On April 11, 2003 I quit a job for the second time in less than three years. The reasons why I couldn’t seem to stay satisfied working at a law firm were several, simultaneously complex and banal, and probably not even understood by me at the time. All I knew was that I was no longer happy or productive where I was, a change was needed, and I had a month until law firm number three expected to see me. In such circumstances, a road trip is a moral imperative.
I was leaving early on Monday morning, April 14th. The plan was vaguely laid out – St. Louis; Kansas City; The Rockies; Arches National Park; Route 50 through Nevada; the back side of the Sierras and Death Valley; Las Vegas; and on to my friend Todd’s place in Los Angeles. My wife Carleen would fly out to join me when I got to L.A., and for a week and a day things would more or less resemble a proper vacation. The two of us would spend a few days in Los Angeles, drive up the Pacific Coast Highway doing the scenery and B&B thing, and then we’d spend four days in the Bay Area. She’d fly home from there, at which point I’d decide the best way to go home over the next couple of weeks.
I suppose a road trip should be more spontaneous than all of that, but I don’t apologize for such meticulous planning. Indeed, obsessing on the details of my trip may have been what saved me during those rather dreadful days of early-2003 as I was getting up my nerve to quit the job (before I was inevitably pushed). Between Carleen’s recent health scare (optic neuritis and its implied threat of Multiple Sclerosis which, thankfully, didn’t come to pass) and my ongoing crash-and- burn at the latest law firm, I felt lost that winter and early spring. The road on which I had been traveling washed away. If fate was intent on knocking me off course, I’d be damned if I didn’t have a map of the detour.
So that’s how it all stacked up as I woke up before dawn and got behind the wheel of my Honda Accord (a/k/a The Silver Fox). I had a month of time, and, for the first time in my adult life, nothing to really occupy it save the conviction that if I didn’t get on the road I would lose my friggin’ mind.