Born To Be Mild: Why We’re Doing This

The last Sunday Musings post Lorna wrote went covered our “Five tools for Adventure planning success“, a title that is probably a bit presumptive as we won’t know how successful we’ll have been until mid-September 2018.

One thing that Lorna touched upon is our influences and how they’ve steered some of our choices in where we’re going, and I want to go over a few of my personal ones today.

The words ‘American’ and ‘Adventure’ have been associated in my mind since I was about four or five, with a family trip to the first theme park I ever went to – American Adventure, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

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To be honest, I can’t remember a lot about the park apart from the ferris wheel above (according to the Wikipedia article above, it was called High Sierra) as I was a bit too short to go anything. What I do remember is that the radio adverts for it used Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild – burning the words ‘American Adventure’ and the heavy metal thunder the song provides forever into my consciousness.

The lyrics and the idea of going on an American Adventure (far removed from Derbyshire) still resonate with me, and as fun as it is to listen to it when doing the mundane tasks of everyday life (it goes particularly well with shredding old bank statements), I’d much prefer to listen to it blasting along an Interstate.

But, dear reader – the stylings of Steppenwolf and an average to middling theme park in the East Midlands were just the seed of the Adventure. The fertiliser, water and sunshine (I’m not a farmer) all came from one man’s dream.

A dream getting away from an ordinary mundane life and going venturing out on a grand cross country Adventure. A dream of exploration and excitement. The dream of my hero, which ignited a twenty year-long passion which is growing ever nearer to fruition. The dream of…

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Clark W. Griswold Jr. What a guy.

Played by Chevy Chase in the National Lampoon Vacation series – in the first film, Clark was a food scientist living with his family in Chicago who decides to take his family across America to California to Walley World (a stand-in for Disneyland filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain).

I saw this film when I was nine or ten and it blew my mind (not just because of the couple of scenes with nudity, although that was a definite bonus). It was this scene at the beginning that really captured my imagination.

Route planning has evolved a bit in the last 34 years, but I feel that the ability to have Pac Man eating the trail would at least make the longer drives a bit more interesting.

Travelling thousands of miles, through deserts, frontier towns and shady neighbourhoods in St. Louis are all things that I knew I had to do one day, and we’re getting closer by the day (although I’m buying a new sat nav so I won’t have to ask directions and get my wheel trims nicked). The idea of going on holiday and seeing drastically different vistas day after day was mind-blowing – the closest we’d get was driving to Devon and seeing Little Chefs of Wimpeys (I say Wimpey because we were packed lunch people. The dream of a pork bender was an unrealised one. Yes, they’re a thing)

We’re cramming a lot more in on our route than the Griswolds, which does give a lot more opportunities to go wrong. Luckily, we don’t have any family members out there that could be end strapped to a roof – although there is a risk that we end up with a metallic pea Wagon Queen Family Truckster for the drive…

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Things going wrong seem to be a foregone conclusion for an undertaking like ours, and even significantly smaller-scale family holidays as a child were plagued by them – I remember Dad having to wander for miles to payphones to call the RAC because of some dodgy petrol, or taking forever to get somewhere because we’d taken a wrong turning and ended up a hundred miles from our destination. These might be minor compared to the trials of a freedom seeking man like Clark who had to cope with death, destruction and mayhem, but I’d prefer the former to the latter for our Adventure.

These are things that we can try and prepare for, which brings us back to the Lorna’s earlier post about planning. We can’t plan for every eventuality, and the tightness of the schedule means that we’ll constantly be at risk of having to skip something or prioritise something else, but having that and understanding it means that we know we’ll have an Adventure, no matter how long and bumpy the Holiday Road is.

(I know they’ve spelled his name wrong)

The more we can plan around and try to preempt, the more we can be like this Clark:

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And the less we’ll be like this Clark:

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Clark shows that we don’t have to settle for the mundane, for the ordinary. And if you do, you buy an air pistol and threaten Canadians.

They aren’t all good lessons.

Finally, I want to leave you with a bit of trivia for our blog. I wanted to call it ‘Blogging ‘cross the USA’ in honour of the end song of the film, but we decided that it would make the blog too specific for the Adventure and we should be bit broader so we can add other content as we see fit (watch out for that soon).

It’s been twenty years in the making, but I couldn’t be more happier than finally be living my dream of dancing across the USA with Lorna next year.

Because Christie Brinkley won’t return my calls.

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-Lewis

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