Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Roads Not Traveled

During the last 32 years my work provided one of the all-time great benefits. I was able to travel extensively throughout the United States and abroad, often with my wife, sometimes even with our children. Because of my work we’ve visited England, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan, Spain and Gibraltar. My travels transported me to all but five states—Alaska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Through these trips I managed to see some of the wonders of the world and America. One Sunday before a new Montgomery Ward store opened in Colorado Springs, I drove up nearby Pikes Peak. I observed alligators and crocodiles in the Everglades, walked the Alamo (much smaller in real life than in the movies), hiked among the redwoods of Muir Woods outside San Francisco and down part of the path of the Grand Canyon, visited the Emperor’s Palace Gardens in Tokyo, the spas of Carlsbad inside the Czech Republic, The Tower of London, The Berlin Wall and East Berlin, to name just a few.

I don’t want to give the impression that these business trips were all play. Indeed, I regret not doing more. For instance, a business friend of mine took advantage of his trips to watch a baseball game in almost all of the major league ballparks. I should have done that. And I didn’t visit some of the great museums in cities like Chicago, or Los Angeles.

But the most disappointing aspect of my travels only recently came to light with the airing of The National Parks, America’s Best Idea, a PBS documentary. Hour after hour Gilda and I sat spellbound by not only the natural beauty of our land but also by the stories of individuals, private citizens and civil servants, who exulted in and shaped our national treasures. I’ve been to California at least 30 times, but never visited Yosemite. Not tragic, but truly disappointing.

Our children, Dan and Ellie, have traveled cross country by car. The only family picture in our bedroom is a black and white print of them sitting atop a crest overlooking a mountain range in Zion National Park in southwest Utah.

I never fully appreciated Dan’s passion for the parks, his desire to get married under one of the arches in Utah’s Arches National Park. He settled for getting married overlooking the Hudson River, but after seeing the Ken Burns documentary, I understand, a little better, his rapture with the parks.

When Gilda eventually retires, we’ll be taking a long trip out West, discovering all that we missed along roads not traveled in states we think we already experienced.