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road sage

Nothing ruins a good drive like a destination. Nothing spoils the process of getting there as much as having a "there" to get to. This fundamental truth was made apparent to me on a recent road trip from Toronto to North Carolina's Outer Banks.

It was the proverbial summer odyssey – a 15-hour trip, which an impatient motorist might do in a single blitz but which I made with my family in the old Grand Caravan over a two-day split. The plan was simple: Get in the car with a cooler of sandwiches and drive. We'd stop not when we "got there," but when we'd had enough. With the notion of a destination eliminated, we were free to enjoy the drive. It was a sublime four-wheeled limbo.

I've always been most comfortable in transit. To me, the best part of air travel – back when clouds were something you flew through, not something you stored meaningless data in – was the time spent up in the air unreachable by either good news or bad. The same was true for driving. Before headsets and Bluetooth, you could clear your head by going for a drive. You stuck whatever problem you had in the passenger seat and, after a cruise, a solution appeared.

Think about it. Why does everyone hate commuting? You hate it because you always have a destination that you should have reached 30 minutes ago. We place artificial constraints on our time and then go mad when we can't make them. On the first day of our trip to North Carolina, I felt better after 10 hours driving down various interstates and two-lane highways than I normally do after navigating 45 minutes of rush-hour traffic.

Delays and obstructions that would be irritating if we had a place to be and a time we had to be there went from frustrating to intriguing:

"Who knew a highway could be reduced to one lane by construction for this long?"

"Aren't all these toll roads unique?"

"Why are there no service stations along American highways? I think I might wet myself."

The next day was an easy five-hour zip through Virginia into North Carolina. By taking a holiday from having a destination, we'd been rebooted. Sure, we were riding a vacation high – if we'd driven this far to attend a funeral the mood would not have been as jovial, but a greater force was in play.

Ditto on the return trip. We drove until we'd had enough, found a hotel, grabbed a bite and flaked out. Next day, we cleared Pennsylvania and western New York State in three hours, crossed the border and hit bumper-to-bumper congestion on the Queen Elizabeth Way (isn't naming this highway after our monarch a form of treason?).

I've sworn to take more aimless drives and to walk until something tells me it's time to turn back. A destination just sticks time with a consequence. We mere mortals were not meant to be so aware of the significance of each moment's passing. Virgil put it best: "Time glides by imperceptibly and cheats us in its flight. Nothing is swifter than the years."

No need to speed them up by having someplace to be.

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