Friday, February 8, 2013

By Ellen Bell, Columnist --

For many years, I made the trip to Arizona via a quick, one hour plane ride from John Wayne to Sky Harbor. No fuss, no trouble. But a couple of years ago I decided to change things up a little and travel to Spring Training the old school way, on an All American, gas guzzling road trip.

My companion and dashboard photographer was my 83-year old father, Merle Baker, King of the Family Road Vacation. Think Clark Griswold with an AARP card. Although my dad is a veteran interstate traveler, he was a Spring Training rookie, and I couldn’t wait to share one of my favorite annual traditions with him for the first time.
I know what you’re thinking. 360 miles is a really long way to drive to watch a baseball game that doesn’t count. Yes, yes it is. But with a full tank and miles of open road ahead, driving becomes more of an adventure rather than a chore. Especially if you leave mid day like we did to avoid the hellish traffic on the 91. At noon, we pointed the car east and started out, with four days of baseball vacation straight ahead.

We passed dinosaurs, wind mills, and fresh jerky signs, all part of the typical landscape of this stretch of the 10 freeway. Usually, the scenery is harsh and brown, but springtime weather had brought in a sky full of clouds that cast shadows on the mountains and foothills.

I know this trip is generally hazy and mind-numbingly boring, but we were lucky to see stunning scenery all along the way. Long, open roads lead to long open discussions. Think about the last time you spent six, uninterrupted hours in a car, just you and your Dad.  We talked about everything and anything, and surprisingly, the trip flew by faster than I thought it would.

Before I knew it, by 6:30pm Phoenix time we had arrived in Baseball Heaven. Yes, I could have gotten there faster by plane, but for the price of one tank of gas and a 5 dollar foot long sandwich to share, I learned that this time around, the journey was just as important as the destination.

Follow Ellen Bell on Twitter @AfternoonAngel
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