– Dr. Seuss
Those who teach a child to see the world teach her to love it. Those who teach a child to love the world teach her to save it.
I spent last week in Minnesota visiting family, which to a very large extent entailed hanging out with my three nieces and brand new nephew. These moments intrigue me: past, present, and future collide–where we’ve come from, who we are, and where we’re going from here. The youngest, little Stephen Aubrey, named for my father and maternal grandfather, brings this point home. As he carries his ancestors’ names into the future, he bears in himself a legacy, the stories of Woodses and Dursts gone by, and he becomes an extension of who they were, and who we are.
What does this have to do with travel? Everything.
Some might say I’m a man obsessed. I am an apostle of the back road, a byway evangelist. I see all we have given up, what we’re missing, every time I drive through a dilapidated small town vanishing into nowhere. And I never shut up about it. Why? Because I want the four coolest little people in the world (and all the rest of them, too) to see what I see, what so many seem to have forgotten:
There’s a world out there, and it’s begging for attention.
So, whether I’m driving Miss Daisy…
…or just getting to know the new kid on the block…
…I feel the weight of my responsibility, to care for the world I want them to love so that they, in their turn, pass it on to their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.
My wish for them is that they may one day know the thrill of the open road. No self-operating vehicles for them, I pray; I hope that they, too, attach themselves to their trusty steeds, Silver to their “Hi-yo,” that they know the joys of gleaming a curve, the exact combination of acceleration and brake that’ll let them fly. That they can find somewhere to relax and chow down on a roadside burger without “Mc” attached to its dopey name, or a piece of pie that didn’t spend the previous night in a walk-in freezer. Or cruise through a community that never saw a traffic light in its life.
But, above all, I hope we don’t destroy it before they get a chance to know what we’ve known; that we fight the urge to forgo the experience of travel in favor of greater speed and convenience, of abandoning quality for quantity. That there is some stretch of highway left un-widened, un-graded, some towns left un-strip malled. Somewhere they can spot a non-federally protected herd of deer, or a pasture without a profusion of pumpjacks sticking out of it.
I care because their future, the way they will know this world, is in our hands. We can move forward without jettisoning the past; we can make progress even while stopping to smell the roses along the way. Time marches on; we’ll get where we’re going no matter the speed at which we travel. So, the question becomes: what will we do in the meantime? What will we see? What will we leave for them to see?
Pass the bug. Pass it now.