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COLUMN: Road trip elicits friendly conversations along the way

When was the last time you and your husband or wife took a road trip? Was it following a birthday, graduation or other significant event in your life?

Whenever you took that time to travel this beautiful country of ours, I expect you met people like you and those different from you. I imagine you also met folks that, regardless of when you traveled, you still remember. Maybe you can’t recall their name, but some characteristic remains in your mind that occasionally reminds you of that trip and person.

For the first time in many years, just the two of us decided to take a road trip. Celebrating our 40th anniversary and Barb’s birthday we planned to go someplace we had never visited, but was on our “bucket list.” We wanted to see sights and towns we had read about and seen pictures of. Someplace that offered nature unlike what we have in Georgia and the Southeast. And, oh yeah, offered a little entertainment along the way.

We chose to travel “out west.”

Our celebration journey began at the Atlanta airport where we sped up the road trip a bit and boarded a plane headed to Las Vegas. Not to gamble, mind you, although I did put $1 in a slot machine and quickly lost, thereby satisfying my urge to get rich quick. The purpose of this stop was to attend a George Strait concert, rent a car, and drive to all the national parks in Utah. We planned to complete our trip in Salt Lake City.

Lucky for us I am now of the age that qualifies for the National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass that allows free access to every National Park in the country. If you are 62 and older and don’t have this Lifetime Pass get one. It will be the best $80 you will spend.

If you’re from Rome and traveling, I don’t have to tell you that you are going to see current or former Romans. We knew in advance that our neighbors and friends Kelly and Sharon Henson would be in Las Vegas for a meeting, so we met for lunch and a tour of Red Rock Canyon.

Following that we rented a car and began the 1,415-mile road trip that took us in all directions across the state of Utah. This is a beautiful drive, and I must comment on how clean and litter free the towns and roadways are. It is obvious that tourism taxes (and visitors pay lots of taxes) are used to keep Utah shining for its visitors. We visited St. George, Spring­dale, Moab, Provo, Park City and Salt Lake City. We saw all the National Parks except Capitol Reef.

The communities are all very neat and welcoming. As we stopped for food and gas to view an overlook, locals and visitors offered suggestions of some things not to miss. These were individuals of all races and nationalities, vastly different from two NW Georgia folks. But just as we were interested in them, they were equally interested in us.

An Indian couple from California warned us not to travel to Moab from Springdale without a full gas tank and lots of water and snacks. Motorcycle couples, African-Americans, Europeans, Japanese, young and old, of varying spiritual beliefs — our differences were never a concern. Rather our interests were in each other as human beings seeking a brief period of camaraderie and friendship. Every discussion we had included concerns and thoughts about those in the path of hurricanes in Florida and Texas.

Consider where we are in our country today, and understand the impact a smile and hello might have on those people we meet along our individual road trip.

We certainly enjoyed our time away, and the people we met we will remember, but it sure is good to be at home in Rome, Georgia.

Otis Raybon is the publisher of the Rome News-Tribune.