Columbus, Ohio to visit my son who's a student at THE Ohio State University. I stayed at his apartment (student housing has not changed since you were a student, no matter when that was). I took him to the grocery store and out to dinner. We had a blast; it's so incredibly satisfying to see your child turning into a great adult. (I also felt very middle-aged as we walked around the campus. It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm weekend afternoon and there were kids playing volleyball and laying out on blankets everywhere supposedly studying. The girls wore bikins and the boys wore shorts with no shirts--another aspect of college life that hasn't changed. Oh, and I got hit in the head by a boy throwing a frisbee. He apologized. My son laughed and suggested that perhaps he was trying to "hit on me" after, of course, he made sure I was uninjured.)

Given how many miles I knew I'd be driving, and how many books I'll never get around to reading, it would have been smart of me to rent some books on tape (if nothing else to distract me from the road signs). Alas, I'm not that organized. But, I actually like planning out my travel CDs. This time I was heavy on Springsteen (but that's standard for me). I also threw in some old Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jackson Browne, and Billy Joel. They tell some good stories, those folks. And that's what it's all about--whether it's those of us who publish our stories in books or the songwriters who put out music. The turn of phrase, The metaphor. What's included and what's left out and up to the reader's/listener's imagination. That's where the art comes in, where the craftsperson really shines.

And of course, when I'm rolling down the highway, signing "Thunder Road" along with Bruce, I feel 17 again. There's something to be said for that as well.

Happy Trails . . .


The Writers' Group said...

I love road trips, love Bruce (especially Pink Cadillac and Born to Run), but the best part of road trips is finding NPR along the way. It's interesting to see what shows each part of the country chooses to air. Oh, and your son sounds wonderful. I remember how good it felt when my own parents visited and would take care of all my meals, stock my fridge. You're a good mother.


Larramie said...

Judy, you've been missed, but it's good to know you were enjoying the road as well as stops along the way. Your timing was perfect for a weekend at OSU since the weekend before was downright frigid...NOT bikini weather!

And billboards still exist? They used to be my favorite reading material. ;o)

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

It was good to see you again, Judy, and I wonder if you noticed that we two slightly more mature ladies outdrank the younger ones? I noticed that. And felt a little bit proud.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Amy, it is fun to seek out the local stations, isn't it? You definitely catch the flavor of the locale. And thanks for the kind words about my son and my mothering--he is a great kid; I like to say I had "good clay" when it comes to his brother and him.

Larramie, it's good to be back among all of you--no more road trips for awhile, though, so I'll try to post more regularly.

Mel, we did outdrink the young 'uns didn't we? And I felt fine both mornings. I'd hate to think it's because I have more body mass to absorb the toxins. No matter what, it sure was fun.

Therese said...

I love road trips.

What is it about the South and those religion billboards? I'll be driving west on I-40 and see one, and I'll think, "They've got it all wrong; I'm going to Nashville.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Therese, thanks for the laugh! It reminded me of when my younger son was in first grade--we were running errands and he saw a road sign (on a one-way street) that said WRONG WAY. He was quiet then said, "How do they know where we're going?"

Jacqueline said...

I wish I could be on the road, anywhere really,I love singing in the car, but my kids are getting to old and they tell me I have a bad voice. I guess I'll have to stick to the shower. I did drive through Kentucky once to the lake there. But I'm a California girl at heart, point me west and let me smell the ocean breeze. At the moment I'm stuck here in good old STL, waiting for rain. So I will keep my mind focused on road trips and lakes and the ocean.


Kristin Ohlson said...

Oh-- we would be so good on a road trip together. I love driving to Bruce & Thunder Road. Actually, I have a new/old Bruce roadtrip favorite-- think it's called Racing in the Streets. And I love driving through Kentucky and always crack up at the Big Bone Lick sign-- but have never had time to pull off the road and inspect.