You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy™
The teenager with the long hair and optimistic smile, turned 20 last week.
It seems like just yesterday that I was taking him to soccer practice and buying him cleats.
Now he’s in college, a sophomore, no longer a teenager.
Where does the time go?
The tick tock of the clock is so silent, so monotonous, so chronically unassuming, that life just ticks by.
And just when you look up from your bowl of luke warm banality, you have suddenly circled the sun 20 times.
You step back and scratch your head.
“when did that happen?,” you say to yourself.
so the teenager, now a young adult, informs me that he has grand plans for Xmas Break.
“I’m going to California,” the 20-year-old says.
“You flying?,” I ask, wondering how much this is going to cost me.
“Nope. Driving,” he says concisely.
I roll my eyes.
OK, I think to myself.
I look at the map. Knoxville, Tennessee at the base of the Smoky Mountains to Carmel, California, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, is 2,400 miles away.
The boy’s last exam is Tuesday morning.
“We’re on the road,” he says.
“What’s your plan?,” I ask.
“Heading to Dallas,” he says.
I’ve been driving since I’m 16 years old.
I know a long drive when I hear a long drive. And Dallas, 845 miles by car, is a long drive.
Even if he averages 100 mph, it will still take almost 9 hours.
“Dallas, huh? OK. Keep me posted,” I say.
In the true spirit of the road, Little Magellan plans to wing it. They are heading south to avoid winter’s harsh stare. They plan to eat when they’re hungry, to pull over when they’re tired and just sleep in the car.
“Sleep in the car?” I ask.
It’s good to be 20, I think to myself. Your skin is tougher. Your bones less brittle. Your constitution fortified and resilient.
To avoid going to jail in Mexico, I once slept in an empty tire rack under a Pemex Gasoline Tanker parked in a Tijuana gas station.
I was 20. I was indestructible. I didn’t care.
Nor does he.
But I’m now the grand old man. My bones do ache, and my life experiences do tell me more than I once knew.
I’m concerned about a lot of things. A blown tire. Engine trouble. A renegade trucker. A deluge of rain. A tidal wave of snow. A maniacal rest stop killer.
As I lay my head on my pillow Tuesday night, I text the boy.
He’s been on the road 12 hours.
“Where in the world are you?”
A few minutes later he responds, “Dallas.”
I smile. Dallas is a haul and a half I think to myself.
“That’s fantastic,” I text back.
“I thought you’d like that,” he responds with a smiley face emoji.
Wednesday morning I wake up. He’s been on the road for not quite 24 hours.
I am rested, concerned.
Is he alive?
Where is he?
I text him. “Morning sunshine. Where are you?”
I jump in the shower and get ready for the day.
As I dry my hair, my phone chirps.
There’s a picture of a flat road that stretches on for infinity.
“West Texas,” he responds.
By Wednesday night, I turn off Jimmy Falon and the tonight show. I push my toes into the clean sheets and feel the struggles of the day melt away.
I think about the soft pillow and the warm comforter.
I am glad to be in a cozy bed. I wonder how sleeping in the front seat of a VW Jetta feels.
I wonder where they are eating, what they are eating?
Bathing? Fat Chance.
I laugh to myself.
“Where are you now?,” I text.
I look at the clock and it’s 11 pm cst. He’s been on the road for 36 hours.
He texts me 4 pictures.
It’s a sunset sizzling in a bright blue sky. The clouds float like cotton puffs toward the horizon. They are strangely aligned, like a divining rod, pointing West, guiding him to the Pacific.
“Just watched the most amazing sunset in Albuquerque,” he writes.
By Thursday morning, now a full 48 hours of driving, I get another text.
“In Vegas. Headed to Carmel, California.”
According to Siri, Vegas is 1,977 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee.
I shake my head. WOW! is all I can think.
I don’t like the 4 hour flight to Vegas. He’s been driving for 48 hours.
I do the math. The teen who has just turned 20, is averaging 988 miles per day. That’s the kind of pace the racers in the film; Gumball Rally set as they dashed from one end of the country to the other.
“What’s a behind me, is not important,” The Italian Race car driver said snapping his rear view mirror off the windshield and throwing it on the road.
The boy told me that he was going to be in Carmel, California by Thursday, 2 days after they launched. I laughed. I scoffed. I doubted. But now?
I know that this kid with the long hair and big heart is more than just a dreamer. He is more than just a mad scientist who wants to learn about agriculture and help people and animals on other continents.
He is a determined, dedicated young man.
Like a new world Magellan, he has vision, and the ability to make good on that celestial route.
“I’m going to California,” he told me. “We’re going to get there on our 2nd day of driving.”
I remember silently giggling. I remember my initial doubts. I remember my initial fears.
I am proud. I am a believer.
My little soccer kid, with the bowl haircut, is all grown up. He is a young man, a doer, a believer, a dreamer, and a tactician.
He set a course for the other side of the country and he is making good on that plan.
“How was Arizona?,” I ask.
“Dark,” he responds.
He’s only 20. There’s plenty of time to see all the sites he drove through while the moon was his guiding force.
Way to go little Magellan.
Way to go you asphalt animal. Way to go!