Every time I drive west across Nebraska on I-80 I’m full of hope and excitement about what’s to come. If I’m driving west on that long stretch of boring interstate I’m driving away from home and toward something fun and different, people I love and mountains I marvel. I know that soon I will be wrapped up in feverish conversation, catching up, and clinking glasses in cheer.
Maybe I’ve got concert tickets at Red Rocks or plans to hike some new wondrous scene. So many opportunities for capturing pictures and words and memories.
When I’m in the car driving west it’s like the best feeling. It’s freedom. Everything about it is freedom. I gather snacks that are not good for me and allow myself to get that gas station cappuccino that’s loaded up with sugar and nerds or sweet-tarts or something else that’s pure sugar and throw in some giant bag of Chex mix to balance out all that sweetness with salt and crunch. I allow myself guilt free snacking and singing out loud to my favorite tunes. All of that is freedom.
I have a tradition of stopping in Ogallala Nebraska before I drive across the border into Colorado. I whip the car down the exit ramp and find a gas station to buy a lottery ticket.
I’m not a lottery ticket purchaser normally, but the mood of the road trip changes a person. If I won the lottery, it be cool to win with a ticket purchased in Ogallala. What a headline, right?!
“Omaha woman wins millions in Ogallala”.
That would be priceless even if I never collected a dime.
Then, as I cross over into the desolate sparse grassland rolling hills of Colorado, which are only slightly less boring because the scenery has changed, I have a little sliver of hope in my possession. I can keep my little hope-secret tucked safe inside the pocket of my coat or backpack or snug under the clip of my garage door opener above the window visor. And there it will stay.
At random moments on my trip I can think about it and dream what it would be like to win. What would I do with those millions? Oh how my life would change and what power I would have to change the lives of others for the better. My kids would not have to worry about how they would pay for college and my parents wouldn’t have to worry about how they would be taken care of as they grow old.
And there would be so much more. You know. I could give and give to all the organizations I believe in. Maybe spear head some plan to turn garbage into fuel for the future. Of course it would not truly be endless, and I would still have to choose, but the hope of it is freedom. And that, in turn, makes me happy.
If only to think about it for a brief moment.
Then I get where I’m going and have my fun and eventually have to say goodbye and get in my car to drive hone. Somehow the drive home takes twice as long and is 4 times as boring. Why is that?
Nothing to look forward to. Work and responsibility and the hum-drum of the everyday. On my way I may or may not stop back in Ogallala to have them check my ticket. I’ve probably lost interest and just want to get home.
Sometime later I might find that ticket in a pocket or in between the pages of a book I haven’t looked at in months or in a folder holding other flat memorabilia from the trip. It will remind me of the good time I had. It will remind me that freedom and hope are priceless, and that money really had nothing to do with those feelings. As long as I have enough for gas to get me there and back and load my bag up with snacks, I’ll be happy.
That lottery ticket is worth every penny. Also I just like to say Ogallala.
Ogallala, Ogallala, Ogallala! Oh haha I love you Ogallala!
I can’t wait to start planning again!
Cheers to Road Trip Daydreaming in the time of Covid,