The Road Trips That Heal

By Jennifer Dryden


The roads with the little, repetitive bumps in them, that rumble the car as you ride over them, were always the one thing to break the silence in the car as a preschooler. In our family Blazer, we’d ride up to a stop sign, skid across those break bumps and on point, all four of us laughed. Then Dad would say, “Oh Jennifer! Pew!” and blame the bump sound on a fart. Then he’d wave in the air to get the fake smell out of his nose. Sometimes he’d blame Chad or sometimes me, and we’d gut laugh.

That was a part of my preschool childhood.

Every time we road next to a skunk on our family road trips, we’d sing “Skunk in the Barnyard, pee-you, somebody ate it, that’s you!” We got to be silly for a little while. Sometimes we would play I-Spy, but as a child, I was horrible at it or would pick something on the side of the road and I’d have to tell my mom “hurry, hurry!” because we’d pass it in a couple seconds. Every. Time. My mom was smart enough to pick something inside the car.

That was a part of my elementary childhood.

When we reached a single-parent home, my mom and I would venture to the Quad Cities for family get-togethers. Since our first trip east, healing her heart from my father’s and my heart from an unimportant-in-perspective boy, we’d blare Jo Dee Messina’s “Bye Bye” and Shania Twain’s “That don’t impress me much”. We’d sing Dixie Chicks – old school, of course. We’d mend our hearts and brush off flack from other people with the words in those country songs. We’d almost yell the lyrics as the sun set behind us, settling the hurt in our chests and raising the endorphins to build ourselves to fight another day. We were on the path to happiness, hand-in-hand and finding ourselves one mile at a time.

That was a part of my teenage years.

After journalism school, I drove eleven hours by myself to Cincinnati to move in with my cousin and her family to start a new life in a major city. I was done with Iowa. I sang a lot. I drove in silence a lot. I stopped often to write down words that were too good to keep locked in my brain or to have fly out the window going 65 only to become roadkill. I pulled over to the side of the road a couple times to type something out on my phone. I even would set the phone on video and record my words, as not to lose the tone. I’ve written a thousand words on these highways and interstates.

That was a part of my young adulthood.

I was taught that the road means lots of things. The open road is an escape from the marathon life requires during the school year. It’s a way to find yourself away from who/what reminds you of your worst qualities. It’s where you get to think without interruptions. It’s where you heal. All it requires of your body is situational awareness, the ability to drive a car, and to be open for whatever you conclude.

I’m ready for an epic road trip. This year has been the busiest, the most impacting, and basically, the year I found myself. It’s amazing that a woman who looks so put together struggles. This year has made me grow into someone I love, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t lost friends. I’ve started sifting through, deciding what’s important to me, what will make me the happiest, and what I can and can’t live without.

The road heals. I need to heal. I need to think. I need to conclude how I feel about these friends I’ve lost, the family I probably will lose, and if that means anything to me.

Someone told me recently, “You don’t need anyone’s approval.” Damn, I wish my heart felt that way. There are certain people I need in my life. I don’t have time to break again. So I hold in a lot of my truth and say I’ll figure it out later.

Well, it’s later. It’s time to escape to the open road with a best friend who knows me wholly. It’s time to work through the waves in my heart. It’s time to conclude what I want.

My journalism life has taught me every person has something to teach me. Everyone has a story. I plan to venture to diners, restaurants, places to talk to strangers over a meal or a drink. I want to meet people and ask them what life has taught them, what their core beliefs are, and if they are happy. I hope to find a little bit of myself in them. I hope to write their truths and help others understand the people around us. I want to think, talk, and write my way across the United States. When I get back, I want to have a better perspective and grasp on what my life is.

Bring it on!

Des Moines to Nashville to Cincinnati to Sandusky to Chicago to Des Moines
+ places in between.


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