Like most, I have a deep and abiding love for America but, on so many occasions, it has been a long distance romance. During my military career I served for over five years away. Following that, I lived and worked overseas for a decade. Each time I returned it was like falling in love all over again. Those who have spent any time at all in a foreign country will know the feeling that you get when you return to American soil. The air of freedom is tangible! After residing in another country you come back and breathe deeply of this freedom and you finally realize that you had been choking a little from the "foreign-ness" of elsewhere, whether it be petty officialdom, societal and government dictates, authoritarian confines...or even the unfairness of the class system in some of the nations of Europe or Asia.
Until ten years ago, other than locales where I was stationed with the military, I had never had the chance to see this land I love so much. My last overseas address was in the Middle East where I had worked and lived for ten years. Frustrated at the increasingly dangerous conditions I came home for good during the summer of 2001, two months before 9/11.
Shortly after returning I bought a small RV and was determined to see much more of my country. My wife and I took several short trips, acquainting ourselves with the mechanics of RV travel. Then, in 2004 I took my first cross-country trip, from California to Florida to meet our children for Christmas. My wife's work schedule required her to fly there so I was on my own; just the road and me.
During this travel I was fascinated by the hugeness of Texas! Going west to east across Texas was a two-day excursion. When I got into Louisiana it was like being in another country, low hanging cypress swamps and very happy and friendly citizens. The same was true throughout the south; I was called "honey" and "darlin" by more waitresses than I would have ever expected...and I loved it! The south truly is noted for "southern charm".
After the holidays with the family in Florida my wife flew back home and I headed north and rejoiced in the loveliness of the Carolinas and the lushness of the Shenandoah Valley. I also used the time to tour civil war sites throughout Virginia and enjoyed it immensely. Each night, after supper in the RV, I pulled out my Civil War history books and reviewed the battles at a particular site, then rose early the next day to walk the battlefields. It proved to be the best way to experience history!
In the years that followed I set off on several more RV journeys; perhaps I'll write more of them on another day. It's been good to get to know my beautiful country so that I may never take her for granted.
Hope you won't either.