I’m on board on my flight to Chicago for my 50th reunion with the Class of 1969. All those years flying United to appearances all over the country has paid off. After logging a million miles, I became Premier Gold for the rest of my life. There are some perks. No bag fee, Premier lines everywhere, first on the plane, seating in the economy plus section. I am a loyal branded customer. United and Starbucks — I’m a sucker for all the perks. I like knowing what to expect.
This weekend, however, I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been to a 50-year college reunion. This will be my first, and last — obviously. But I expect it will be my last reunion as well. I figure anything over 50 years, I’m not sure I want to see how old everybody else has gotten to be. I can handle myself in the mirror; not sure I will be able to handle seeing everybody else at 80+ years.
I imagine we’re in Arizona air space by now. I’ve made this trip numerous times on the ground. My favorite is Route 66 through Arizona and New Mexico. Nothing like it. I did that trip a few years ago with my son Chandler and was surprised how much of historic 66 was still in use. It’s like driving through a movie set for Cars or American Graffiti.
In my college days, we made this drive non-stop between Chicago and Los Angeles often. Our record was 36 hours one way. We utilized automobile “Driveway” companies who would actually pay your gas for you to drive someone’s car and deliver it to a destination where you wanted to go. They were almost always pretty nice cars, too. One time we drove a Cadillac Eldorado to L.A.. The only deal was, we couldn’t use the trunk, and the spare tire was in the back seat. This also was a car we delivered to LasVegas and picked up another for the rest of the way. We joked about what we were carrying in the trunk. A million dollars in cash or a dead body were the top prospects.
This trip worked best with at least three people — one to drive, one to ride shotgun and one to sleep. It went pretty well for Christmas break because with two weeks off, there was time to recover from the trip out, but once we tried it at spring break and it was a disaster. There were only three days in L.A. before we had to start driving back. I remember somewhere in Kansas on that return trip, we, not the car, ran out of gas, and had to pull over and all sleep. It’s hard to beat the free round trip; but it’s also hard to beat the 72 hours it takes to make it.
When I’ve got such a good idea of what it takes to go this on the ground, I can’t help but think I’m cheating a little to fly — turning 36 hours into 4. I also think sometimes we shrink-wrap and process our Christian experiences in an attempt to get our lives to resolve to some cultural norm, instead of slogging it out in the reality of the long drive, fighting heavy eyed-lids, dips and valleys, and sharing backseats with spare tires. Give me the Route 66 version any day.