Zach Bowman has sold everything he owns, slapped a camper to his high-mileage 2003 Dodge Ram and has taken his family on the road. His clan numbers three, counting wife, Beth, and their infant daughter. They are touring America, working and discovering, and are sending The Drive periodic dispatches from the road.
I bought a watch. A gift to myself for my 31st birthday. Nothing wild or expensive: something that can sit on my wrist and endure the absentminded abuse of my limbs. Hiking and wrenching, swimming and fatherhood. A straightforward device for measuring time that I can hand to my daughter in 20 years with a note that says,
“Don’t waste it.”
This trip has dropped us into the weeds of days, so close to each minute and hour that we can hardly see the passing. We have no perch from which to view the week; Friday is no more cause for celebration than Tuesday, Monday morning no different from the Sunday that preceded it. It’s been less than a month, but we no longer think in terms of rush hour or the church crowd. We simply are where we are. When we're there, there we are.
Kiddo has been our clock. Our metronome, and neither daylight savings nor the Central Time Zone can alter how she ticks. She dictates our days and holds us to the shaky routine we’ve established. We’re up an hour before dawn, Beth pulls her into bed with us and we spend the next thirty minutes hoping our child will be sweet enough to fall back asleep.
She doesn’t. She spends the time galloping all over the bed and trying to fling herself from the top bunk.
There’s breakfast. Then dishes. Break camp. Then driving. Kiddo naps. A leisurely stop somewhere for sandwiches and trail mix and toddler food, enjoyed by slow rivers and still bayous. We eat within eyeshot of alligators, or in the shadow of a Civil War lighthouse. We get the wiggles out and let her squawk at the thrashers perched on the long, bent limb of a live oak. She scrambles around in the sand with the ants and the stones.
More driving. More napping. We make camp, then give ourselves a couple of hours for exploring. Wandering beside clear freshwater springs or barking at a wake of vultures, hunched wings clutched around their bodies, clustered atop the only dead tree in a living forest.
Dinner followed by more dishes. Bath time into bed time. Kiddo gets the camper to herself while her mother and I sit outside and watch the moon swell in the sky. It’s a clock of its own, and it was new when we started. I check its progress each night and measure it against the growing of our daughter’s red curls.
It’s almost halfway through its cycle now. I’ll only watch it fill its lungs and empty them again 12 times on this trip. A year is long in the saying but so short in the living.
So I bought a watch. Something to measure the minutes. A way to see the seconds. It was a gift to myself.
- RELATEDHitting the Road Means Leaving People BehindOur writer-at-large is hitting the road and searching for answers. But first, he has to answer everyone’s question: Why?READ NOW
- RELATEDWith My Father In the Passenger SeatWe’ve always been comfortable with a windshield in front of us.READ NOW
- RELATEDHonda XR400R, Escape Pod and AlbatrossThat bastard bike.READ NOW
- RELATEDInevitable VirginiaThe first lesson for any serious trip: How to abandon your plans.READ NOW
- RELATEDOn the Road. At Last.Zach Bowman and family button up their lives in Knoxville and set off at last.READ NOW