Carolyn Burns Bass

Standing before the magnificent Powerscourt gardens in Ireland.

As a child growing up in California’s Inland Valley, we could get just about anywhere by freeway in an hour (or so). My stepfather kept our old cars running in tip-top shape for weekending away from the sidewalks of suburbia. When you don’t have the money for tickets to Disneyland or even nosebleed seats at Angel Stadium, you get creative. Back then, gas was cheap.

We took rides in the car just to see what was out there. Sometimes we’d jump into our old International Scout, pass the Sunkist factory that emitted the scent of oranges year around, we’d slip onto I-10, chug over Kellogg Hill and wind up at The Hat, the original sandwich stand in Alhambra where they made the best pastrami dips. My sisters and I would share a Pastrami Dip sandwich and dare each other to eat the hot yellow peppers. My mouth would burn and eyes water from those hot pepper dares all the way home. Another time my little sister asked my stepfather if freeways went on forever. His response was to load us into the car and head onto Route 91 toward the Beach Cities, merging south on the 55 and following it to the freeway’s end at the beginning of Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa. The lesson on that trip was that freeways don’t go on forever, but good memories do.

From hair-raising rides up the switchbacks on Mt. Baldy, to picnicking at San Jacinto’s Hurkey Creek, to four-wheeling in the old Scout through Tahquitz Canyon and afoot up the creek to the falls, our weekends were full of adventure. Adventures like these laid the foundation for my love of travel.

I’ve plodded along on elephants in Thailand, stalked kangaroos in Australia, been serenaded beachside in Puerto Vallarta, pushed a baby carriage through Hiroshima, shopped for bargains in Korea, wandered the misty moors of Wuthering Heights Yorkshire, watched bald eagles soaring over Chesapeake Bay, and have seen places the little girl in me only dreamed about those many freeway trips past. I’ve touched ancient castle walls and I’ve slept in brand new hotel room beds. I am a lover of history and still a proponent of sustainable growth. Freeways are more than a means of travel to me, they’re a metaphor of my life.

Several months ago my husband and I moved from California to North Carolina to be near his elderly parents and my sister whose husband moved her out here with his job 12 years ago. While I still have pangs for the California freeway life, I’m adjusting to the meandering two-lane byways here in the South. It’s not about speed here, it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey. And that’s what life is all about.

You can read some of my published travel stories here.