Rewards from the road

Traveling is a part of this job that I enjoy.

It’s a good thing, too, since this year I have been on the road six of the first eight weeks on one task or another for High Plains Journal. I’ve put about 3,000 miles on my car, give or take. I’ll have been through six different airports, four major metropolitan areas, and have two seven-hour road trips under my belt.

All that to provide High Plains Journal readers with news they can use to sustain their farms and ranches. Whether that’s from our signature events like Soil Health U and Alfalfa U, or from national events like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention and Commodity Classic.

Oh, sure, it’s tiring to travel that much. Cramming everything you need for four days into a rolling carry-on suitcase and a backpack that have to fit in an overhead bin and under a seat is a skill you learn through more error than trial. You’ll have heard your travel companions’ stories at least three times and the sound of your own voice grates on your nerves. And you eventually get to the point where you really just want a home-cooked baloney sandwich eaten over your own kitchen sink instead of whatever you can scrounge on an airport layover that’s less than $20 and a kidney to be claimed later.

But it’s also got its rewards.

How many people get to visit the Alamo at night, after a long day of walking the trade show floor and see it lit by the full moon? Or make friends with an Uber driver who tells you all the ghost stories of downtown San Antonio?

How many folks know the unexpected fun of stretching your legs at a hidden gem of a National Historic Site with your co-workers before you start out on a seven-hour truck ride home from a successful event? Or how many know the joy in finally seeing an open gas station in Trenton, Nebraska, after drinking two large sodas in Ogallala?

When would you ever make a point to see kitschy sights with your tired co-workers like the Neon Museum or the Las Vegas Welcome sign if you weren’t staying the night in Vegas before catching a flight out the next morning for home?

Travel memories are what you make of them. Sure, I could dwell on the fact that my sleep schedule is so disrupted because of early morning departures this last month that I now wake up regularly at 2:30 a.m. without an alarm. Or how rudeness is now apparently an American airport traveler’s calling card. But, instead I choose to think about the time we introduced a couple of wary co-workers to the miracle of the Runza sandwich on the drive home from Gering, Nebraska, and how they became converts with one bite.

No matter where you go, you take a piece of that destination home with you. Sure you can smash a penny in one of those machines and add it to your collection, but the memory of the trip in your heart is worth more.

I love the thrill of travel, I do. Plotting a route, checking items off my packing list and the prep work before starting out all make me happy. Mainly, I think, because my parents made travel for us kids an adventure too. We grew up knowing the rules of the road and soaking up as much roadside culture as our parents could afford.

Now that I’m an adult and doing the planning, I appreciate the struggles they faced to make sure we grew into road-tested adults. And I still heed my Dad’s advice when I start out: Check the car’s oil and tires; drive on the top half of the tank; stop to stretch your legs and rest your eyes; never take the same route coming back as you did going forth. And you’d better be fed, watered and “pottied” before you get back in that truck.

Still, I will be happy to see my home longer than the time it takes to do a few loads of laundry this next month.

Because it’s a well kept secret that the truly best part of travel is seeing the lights of home in your windshield.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].