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The Healing Power of the American Road Trip

Posted on Sunday, July 9, 2023
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by David P. Deavel
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AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

Road Trip

Justice Clarence Thomas is now, as throughout his career, in the crosshairs of the American left. His recent opinions have again marked him out as the great defender of the Constitution, common sense, and the natural law tradition in jurisprudence, so it is delightful to see him being referred to publicly as “The People’s Justice.”

How did he get to be that way? Those who have read his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, or seen “Created Equal,” Michael Pack’s marvelous 2020 documentary about the justice’s life, will know that Justice Thomas may have attained the commanding heights of the U.S.’s judicial branch of government, but he started out in the ranks of the ordinary and even the down-and-out. That he has never forgotten those days may be seen from the end of the film where the Justice is shown traveling “the regular parts” of this country in an RV with his wife, Ginni. Unlike too many Washington figures who style themselves as “the people’s” candidates, the senior member of our highest court actually gets out among the people and sees the country in which they and he live.

Oh, that we would all be more like Justice Thomas. The American road trip is a democratizing tradition in a good way. Traveling together in a car builds memories for families and friends. It teaches us about the vastness of our country, its beauty, and the reality of all those ordinary people out there—traveling alongside us and working in their own regions to make things work. I know that’s been my experience over many years. In fact, it’s been my experience for the last three days.

We just arrived in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, after a 2,200-mile drive from Sugar Land, Texas. We have been taking road trips for years, but this is a new one since we just moved to Texas last summer. And all of those lessons have been ours yet again.

We began Wednesday morning in southeast Texas. While Confucius didn’t quite say that a journey of many thousand miles begins with a single kid barfing, most parents will know the truth of the statement. And yet even that event highlighted the kindness of Americans. When my wife was looking for cleaning supplies in the gas station, the woman at the counter commiserated because her own daughter had been throwing up that day.

From that rough beginning, we first had to make our way across Texas itself. A joke has it that Texas is so big that it can fit the entire United States, the moon, and another Texas inside its own borders. All I know is that it took us about nine-and-a-half hours to make our way across to the point where we could cut up through New Mexico.

What a world it is! Before I moved to Texas, I thought the whole place was one big dusty, dry patch of land. And yet there are many different types of terrain in the state, many of them quite beautiful. True, west Texas is much as I imagined it, but there is a kind of austere beauty even to that. It is a good preparation for the grandeur of the red, rocky terrain of New Mexico. Everywhere one looks, there are magnificent rock formations rising into the sky, God’s own sun-drenched Gothic structures pointing us heavenward.

In fact, all the western states are filled with rocks, hills, and mountains of all sorts that are still a miracle to this boy raised on the flat land of northern Indiana. Even at 75 miles per hour, one sees the different kinds of country coming and appreciates how rich this land is. The rolling hills of Idaho are very different from the angular rocks of New Mexico and Utah, homey more than majestic.

The best part of the drive by far was the last part along the top of Oregon. U. S. 84 follows along the beautiful Columbia River for many miles. Driving along this route in the afternoon is an opportunity to see the mighty “River of the West” glistening and flowing along beside the Cascades, those evergreen mountains. One sees not only the mighty power of God but also the ingenuity of man, made in the divine image, in the three dams that break up the river. My wife, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, remarked on her own feeling of homecoming as we traveled this way toward Portland. The politics of the coast may be a mess, but the land itself is a gift.

 Not just the land but the animals on it. No matter how old they get, our own children love to see the herds of horses, cattle, and sheep that are seemingly omnipresent in the west. There were a great many calves and lambs to be seen on this trip. Though our seven-year-old begged, we resisted the suggestion to buy some sheep for sale in New Mexico.

Perhaps the children don’t see it yet. Or perhaps they do not know that they see it yet, but for me one of the best parts of these trips is indeed seeing regular people in what Justice Thomas calls “the regular parts” of the country. When we stopped for gas in New Mexico, we saw not only men in boots but men with spurs.

It’s those stops for gas that my wife says she likes best. The gas station is the most democratic place on earth. Everyone low and high and in between must stop to go to the bathroom, to get gas, to clean up the messes their kids made in the car before them. It is there that one meets them. It is there that one sees the bikers and the business executives, the truckers and the salespeople. It is there that one sees the young men in our country who are working with their hands, with machinery, with animals, with things in the real world.

We haven’t run into Justice Thomas and his wife yet. Perhaps one day we might. But it is probably more important that we are seeing the regular parts of the country and running into the kind of regular people that he likes to be among. There is something healing about the journeys we take across this country. Something that reminds us of what we have and share in this great country. Something that reminds us of how much we need all the different kinds of people who make up the fabric of this place.

Perhaps our country might look and feel different if more of those whom we entrust with legislative, executive, and judicial tasks were taking a road trip every summer to see the land, meet the people, and give thanks for the blessings we enjoy here in this land flowing with milk, honey, and so many other gifts.

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative.

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DAVID
DAVID
11 months ago

For many in this country a road trip is improbable thanks to Joe Biden and the destruction of our oil independence and low gas prices. I still don’t see the logic why people in this country would rather have Joe Biden as president than Donald Trump.

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
11 months ago

Sadly, if the Democratic Socialists have their way, they will tax you per mile of driving and make road trips cost prohibitive, do away with ranches, and sell the land China. Do you think I’m joking? Look at how much freedom you lost over the last 50 years and how much “permission” you need to do anything. Your child cannot even set up a lemonade stand without running afoul of the “authorities”
Just wait until they roll out their digital dollar. You will need “permission” on where you can travel, what you can buy or sell, and don’t even think about pushing back against any “mandate” they come up with. You accounts will be frozen with a few keystrokes of a computer. Yes folks, it’s a brave new world.

Sue M
Sue M
11 months ago

Since my husband and I traveled as fulltime RVers for 23 years, this article brought back many memories. We do indeed have a beautiful and varied land with incredible people.

Lawrence Greenberg
Lawrence Greenberg
11 months ago

“…His recent opinions have again marked him out as the great defender of the Constitution, common sense, and the natural law tradition in jurisprudence…”
And that is why we on the Right so admire and respect him, and at the same time why those on the Left hate and demonize him.

Ralph
Ralph
11 months ago

When you ride through the Western States you realize God’s creation is awesome!

LauraC
LauraC
11 months ago

As former full time RV dwellers, I completely recommend everyone take a few weeks, at least, if possible, to get around the country, not big cities, and meet other folks and see for yourself what is really going on. We were on the road before the 2016 elections and could see for ourselves how Trump was supported all over the country. When we finally ended up in CA in the days right before and during the election to visit family and friends, the lack of awareness of what was going on in the rest of the country was stunning. The MSM is doing themselves no favors by misreporting the news around the country. They look like clueless fools.

Ann S
Ann S
11 months ago

Justice Thomas does not see black or white he sees people as diverse as there are people living in this country. The rushing New Yorker is totally different from the cowboys in the west. Yes people there still are cowboys.
The fisherman in the Northeast to the Cajuns in Louisiana. Each and everyone is unique.
You don’t get that by flying over it. Take a road trip, I agree with Justice Thomas you will find kind people everywhere you go and you might be surprised what a great country we live in. And maybe patriotism will become fashionable again and America will be saved. Love to the people.

Neils
Neils
10 months ago

Did the cross country trip in 1966 when I graduated high school. My dad took the family of 7 on a 7 week , 10 thousand mile trip visiting old Army buddies, family friends, an relatives in CA. One could afford gas then. It cost 195 dollars to cross the country and back. Now it would cost that much to go to Georgia from CT.

SusanP
SusanP
11 months ago

That looks like a still shot from the movie “Thelma and Louise”. Considering how that movie ended, I don’t believe a seat belt would have helped at all.

Dan
Dan
11 months ago

And well she shouldn’t!

Brenda
Brenda
11 months ago

We vouch for the value of a road trip. Best gift you can give your children.

SusanP
SusanP
11 months ago

How about someone at AMAC get busy and fix this comment platform. I am a member here and logged in. But so far, I have been told 3 times that I am “not allowed to vote on this comment”. This is total BS. As a retired computer programmer, I know that if my work had been this sloppy, I would have starved as I would not have been able to hold a job.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
11 months ago

Ideal road trip:
Self driving car
Autodrive mode
GPS & hand Maps
Many routes to use
Prep for climate changes enroute
Lots of time for road trip

Richard Leon Shelton
Richard Leon Shelton
11 months ago

I have to laugh, we live in Tucson. It’s 106 today and the thought of riding in a convertible here today is hilarious.

Lynne
Lynne
11 months ago

It appears to have been fixed.

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