Road Trip



A few weeks ago my eldest niece, Lauren, bought a new car when she was home for a week’s vacation with all of us at the lake. I was so happy for her. I remember my own father taking great delight in watching one of his kids drive up in a new car, and to this day when I smell that new car smell it takes me right back in time, and I swear to you I can see the glimmer in his eye. Dad loved new cars. Lauren bought a 2014 Nissan Rogue. Nice car. Deep sliver. Black interior. A nice stereo system complete with XM! A zippy little four speed which I kid you not can go from 0-80 in a very little amount of time! Just saying … Lauren’s Pop-pop would be proud. 

So, a few weeks back Lauren mentions she bought this new car and was going to drive it home to Wyoming where she lives, works full time and goes to school full time. The control-freak pseudo-wannabe-father in me went berserk inside my head thinking “There’s no way on God’s green earth she is driving that car half way across our country alone. Nope. Not happening. Not now. Not ever.” So I heard this voice outside of my body say, in the calmest of voices, “I can drive the car to Wyoming with you.”  “WHAT?!” the voice inside my head said. In a nanosecond Lauren turned to me and said, “Okay.”  Done. That was it. Done. In a few week’s time I would be driving across the states from DC to Wyoming, a distance of 1680 miles, taking 28 hours and 32 minutes. All I could think to say at that time was, “Advil.”  I’ll need Advil and lots of it. 

We left last Thursday and I flew home Sunday. Here’s what I learned along the way: 

1. Bring a Map or GPS … 


Like much of life, GPS helps …. a lot. Right? Where would we be today without our iPhones and instantaneous directions at our fingertips? Lauren has an iPhone. So do I. We both punched in Lauren’s Wyoming address and both of our phones routed us in the exact same direction. No surprise there. But what was a surprise and sorta spooky to me, was how weirdly accurate the iPhone system is. It knew everything. Where busy sections of traffic were located. What sections of construction to avoid. Detours. The GPS system was a huge security piece of the trip for me. Even though Lauren had traveled the route several times before, the GPS system gave me confidence someone knew where we were going! There’s a homily in there somewhere. 


2. … but Plan on Going Out of Your Way anyway! 

One of my parishioners owns a bank in Iowa. He suggested when Lauren and I were traveling through that section of Iowa we should do ourselves a favor and take a detour off of our route and see his small town, USA. So glad we did. What we discovered were flower-basket lined streets of a hometown, with a beautiful historic town square and it happened to be where John Wayne grew up. Who knew? We thoroughly enjoyed our detour and never would have done so if Gene hadn’t told us to be just a little adventurous.

flowerbasketlinedstreets Flower-basket-lined streets


John Wayne's Hometown John Wayne’s Hometown

3. Talk to the Locals … 

I’m my father’s son. Lauren is a McCoart on her mother’s side. We can talk to anyone, and we did. At every turn. To anyone who looked in our direction. America is filled with many nice wonderful people – all of whom were only too happy to stop and tell us about their home town or what they thought we should see. Sunflower fields. A statue. The World’s Largest Truck Stop! A desert forest. The bison farm. The locals knew everything and rolled out the welcome mat for us everywhere we went. 

truckstopr World’s Largest Truckstop!


Aspens in a Desert Forest Aspens in a Desert Forest

4. … but Know When to Keep Your Mouth Shut!

I know this is going to sound weird to you because many of you live in the suburbs like I do. After Lauren and her roommate Brittany and I enjoyed a leisurely walk through the desert forest we hopped back into Lauren’s car and started driving out of one of the State Parks in Wyoming. We came upon a cattle drive. I’m not kidding. Hundreds of cows (or maybe they were steers) and six cowboys were trying desperately to get the cattle from one side of the interstate to the other. The cattle were winning. The cowboys, though truly skilled at what they were doing, couldn’t get those darn cows to cooperate. That wasn’t the problem. What was the problem were the other drivers. Those behind us didn’t like that Lauren stopped her car on the road so the cowboys could get their cattle to where they were trying to go. When several of the impatient cars either drove around Lauren or attempted to drive around her car, Lauren would put her brand new car in front of them to stop them, or yell at them as they sped by making the cowboy’s job that much more difficult. I loved Lauren’s sense of justice – her sense of what was right and what was wrong. I’m not saying I approve of each hand signal she used to let the incalcitrants know how she felt about their behavior! But, I knew if I opened my mouth I wasn’t going to help anything or anyone, especially the cowboys! I let Lauren be Lauren. I knew when to keep my mouth shut. And at the end of the day I think Lauren felt good about coming to the aid of cow and man … and maybe had a little smirk on her face when she thought about how she thwarted the attempts of some of those impatient drivers. Go Lauren! 

Cowboys Cowboys

Getting the Cattle to Cross the Road Getting the Cattle to Cross the Road

5. Be Flexible … 

This is the greatest rule of a road trip. No one likes the driver on a road trip who won’t stop for food or bathroom breaks, who keeps insisting on sticking to some pre-ordained schedule, and who won’t let you turn the radio up as loud as it goes. Also, if you’re not willing to stop or explore now and then, you’re missing out on some great adventures. My best road trip stories all came about because we were willing to stray from the narrow path. Be willing to take the risk or the long road or the short cut. Be willing to have something go terribly wrong because at least then you’ll have a great story to tell when you get back home! Lauren was the perfect – PERFECT – travel companion. EVERYTHING was okay with Lauren. What a joy she is. 

6. … and Be Present. 


You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? When I began my trip to Wyoming with Lauren I told myself that no matter what I just wanted to be present to her 24/7 for however long we would be together. To not miss anything she might want to say or share. In retrospect I don’t think Lauren shared anything I didn’t already know, but for four wonderful days I got to see the world through Lauren’s eyes – and to see Lauren’s Wyoming World. And it was beautiful. And she was – and is – bold and beautiful. Brave. Unafraid. Young. Brash. Man, how good to be 20-something again, right?! Go Lauren! Go Lauren. 

So my friends, I hope there’s a road trip in your near future. Plan a trip. Grab a kid – grab someone you love – and drive. You’ll be so glad you did. Oh, and remember to take some Advil too!

 Peace friends,


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  • Michele says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m currently in CA taking two of my nieces on a “road trip” from San Francisco to LA (I’m standing in for my dad who intended to take them before he passed away a few months ago). Dad loved taking the grandchildren on new experiences and he talked to EVERY local to learn about their town. Just today, I found myself stopping and asking a local a question we wondered in our head and we talked to him for 30 minutes learning soooo much about the area. I fondly thought of my dad and quietly thanked God for giving me 76 wonderful years with him. I agree … never pass up an opportunity with family on a road trip and talk to the locals! What a great lesson I learned from my dad!

  • carol sumser says:

    I loved the road trips I took with Ray. We both to explore the little towns and see local happenings. Wyoming especially===and Montana and Idaho and Utah, etc. Thanks for sharing this . I would love to do the same trip love, Carol

  • Nancy K says:

    An adventure of a lifetime! For all of you. So very glad you could make this journey together.

  • Pat says:

    What a great telling of a great adventure! Thanks for sharing. Jack and I just had a road trip to IL and back. So enjoyed God’s beautiful mountains and crops and family time also. God bless America.

  • Mary Margaret Green says:

    Love it! What a great bonding time for you and your niece. You’ll both remember it forever. I agree with all your tips on road trips. Fred much prefers driving to flying, and I’m OK with that as long as we make detours and don’t push, push, push to get somewhere by sticking to the interstates all the time.

  • Austin Acocella says:

    Seems like a journey homily. The journey details were more important than the destination.

  • Kathy says:

    Oh Chuck! SO close and yet so far! Wyoming! I just smiled at your insisting on driving with your niece. This Montana girl drove to Springfield, VA all by herself at age 24…to my parents’ angst, my grandmother’s warnings and various other relative’s worry…heck I was taking on the world. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. yet 40+ years later I delivered my own niece to her first place of employment following college to make sure she got there ok and I finally got it, how my parents felt. My mother’s response? “Well, it’s about damn time.” 🙂

    • Mary Sinnott says:

      to Kathy…I speak for everyone in Springfield VA that knows you…. we are so glad you made that trip from Montana to Virginia and made a home in so many of our hearts.

  • Ann says:

    Loved the “Road Trip”. Jay and I took our third cross country trip a year ago and went through Wyoming, too. Just gorgeous. Have even been to John Wayne’s hometown on one of the treks. Bravo for you and Lauren. That’s the stuff that makes memories for a lifetime.

  • Pat says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! And we did 4 Advil and 2 Tylenol each time, but it was well worth it!!

  • terry says:

    lOVE road trips … xo
    glad you did it !!!

  • Yvonne says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip. On the road right now heading home from Louisville and St. Louis. And then seeing Chris and family in Indy. I’m being silent while George drives.

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