Travels with Charley

This summer, we were supposed to take a road trip to Wyoming to visit friends. The trip had to be cancelled for various reasons, and I admit that I’m still not over it.

I’m reading “Travels with Charley,” John Steinbeck’s account of his cross country trip in a truck and cab/camper with his poodle Charley. I’ve never read the book before (which is odd, because I’ve read almost everything else he’s written) but it’s got me yearning again to pack the car with the bare necessities, including the dog, and hit the road to … somewhere. The friends we were supposed to visit in Wyoming are now in South Carolina, and that’s a drive I can go by myself. So there’s the possibility of that.

And yet I ask myself how much I do right in my own backyard. I haven’t been to Letchworth since I was a child. I haven’t pitched a tent and slept outside in two years, and even then only at the amusement park during Kingdom Bound. I went to the art gallery two years ago for the first time since high school, spent four hours looking at art and loved it, but haven’t been back. I love the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West, and yet a larger one is down the thruway in Niagara Falls – in fact, they just built one right in Rochester. I haven’t visited the zoo, or sat for hours watching my favorite river otters, in years.

I’m writing a column for ByLine Magazine about where I get my story ideas, and as I listed places – do something different, so the same thing differently, walk the mail route with your mailman, spend a day shadowing a high school freshman, for example – I realize I’m good at giving advice but not so great at taking it myself. Doing something once doesn’t mean you never do it again, and yearning for the open road when you rarely travel past your own block is like wishing for the moon while sitting on a star.

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