On the eve of my departure on yet another cross-country adventure, and while musing over my decision to make the trip without a set plan or map, I am reminded of another shorter trip where a spur-of-the-moment decision and a last-minute left turn set the course of my life for the next 23 years.
I was still young, I think Jimmy was still in office (see Peacemaking with Jimmy), I was driving the same car I’d made the trip home from Maine in, and oddly, I had just stopped to visit the same pretty redhead I’d come home to Oregon to reunite with earlier…and she still wasn’t waiting.
In that case too, I was just headed in a general direction with a fairly clear destination in mind, but in no particular rush to get there. I was on a highway winding through a dense pine forest when I passed a sign bearing the name of a small town I had only visited once in my short life and which was the home of a number of relatives I hadn’t seen in some time. One word on a sign in the middle of nowhere and I might just as well have said, “Beam me north, Scotty!” I stopped in Paisley for a quick visit and ended up spending the night. The next day I had Easter dinner with my cousin’s family and spent another night with them. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d been living there and working for 6 months. In that time, I met my first wife who had already applied for several positions in Alaska. Before the year was out, she got a job offer in S.E. Alaska and north we went….where I stayed for the better part of 22 years.
I dawdled a bit too long over the above paragraphs and had to get on the road before finishing the post. It’s fitting however, that I complete this now by adding the experiences of my first day on the road.
I carried out my plan of traveling spontaneously for most of the day, shooting under the first freeway I came to and heading due west on a state highway, then turning onto a lessor road to angle a bit more northward. As I made that very first turn (this one a right-hander), there on a sign staring me in the face was the same name I mentioned above…”Paisley.” Wow! I’m still not sure what to make of that! I’d been a bit sad about leaving Florida again, but consoled myself by saying I would be back someday. Is it possible though that this trip is leading to another major life change that will keep me away for 20 years? Of course it is! Did that turn being a right-hander instead of a left mean that I’m going back somehow rather than forward? I doubt it since we can never go back except in our minds, but it is interesting in light of the fact I am returning to the region I was raised in. There is no way we can know for sure what’s around the corner for us, but that’s ok! We’re in good hands..and if we’re watchful, there are plenty of signs for us to follow. There’s really nothing to do but get out of the way, buckle up and enjoy the ride!…and maybe take a few snapshots along the way.