Coloring In New Roads

I grew up in Colorado Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak and when I was a kid—and gas was cheap enough to guzzle—my dad would gather us up on a weekend afternoon and say, “Let’s go color in some new roads.”

We knew that meant we were going for a drive on some back roads we’d never explored before. And maybe, just maybe, there’d be an ice cream cone in our future.

When we’d get home, we’d clamor to be the one who got to use the thick black marker to color in the map of Colorado Dad had tacked to a wall. He would carefully unpin it, smooth it on the table, then trace with his finger the roads we’d taken. I wish I knew what happened to that map because I’m almost positive on one of those forays, we colored in some routes that are the same roads I drive on now, about 60 miles from where I grew up.

photo by cottonbro at pexels

(When I told my parents where we were moving, they both said, “There’s nothing there but an intersection!” That was definitely true in the 1960s and 70s, and somewhat true when we moved here in 1990. The population was 5,450 when we bought our house and there were more horses than people here. Now it’s ten times the population, but I’m pretty sure we have more pizza places than people these days.)

But I’m sure I colored in some of that road as a kid.

When I was a kid we took the occasional road trip to visit family in Jackson Hole or Oklahoma, and once we even went all the way to California, but mostly we hung out in Colorado, on the plains and in the mountains.

When I had kids of my own, we traveled further afield, the five of us taking road trips all over the country. Every night, though, we’d open up the United States map and color in our new road.

I thought about these maps recently when a friend of mine said she took a wrong turn on her hike, but it was okay because she took some trails she hadn’t been on before.

And I’ve been thinking about them more metaphorically too.

In the last few weeks, I’ve colored in some roads on my personal map when I recently taught a hybrid class, to a group in person as well as a group on Zoom at the same time. Never done that before.

My husband and I went to watch a model yacht regatta. Never done that before either. We technically colored in some Colorado roadmap too.

As I’m working furiously on a Christmas cozy that I expect to have out in late November, I realize I’m coloring in some writing roads I’ve never been on before, even though this will be my fifteenth (!!) book. This story involves a community Christmas play, which I also had to write. Never done that before. When I asked a college pal who runs an arts center to take a look at it and check over my formatting, he told me he could see it getting produced all over the place. That would definitely color in some new road for me!

Of course, some roads let you glide over perfectly smooth asphalt with nary a pebble in your path, while others are bumpy and full of washboards, jarring your insides like you’re a pioneer steering a buckboard with a runaway horse.

But that’s what makes the trip interesting.

What have you done in your life to “color in some new roads” for yourself?

23 thoughts on “Coloring In New Roads

    1. Definitely new road, Liz! Were you happy with it? I’ve gotta say, I do like the fact that as an author we can “travel” all over the world from the comfort of our computer. I’ve been all over the United States, and as far away as New Zealand. Heady stuff for me!

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  1. I just mentioned to my wife yesterday that going for a Sunday drive with my mom was a popular activity when I was growing up. We’d drive all over north Jersey, where ma grew up, and she’d show me places she remembered and tell me stories about her youth. I guess we stopped when I left home for college, and with rising gas prices and the societal denigration of burning gas, I never went for recreational drives again. Too bad. Those were some good times.

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    1. I loved those Sunday drives, and it sounds like you have good memories too, Tom. But honestly … can you imagine doing that today? All the environmental aspects plus all the traffic?? No thank you.

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      1. Yes I can, Becky. We live in North Carolina, where there are plenty of country roads with little traffic just awaitin’. Nearby small towns with interesting shops, quaint restaurants and few people so adequate social distancing can be maintained. And I doubt that the puny emissions from my 2020 truck will destroy the planet anytime soon, with all those aging 18 wheelers on the highways.

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  2. Since I started writing ten years ago, I’ve definitely colored in a few new roads, both literally and figuratively. From actually traveling to book conferences in places like Atlanta and Bethesda to imaginary plac s like Rushing Creek, Indiana to Paradise Springs, Florida, it has been an interesting trek.

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  3. Love this phrase, Becky! We’ve colored in a few literal roads as a family, mostly to get to various national parks. We even have these nifty passports to put national park stamps in.

    The figurative roads have ranged from teaching in a webinar to writing (slightly) darker fiction to getting interviewed on Instagram Live.

    P.S. I want to see that Christmas play produced!

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    1. I love those national park passports! I’m so glad your family is doing that, and I love hearing about all the new and exciting ways we can connect with our audience and with other writers. I suspect there are a lot of unpaved and unbushwhacked metaphorical roads we haven’t even thought to travel yet!

      And let’s keep our fingers crossed about the Christmas play!

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  4. What an absolutely beautiful post – and term. I’m in love with “color in new roads.” I spent one summer at sleepaway camp and absolutely HATED it. The only thing I liked was a class called “Exploring.” That’s when we’d pile into the boat of a car belonging to the assistant director and just drive around northwestern MA, “coloring new roads,” many of which were dirt and led nowhere. But the fantasies of where they might take us were intoxicating.

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  5. Love this, Becky! Know that U2 song “Where the streets have no name”? I used to travel those streets when I worked as a newspaper reporter. Part of my area was a rural neighboring county where I’d be driving down a roughly paved road that suddenly devolved into gravel, or even dirt! One time I was following billowing black smoke across a field. I suddenly happened onto two colleagues driving across the same field. We got the scoop on a burning pile of tires!

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  6. Becky, What great memories. We used to take those twisting post-Mass drives also. They weren’t that interesting, though. My mom loved to check out new neighborhoods and other people’s houses. If they were under construction, she’d just walk though. Not quite that liberating feeling of the open road you described, lol. And we usually ended up at Dunkin’ Donuts.

    Liked by 2 people

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