Dreaming of hosting (while guesting)

When Maine’s schools took their annual April break last week, I decided to take an actual driving vacation, my first such junket in quite some time. But even if I had the wherewithal to go tour some famous landmarks or national parks, I’d have opted instead for doing exactly what I did: visit some good people I hadn’t seen for a while.

Taking this trip reminded me of just how lucky I am to be able to do this sort of thing. The quality of the nation’s roads, the ease with which one can obtain fuel, and clarity with which federal and state roadways are marked is something too many Americans take for granted. I for one am particularly glad our country’s interstate highway system is so efficiently laid out; were it not, directionally- challenged people like me would never be able to effectively navigate their way between places hundreds of miles apart.

The seven-day, 1317-mile whirlwind tour covered nine states, although I never did set foot in three of them. New Hampshire, New York, and Delaware were literally drive-through states on this journey.

My first visit was with someone who was a role model and father figure to me and literally thousands of others during his half-century (and counting) on the faculty at the university that eventually awarded me a diploma. I enjoy every visit there, which always ends with me being given some new bit of college-themed apparel. The only time my host ever stops smiling occurs if I attempt to take out my wallet and pay for dinner at whatever restaurant we’ve chosen. “Put that thing away!” he’ll growl, and dutifully I do.

Subsequent stops in four other Connecticut towns yielded quality time with another college friend, a couple whose sons I babysat for many moons ago, and cousins who qualify as both friends and family.

Next up: more quality family time in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, where a day and a half passed in what seemed like an hour. Similarly, the three-hour visit I had in Reading, PA with a fellow writer and baseball enthusiast seemed to go by in about ten minutes. From there I drove south to two places where people who were important to me when we lived near one another decades ago confirmed that they’re still just as special today, even though they currently reside 476 miles (Lincoln University, PA) and 544 miles (Silver Spring, MD) from where I do.

Alas, all good things must end, and when Wednesday morning arrived I realized it was time to head north. Getting home from suburban Washington DC should have taken nine hours, but thanks to traffic in New Jersey and Connecticut (which I feel should be renamed “New New Jersey”) the trek took nearly twelve.

As great as the trip was, I feel slightly guilty, since I didn’t pay for a darned thing the entire time I was on the road: no one would let me.

However, what I did do was try to convince each person I encountered to come up and visit Maine this summer. It would be a treat to have any or all of them drop by at some point in the not-too-distant future.

It’s not realistic to expect everyone I invited to come north this year, which is why the chances of my going from being “America’s Guest” to “America’s Host” are pretty slender. But if I can entice even one person to visit sometime soon it’ll give me the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to try: growl “Put that thing away” when my dinner guest reaches for their wallet!

Andy Young
April 23, 2023

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