“I’ve been everywhere”
Continuing on from yesterday’s blog, if spring time represents our birth and growth in life, then summer is a continuation of that growth, as we mature and become stronger as people and learn more about the world. It is also when real life issues inevitably start to intrude. Things become real. But it is also the time we probably have the most fun in our lives. As I mentioned in the introduction, this series has become more autobiographical than I had imagined originally. In previous blogs I have touched on some of the years I would consider to be part of “my summer.” For that reason I will touch on some of the times I have not already mentioned. It covers a pretty large span of years as a result, from pre-teen all the way up to my early thirties before it all came crashing to a halt as you will soon discover. Summer in my mind is full of exuberance, dumb mistakes (that somehow remain good memories for some reason), figuring stuff out, and lots of laughs and good times.
When I was thinking of the markers to set for my own timelines in these Four Seasons blogs, I spent a good week or so reconstructing the key periods in my life. Though the actual teen and college era years might seem like the logical place to start for summer, I have pushed it back slightly further. More specifically to the summer of 1979 when I turned 11. That was the summer that Clan Doyle undertook their greatest adventure-a 5 week long summer drive across country and back. Though there was no Wally World as a prize at the end (for fans of the Vacation films), there were numerous prizes in exploration of this vast and varied country. We set out once school let out for the summer which interrupted the best Little League season I ever had. Yes, I estimate I was batting an average of .195, which for my readers around the world who may not know much about baseball translates to being abysmal! I do remember filling in at third base for one game where I promptly mimicked the great defensive playing of New York Yankees great Graig Nettles, guarding the line against the line drive and making spectacular Nettles patented instant replay worthy (in my mind) plays diving for the ball and protecting against an extra base hit. Again, apologies to my non-baseball watching readers but it was the pinnacle of my achievements in the sport I love best and I am damn proud of it. Sadly I was not drafted by the Yankees and my baseball career was soon over.
Forgive me, I digress. So in that sultry summer of 1979, Mom and Dad, together with my two sisters piled into the Ford LTD station wagon for five weeks travelling across America. Much planning had gone into the trip before we left and there were lengthy discussions and disappointment when people’s choices would have to be bypassed. So sad as we were that there would be no Colorado or Pacific Northwest, no Montana or Yosemite, we still saw a lot of great places. Chicago and up to South Dakota through the wonders of the Badlands, before moving on to the Black Hills where we stayed in a cabin by a lake near Mount Rushmore. Then on to Yellowstone and the Tetons in Wyoming and the unforgettable town of Emblum, Wyoming, population 10. From there it was on to Salt Lake City and across the desert to Reno, Nevada before spending about 2 weeks in California. Starting in Sausalito and San Francisco and winding our way down to Los Angeles and San Diego, with stops along the way to see the Redwood forest, and Disneyland.
Eventually we moved on to Arizona, passing through Yuma (the hottest place I have been in my life, I believe it was something like 115 in the shade…in the late afternoon) and on to the wonders of the Grand Canyon. Then on through the unique colors and landscape of New Mexico and the gradual race to home passing through parts of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and on home. Through all those travels there were only two mishaps with the car that I can recall. When all was said and done the five of us made it through inevitable family strife, long miles of driving and cheap motels, unique and beautiful landscape, encounters with buffalo, tourist kitsch (“Stop at Wall Drugs in 40 miles. Wall Drugs coming up in 10 miles…and so on), amusement parks and California ocean, Native American creativity and more long miles we finally arrived home to New Jersey.
All those long miles made for a long list of cities and towns to circle on a map. When we were back home I think we tried to trace the journey made with a continuous line colored with marker. From New Jersey across to the west and back, passing through towns like Gary Indiana, St. Paul Minnesota, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, Little Rock Arkansas, and hundreds more. I doubt I heard Hank Snow’s classic song “I’ve Been Everywhere” (which is itself adapted from Australian songwriter Geoff Mack’s original version) on that trip, but for my money it is the benchmark of an American travelling song as it rattles songs off from east to west and north to south. Which is surprising since Hank Snow was originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. I am pretty sure I did eventually hear Snow’s version of it in my 20’s, but it wasn’t until I heard Johnny Cash sing it on the album Unchained, part of the American Recordings series that it really resonated with me.
If you go back to Part 11 of this blog you can read about my own history with Johnny Cash, but to sum it up quickly here if you have not read that particular blog, Johnny’s music never really did anything for me until those American Recordings came out. I’ve Been Everywhere closes out the Unchained album, and even though Johnny had performed it many times before, this version is by far the best. When I had my a ha! moment with the importance of Johnny Cash’s music, this song quickly became one of my favorites. It was then that I began equating it with that summer of 1979 and that car journey, so I feel it is a fitting choice for the start of my ‘summer.’ Of recognizing the world surrounding me and trying to come to grips with the differences that were not quite so different when you really got down to it. I have not been everywhere yet, but I sure as hell will give it try someday.