By David Weinstein
“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Cat’s Cradle
I recently returned from a trip to Denver. It was a busman’s holiday. The definition of a busman’s holiday being “Free time spent in much the same pursuit as one’s work.” I own a small retail building there, was re-tenanting one of the units, and thought it would be a great opportunity for a road trip. Most practically-minded people would think this was foolish, to drive 1,100 miles through the desert and over the mountains when you can fly from John Wayne Airport and back for less than $300. But I’ve never been accused of being practical. And using the strange calculus I inherited from my mom, who lived through the Depression era, I’ve never been able to properly value the “opportunity costs” of my time. So, somehow the drive made sense. Besides, I had two pieces of granite left over from a prior project I could use for Tenant Improvements, and they would just fit inside the van. Most of all, though, I know there’s nothing quite like a good road trip.
From an early age, I learned how transformative they could be. For one of our springtime vacations, we started out from Cleveland to Miami Beach for a family getaway. Mom, Dad, me, and my older sister all packed into, not a wood-paneled station wagon, but my dad’s Cadillac Coupe DeVille. The trip started with the usual chaos of getting the house secured, the car packed, and everyone situated, which was always a futile exercise in family cooperation. But ultimately, after much discussion and negotiation, we were off. This was when the real challenges began. My dad was a smoker, Lucky Strikes, and he would admonish us if we rolled down a window in hopes of getting some fresh air, that it would slow him up, and we needed to make good time if we were ever to get to Florida in two days. No automobiles had air conditioning in those days, which made us all that much surlier. And there was the issue of the radio station. My sister, three years my senior and a young teen, was old enough to have distinct musical preferences, which were vastly different from that of Mom and Dad’s. So we complained, and argued, over bathroom breaks, and where to stop to eat, and sleep, and generally hollered and yelled at each other, all the while gasping for air in the smoke-filled sedan as we rolled down US Highway 27.
Then miraculously, sometime during the second day, maybe from nicotine poisoning, or lulled into concordance by fatigue and the monotony of the road, the arguing and griping stopped. We started listening a little closer to each other. After so much fighting in this closed environment, we started to get a better understanding of the basis of each of our demands; the how’s and why’s. We were becoming a team, a ragtag one, but one with a shared destiny, hurtling towards a shared destination. It turned out to be a memorable vacation even though, with all its constant clanging, Dad threw my toy monkey with the tambourine out the window somewhere in Tennessee.
So, here’s my idea, and I’m just spit-balling. Why doesn’t Laguna rent my 1987 VW Westfalia for a team-building activity. They could have a couple of adversarial councilmembers, or maybe a few members from Village Laguna and Laguna Forward, head out on the open road together. Give them a limited budget, a chosen destination and require them to return intact, on speaking terms. The Amazing Race, Laguna Style. If my prior experience is indicative, I can pretty much guarantee the van will break down somewhere along the way, and with limited resources they will be forced to work together, using their ingenuity and problem-solving skills towards a common goal – to get the darn thing back on the road and home again. Rancor and philosophical differences put aside by the need for expedience. And, along the way, while their ideologies may differ, they might find they share a lot of common values and needs. I think we all do. And there’s nothing quite like witnessing the first rays of the sun illuminating the red cliffs of the San Rafael Swell, and a shared sense of accomplishment, to forge a good working relationship.
There’ve been crazier ideas. Besides, I could use the dough – the van needs a new paint job.
David lives in Newport Beach and is an occasional contributor to the Laguna Beach Independent.