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road sage

Sometimes you have to take your consciousness to the dry cleaner. The mind periodically needs sprucing up. There are many ways to achieve this. You can take a walk. Go for a swim. Do some yoga or some mindful meditation. There are almost as many ways as there are people.

Ignore the urge to decompress at your peril. It can have adverse effects.

To those with a thing for speed, there’s a favoured method of achieving a mind-rinse: the road trip. The highway can be a cleansing path when approached in the right way.


Timing is critical. Summer is the perfect time to get on the road. There’s no snow or ice to worry about and the skies are clear.

With this in mind, I made a motorized excursion a few weeks back. Prior to leaving, I made my “Road Trip” check list, compiling the essential elements.

  1. One large coffee
  2. One refillable bottle of water
  3. A smartphone
  4. One black Lab named Luna
  5. Nothing else

The trip was perfectly constructed for maximum Zen. I was bringing Luna up to spend some time in the country, around a 2½- to three-hour drive. Then I would drop her off, turn around and go back.

Take note. You will find no more agreeable travelling companion than a two-year-old Lab. You fill a Kong with some liver spread and they’re happy. When you need to stop for a break, they’re not only in agreement, they are uncontrollably enthusiastic. Any ideas or comments you have, they agree with completely – they signal this by raising their ears and giving you a look that says, “No idea what you’re talking about, babe, but you do you.”

Driving is the key to the “Road Trip Mind-Rinse.” It only works if you’re behind the wheel. That’s because the act of driving, the concentration and motor skills, occupy a substantial part of your brain and leave the rest of your mind to wander. As the kilometres go by, layers of stress and strain are peeled away.

With the practical side of your brain occupied, the rest will engage in a free-associated jaunt through memory. Events, people, things and places that you haven’t thought about for years will pop up for consideration. There’s no logic, no line, it’s the opposite of rational. Each landmark you pass may trigger a memory.

Here’s a quick snippet of my stream of consciousness:

How could the Myers Riders lose 6-3 in the final of the 1980 Ottawa-Carleton Minor Football Bantam Championship? We were undefeated. It was probably because the trainer played Abba’s The Winner Takes It All in the locker room before the game… Abba… It was cool when I interviewed Bjorn Ulvaeus prior to the opening of Mamma Mia. I told him, “In Canada we have both kinds of music – country and western.” He laughed. Cool guy. I didn’t tell him I’d lifted the joke from The Blues Brothers. Hey look, a billboard for “Whole Roasted Pig.” I’d do that. Why is it that billboards for realtors always look so sinister? You could put the words “Human Centipede” along the bottom of most of them… I guess I should accept the fact I’m never going to finish Gravity’s Rainbow.

My friends, after you’ve done six hours of that, as the road runs by and the sun beams down, you return home with a fresh perspective. As the wheels turn, the brain rummages through the detritus and shakes out the excess.

It’s the Road Trip Mind-Rinse: A moment of Zen, available from now until the first snow falls.

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