Friday, October 07, 2011

Let's Go Exploring Together

Can you imagine traveling with Chris Columbus as a crew on the Nina, the Pinta or the Santa Claus? It must have been exciting times, discovering new worlds, never asking for directions and surviving the scurvy.

We, as humans, love to travel and explore. It’s in our DNA and it started long before Chris Columbus sailed the ocean blue. At some point millions of years ago, human being got tired of standing still in the middle of nowhere and ventured out to new uncharted lands full of wild game, new terrain and a Starbucks on every corner.

Man eventually felt a little crowded on the only continents he knew and began taking to the water and exploring even further.

A ship called the Mayflower brought the first settlers to our new world in 1978 or something. Those pilgrims had to full of wonder and awe as they rounded each new corner of the unexplored territory. Well, unexplored, except for the Native Americans who had been here for several hundreds years by the time the pilgrims got here.

“Oh great,” they must have thought. “More illegal immigrants.”

Once we got settled in really good here in the new United States, the new explorers started pushing westward into exotic locales like Ohio, Nebraska and the sandy beaches of Iowa.

Lewis and Clark eventually discovered the great places of the Northwest because they were looking for grunge music, better coffee and perpetual rain.

Americans began heading west in search of nothing more than adventure.

I love hearing those stories about the wild west, often wondering what it must have been like. It must have been crazy traveling days on horseback with nothing to keep you company but your own thoughts and the sound of your horse’s hooves hitting the dirt path underneath. Imagine pulling into a little town with a few shops and the ubiquitous saloon full of drunk cowboys and floozies.

I’m so jealous right now.

When I get that picture of the old west in my mind, I always think about “Gunsmoke” the television show about Marshal Dillon and the good folks of Dodge City, Kansas. The show started running in 1955 and ran for 20 years with 635 episodes. It tried to portray the wild west the way it was full of bank robbers and cattle rustlers but also humans who knew about the spirit of adventure that kept them alive.

Gunsmoke’s main character was a U.S. Marshal named Matt Dillon. He and his faithful sidekick, Festus Haggen, kept the law and order in Dodge.

Miss Kitty operated the local watering hole, poker hall and, truth be told, probably a little den of ill repute if you know what I’m talking about.

You could tell that Miss Kitty had a little soft spot for Marshal Matt, but he didn’t budge. Matt Dillon was more about the adventure. He was just as content spending days on end patrolling Dodge City and the surrounding area, looking for bad guys and trying to keep the peace. He probably spent plenty of nights out in the wilderness underneath the stars, dreaming about Miss Kitty but unable to shake his need to explore and just live.

As the great philosopher Toby Keith once said, “I bet you’ve never heard ol’ Marshall Dillion say ‘Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away. Settling down would you marry me?

‘If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please.’

She’d have said yes in a New York minute

They never tied the knot

His heart wasn’t in it

He just stole a kiss as he rode away

He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place.”

Yeah, we all should’ve been cowboys.

Now that everything is virtually “discovered” by man collectively, it is up to us to do a little discovery of our own as individual men.

As I mentioned earlier, humans love to explore, to move, to travel. It’s part of what makes us happy and fulfilled. We need it like we water and oxygen and Twinkies.

I was born a nomad, so changing locales fairly regularly comes easy to me. As a child I went to six different schools systems in three states and too many houses to count. Instead of being something I dreaded, each move brought a sense of excitement and anticipation.

I learned a lot about who I was and what I was all about.

I still feel that call from the open road. Traveling is one of the things I need to find happiness. Something about getting lost helps you find yourself.

Over the past year, I’ve been to Key West, Los Angeles, Austin (several times) and various points in between. I had to work a little bit while I was in each of these spots along the way, but I made sure to get out and explore on every trip.

While those trips didn’t define who I was, it sure was nice to be on that road of adventure and exploration, just my wife and me.

We are already planning a couple of trips this fall, even if a couple are just weekend getaways to look at the leaves change driving across backroads with the top down. My wife and I are even thinking about buying a motorcycle to go on weekend excursions and pretend we are Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty, you know, kind of.

The great out there is calling. Will you answer?

If you do, take along a Twinkie or two, because sometimes restaurants are few and far between.

To read more of Rodney Hays’ humor, check out his blog at him on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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