Monday, 17 October 2011

On the Road: it begins...

If all has gone to plan, and there is no reason to think it hasn’t, we are in Ait Benhaddou today.  We have probably survived the desert night camp without too much complaint (and lots of layers) and are looking forward to some days on the beaches of Essaouira.  I know, it all sounds so exotic, but my travelling bug comes from much more mundane and humble beginnings.  I couldn’t help but contribute a story from my early travelling days.  To make it a bit more interesting, I asked my parents to contribute their own stories from a particularly memorable family vacation.  If memory serves, which it often doesn’t, this trip was only the second, maybe third, family vacation, but it is definitely one of the most famous. 

My obsession with maps (and the related degrees in Geography) perhaps stems from a particular weekend during a family vacation/road trip.  To my memory, all of our vacations were road trips.  Which, when starting out from Ohio, inevitably means a lot of nothing on either side of the road. (As Emily hinted to last week).  This vacation was the ‘historic one.’  I was under the impression I designed the itinerary based on history lessons from the previous school year.  As I was probably only about 12 (at the most), most likely that is what my parents led me to believe.  I think I proposed Gettysburg, Williamsburg (I had a thing for ‘burgs’), Jamestown and Yorktown (apparently I had a thing for ‘towns’ as well).  D.C. was probably thrown in for good measure. 
Before I get to the main story, let me tell you what I remember from these locales:
Gettysburg I remember being awesome.  In D.C. I remember being very disappointed that my textbooks didn’t show all the homeless people (my first experience with ‘lying’ history books) and then losing my Dad.  In Williamsburg I got a tri-corn hat with quail feather instead of the stupid bonnet and spent hours playing with a hoop you push down the street with a stick.  (this may have been around the time my parents pulled the TV out of the house).  I don’t really remember the rest.  Jamestown is a vague memory of a fort in the middle of lots of trees (imagine that) and Yorktown was…..?

Return to the point.  Roadtripping from Ohio is tedious.  I was young and this was long before the age of in-car entertainment (which I’m pretty sure my parents would have been against anyway, since they took the TV out of the house during my most formative adolescent years!  I blame my TV addiction on them).  My parents kept me occupied by giving me the map and dubbing me navigator.  I’m sure this post was honorary as I didn’t as yet know how to read a map let alone translate that to actual driving directions.  (To be honest, after three degrees in Geography, in which you don’t actually learn to read and/or fold a map, I still read the map wrong when driving.  It’s a secret shame.)  Despite the honorary title, I would diligently follow the curves of the road on the map with my finger as we moved along.  Of course, I didn’t understand the concept of a ‘scale of distance’ so was increasingly distraught when it took us hours to traverse a state that only took two minutes to traverse on the Triple A trip-tic. 
Regardless, we eventually reached Gettysburg and what I will forever remember as ‘The Search for The Map. I recall we were there for about three days.  And while I have foggy memories of Black and White photos and boulders and plaques and fields, my overriding memory is my father’s search for a very particular map.  He was here as a child and remembered, fondly, a map with firing canons and advancing troops timed to a dramatic commentary.  I have yet to see my father drop more money than he did that weekend paying exorbitant tourist entry fees to every attraction that may feature a map.  This is a man who regularly dumpster dives and sources car parts from junkyards.  You may say he’s ‘green’ he fully admits to being ‘cheap.’
He was a man obsessed with a map.  A Map!  In the process of searching for this most holy of Gettysburg grails, I saw so many maps, with so much information, told in so many ways….

Well, let’s just say the trip made an impression on me. 

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