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Runnin' Down the Road
Posting Date: 09/23/2011

By Barbara Ellestad

Runnin' down the road, tryin' to loosen my load

We had just entered what I call "No Man's Land" on I-70 in eastern Utah, when the song popped up on the car stereo. The Eagles hit "Take It Easy" seemed a pretty appropriate song for the state of mind I found myself in.

August wasn't a good month for me personally and I was glad to see the last of it melt away in the hot desert sun.

My husband and I were on our way to my family reunion on the western slopes of the Colorado Rockies over Labor Day weekend. After taking time away from the job to attend my brother's funeral in Ohio, I had thought to pass up this trip. Changing my mind and packing our golf clubs in the trunk was turning out to be a good decision.

There's something soothing to my soul about running down the road and letting my thoughts and emotions find their own path out of the thicket.

Back in the Spring brother Gary and I had talked about him coming out to Mesquite for a few days. We were going to jump in the car and run down this very road to visit the very people I was now heading towards. He had never been to Nevada, Utah, or Colorado. I always told him he would love it. He'd be as fascinated by the rock formations and layers of color as I always am. He would be intrigued about the history of the area and how it all got started.

What seems like a hundred years ago, I flew my mom down to Wichita Falls, Texas, where I was finishing a six-month Air Force technical training course. She and I drove from there over to Jacksonville, Florida, where Gary was stationed in the Navy. We were both starting two weeks of military leave back in our Ohio home town.

After the three of us spent the day at the newly-opened Disney World, (that's how long ago the trip was) we hopped in the car at eleven o'clock at night. Mother was wedged in the back seat amongst all our luggage. Gary and I kept promising her we would stop at a hotel for the night.

Somehow, there was

a shared instinct between Big Brother and I that we were only pacifying her with that promise. Without a word between us, we both knew we were too excited to get back home to stop anywhere. Without a word, we agreed to drive the road straight through. Around six o'clock in the morning Mother quit asking when we were going to find a hotel. She finally got our message.

A couple years later, Gary and I once again found ourselves runnin' down the road from Florida to Ohio. On that excursion we didn't even stop the car to change drivers. From the passenger's seat I moved over and sat on his lap while he slid out from under me. All the while we somehow managed to keep the speedometer pegged at 70 mph. We were young and dumb back then.

Later on that trip I glanced at the fuel gauge and noticed it was quite close to the big E. I asked him a couple times if we should stop for gas but he assured me we were in good shape. Big Brothers know those things I guess. Somewhere around the middle of Kentucky the car slowed down on its own, finally stopping 10 miles past the last exit. He retraced those miles with his thumb out. An hour later with some gas in the tank, we were back up and runnin'.

Gary and I took a couple more road trips in our younger years but then growing up got in the way. Marriages, families, and careers consumed our travels through life and we never got to run down the highway together again.

As I watched the mile markers zip by on this trip and gazed out at the beautiful desert landscape, a tear slipped down my cheek. I thought about all the great road trips Gary and I will never be able to share now that he's gone. I longed for one more mile with him in the car so I could show him all that he missed. Just one more mile with him chattering about the scenery. Just one more mile of him asking a million questions.

Now he sees the hulking shaved rocks of the red canyons through the eyes of God with my youngest brother as his traveling companion.

I guess that's as good a road trip as you can get.


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