WM Winter 07: From the Editor

February 26, 2007

I started lobbying for my first road trip when I was 14.

From my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, I would drive 7,200 miles round-trip to Fairbanks, Alaska via The Alaska Highway. I taped a map of the route on my wall and framed it with photos of brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula and fishing boats working the Inside Passage. I kept my grades up and worked at Baskin-Robbins for $1.25 an hour to make gas money for the trip.

When I was 17, a friend helped me rebuild the engine of my 1967 Triumph Spitfire. I replaced the passenger seat with a sheet of plywood where my guitar would rest by day, and I by night, and I covered the headlights with mesh to protect them from the stones I’d been warned would spew from the tires of logging trucks.

And by sunrise the morning after the Fourth of July of my junior year in high school, I was driving through the warm summer breeze with the top down, a cooler full of Pepsi and carrots, and a box of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies on my lap.

I saw a brachiosaurus’ tail slither across the road (courtesy of No-Doz) near Lassen Peak, and I drank from the Yukon River using my father’s old tin cup. I camped in the shadow of Denali Peak and walked alongside cattle grazing beneath glaciers in the Matanuska Valley. I almost got busted at the Yukon/Alaska border when a sharp-eyed immigration officer mistook for cocaine the baking soda I kept to clean my battery posts. At a hot spring in the Yukon, The Children of God—fleeing south from the expected destruction of Anchorage —fixed my Coleman stove for me.

But the experiences that transformed my life were more mundane: riding through downtown Seattle with my Great Aunt Marian in her bright red ’68 Camaro; playing guitar and singing late into the night with my cousins. And in Anchorage, there was Laurie.

Wise, a patient listener, and beautiful, Laurie was a year older than me, but she still laughed at my jokes. We would talk in her living room until early in the morning while the sun hung on the horizon. It was platonic for her, but the yearning I felt was enough to keep me awake for 65 straight hours on my drive back to Arizona!

I’d left home looking for meaning in solitude and nature, but I found it in people. I can’t look at a vintage Camaro without thinking of Aunt Marian, or a picture of Seattle without hearing the voices of my cousins. And the midnight sun will always be Laurie. At 17, a shy and solitary kid learned that on any journey, it’s not the places you go, but the friends you meet, who sustain you.

Friends I’ve met while preparing stories for WM have similarly shaped the places I’ve visited. New Mexico is Sue and Doc Gooding ’52. Pittsburgh is Bruce Baker ’65. Colorado’s Front Range is Karen and Dan Simmons ’70. Getting to know places through these gifted friends has been the best introduction imaginable.

Award-winning journalist and Director of New Media Howard Hewitt had a similar introduction as he visited the Wabash community in California last June. And he takes us along with him through the stories in this issue.

Gregarious, a quick study, and able to turn around a story in a hurry, Howard and his skills as reporter, writer, and photographer made our dream of a Road Trip issue possible. His work as web editor makes for our most integrated web/print edition yet. (See WM Online.)

And as moved as he was by the beauty of the Golden State, the lives and hospitality of the Wabash men he met impressed him even more.

"The evening was mostly about camaraderie," Howard wrote of his dinner with Hugo Mariscal ’98 and Tony Avitia ’96 in Monterey: "The guys had a ball. They recalled times in Martindale Hall and the Lambda Chi house. They told stories and talked about old roommates, old friends, and college pranks. Yet what’s toughest to explain here is the appreciation they felt for a Wabash visit. The sincere gratitude and the time they took to share their stories with me was remarkable."

As are the lives of these Wabash men. Join us on this California road trip to meet them. And let us know where you want to go next.

You never know where Wabash will show up.

Thank you for reading.

Steve Charles | Editor

charless@wabash.edu

 

 

 

 


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