It’s hard to tell when wander lust first imprints itself on our soul. Maybe it starts with a favorite childhood story about a faraway place or a family road trip that sparked the desire to roam. For me it all began with the Vista Cruiser.
As early as I remember, my family had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. From the impressionable age of five and for the next ten years my brothers raced quarter midgets. This meant summers were spent traveling cross-country in the Olds to nearly every state in the union, my dad often driving through the night to get us to a quarter mile race track. At the races, my brothers and I would sport white, pit crew jump suits with cool blue side stripes. My brothers would then don full leathers in 100 degree heat and race for the next two or three days.
While the boys raced, I discovered America. By day, I explored deserts, Mt. Rushmore, the Rocky Mountains, Smokey Mountains, Ohio River, Mississippi River, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas and the Colorado River. By night driving across the immense empty spaces of the central plains I laid face up gazing toward the sky through the angled glass of the back window. Speaking astronaut with my brothers, we watched the stars; often falling like rain in the sky. When we tired of staring off into space, we peered into the edges of the pitch black two lane highways in Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming as hundreds of eyes stared back at us. We spied bob cats, coyotes, rabbits, mule deer, skunk, fox, and raccoon. We were the generation dumb enough to get out of the car for a closer look at a road side bear in Yellowstone on our way to old Faithful. We were children in a then child un-friendly Las Vegas where we peeked through the well-guarded, adults only doors of the HoJo to watch Willy Nelson perform to a room that seated less than 50.
These summer pilgrimages, wrought with overheated radiators, truck stop meals, pit dust and little kids driving fast pint sized cars imbedded in me the desire to drive… freely exploring the open road. The races took me to places where people were not like me and I liked them anyway. It born in me the need to see places that aren’t home, exploring and comparing them to what I know as familiar. These days as I continue forward in my travels around the world, I can’t help but look back to where the desire to explore started, at the Pigeon Inn where a little oval shaped ¼ mile track expanded my world by thousands of miles.