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Well, hello and happy autumn!

Every part of me is ready to dive into this new season, and the past weekend – spent in Lake Tahoe, where the leaves are changing and the temperatures got down into the 30s at night – only furthered that desire along.

Yet rather than riff on all the things I love about these coming months, let me just acknowledge how much one final road trip of summer reminded me of all the things I adore about the season we’re leaving behind. It was a quick trip, out on Friday night and back on Sunday, yet it gave me enough of a taste of adventure to feel surprisingly renewed.

I’m a long-time lover of road trips. When I’m sad, they make me feel better; when I’m stuck, they help me remember the width of the world. I’ve driven across the United States no fewer than seven times; have ventured up and down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida; have sat in the front seat of a truck barreling down Alaskan winter roads; have driven through the western states and all up and down California.

And whether by myself or with others, there’s something about seeing that road ahead of me, the destination still tucked away in the future, that feels like freedom discovered in real time. I find myself wrapped in the imagination of what might have happened here or there, what these strangers’ lives might be like, what it would be to live in a town that I know only through the car’s windows. I like to stop, find the places I wouldn’t normally know, perhaps take home a treasure found in a thrift store or a cardboard coaster from a roadside restaurant as a souvenir.

I like the snacks and the sounds of a road trip, the music and – now, too – the podcasts. I like the conversations, the curling-up in the passenger seat, the feel of sunglasses defeating the light as I look straight ahead. The roads here are too curvy for me to even think about tucking into a book, so the hours on any road trip where I’m the passenger are spent watching the world out the window, flying by and occasionally trying to capture what I see by raising my camera to the glass.

Of course this can happen in any season, yet there is something undeniable about summer’s fluid boundaries that make a road trip seem almost like an obligation. So it felt particularly fitting to hop in the car on the last weekend of the season, soundtrack cued and puppies cozied up in the back. I sat in the passenger seat and watched the world fly by, amazed by the transience of it all, the poignant understanding that I will likely never meet the people we passed or those that neighbored our car for a brief while.

I watched the world and wondered about it all, about the homes and the farms, the beat-up cars left in front yards and the rows and rows of neatly-trimmed fruit trees. I marveled at the beauty of the earth, the changing landscape over the course of just a few hours, the lives we bumped up against and then left behind, just as they left us on the way to their destinations.

This quick road trip, like summer, is over, and already there’s much I’ve forgotten about both. Yet the joy that comes with adventure and freedom? That’s something I’m fortunate enough to feel in my bones, the muscle memories of long-ago seasons and distant journeys sewn into my very being. I will never know all of the places I have passed, but they have influenced who I am in a way that – no matter the time of year – I hold close to my traveler’s heart.

 

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