And I took the road more traveled…

My wife and I shared a little sarcastic laugh on the way home from a quick Spring Break trip out of town on Tuesday afternoon. We were driving north again on that familiar two-lane between Garnett, KS and Fort Scott. I’ve been on it so many times. I don’t know its name or really care. I could drive it in my sleep, and probably have!

Lindsay had chosen us another fun getaway to the Ouchita mountain range on the Oklahoma and Arkansas border. We stayed in a little resort, right on Highway 59 and could see the ancient rounded-off peaks all around us. We visited family first, then spent a day cruising the Talimena Scenic Byway. That road was a new one for us, and fun to drive. Vista points and views of the valleys dropped drastically off both shoulders of the skinny asphalt strip.

I claim to enjoy driving through these types of interesting, technical and panoramic places. I claim to want to see mountains on every trip we take. I claim to enjoy four-wheel driving the backcountry and overlanding to quaint campsite destinations hidden high in the altitude…

Funny then, that I complained to my wife about driving out across the Kansan prairie on our way home. Funny that the long flat strap of black asphalt was boring me to death, heading back north out of Moran.  Isn’t it funny that I was bothered and just wanted the trip to end quickly and arrive home on that Tuesday afternoon…

That is ironically and maybe even sadistically funny because the roads I drive every single day of my ‘normal’ life here at home are as flat and as straight as any roads in the world. Besides one very short and shallow Ess curve, just north of Princeton, the highway I spend almost every day driving is pencil straight. You could lock your steering wheel with The Club, and just wait the 7 minutes out, till you track into the south end of Ottawa, Kansas.

Oh, Ottawa?? Yeah that is my hometown. I was born and raised there. Hills and mountains?? Hardly!! Nope, Ottawa is geographically non-interesting. We have a river and we have agricultural land all around. There are the Chippewa hills, but c’mon, they’re not very tall at all. Of course, Ottawa or Princeton can be a great place to raise a family, but for hiking and highland majestic views?? It can’t compare with even (Pough-Dough) Poteau, Oklahoma!

So then, when I claim to love the mountains and claim to want to explore the rugged heights where most cars and trucks can’t go, I am full of crap. If I really loved that stuff so much, I would make it a priority and a commitment in my life. I wouldn’t spend day after day after day, driving back and forth from P-Town to O-Town down the same ruler-straight stretch of flat road.

If I complain and roll my eyes when I speak of that ‘boring’ highway south of Garnett, I am poo-poo-ing the avenue and gateway to new adventures. I am actually reinforcing an untruth. I could actually express my love for that road, because it leads to higher places.

If I spend my inner-thought-life trying to convince myself that I am a high-mountain adventurer, it’s a bit of a stretch. In practice, I’m living the flatlanders’ existence 99.8% of the time. Really I must be enjoying these plains and prairies more than the peaks. I have to. If I was so uncomfortable with my two feet on level ground, I would do what it takes and move to a steep slope, up there among the pines.

This place where my world unfolds must be exactly where I want to be. It is where I met my beautiful wife and where we raise our daughter. It is where I worship God and where I make my living. I own a home and see my family and friends here every day. I have invested almost 37 years here in the Sunflower State. On Monday I’ll hit that number, just 8 miles down the road from where I started.

Coming home, down from the hills to drive this same flat piece of pavement, must be what I really want. If it wasn’t, then I would have just stayed up there, any way, any how. I know my wife would entertain adventure if I really really wanted it. She has an alternative mind like mine too. She must be a little crazy, to deal with me every day.

Just becoming more honest with my own truths, is an exercise worth doing. Finding out that it is okay, to really enjoy life, right now, exactly as it already is, has value. Settling into the fact, that all my commitments show up in the precise proportion to which I have decided to hold fast to them. If I want different things, I need only shift those commitments, but without a shift, nothing at all has opportunity even to change.

I have a someday list, like a lot of people do. It probably includes more mountain time. Right now though, getting my head out of the clouds and into the place where the rest of my life is actually occurring seems the better choice.

I’m glad to be home, and glad to be sharing again with you, some words that flow with vigor through these (still 36 year old) fingers. I believe that when I open myself up in this space that something happens, surely to help me and maybe to help you.

Until next week, Take Care and God Bless.


Aaron Nichols

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