Every year since I graduated college my father and I pick a fall day to set out on a road trip and chase the leaves. We use foliage trackers to find peak seasons and have traveled all over the northeast. In the past we have gone to Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Our stops have included look out points off spiraling country routes, abandoned barns, fields with cows and horses, wineries, state parks and any exit off a highway that shows a stick figure man with a backpack and walking stick. We have met many strange, hick characters and sometimes run back into the car happy we still have all our teeth.
During the drive, there is plenty of time to chat. The first year, we talked about finding me a job. I had just graduated with an English degree and needed some guidance from my Dad. The years following had a similar tone, whether it was about making the most of the position I held, or striving for a new one, my Dad loves to talk business. We also talked about my boyfriends and my Dad’s business and our family, and music and leaf colors and pointed out different shaped clouds and hawks flying over head. At the end of the day each year, we are both exhausted, after hiking for hours and driving for more, and we are that much closer to each other.
My alarm went off at my parent’s house at 5:20AM, giving me just enough time to grab the coffee my Dad had made and walk out the door for 5:30AM. Off we went. Things were going really well and we were in New York on highway 87 in no time. My Dad prides himself on taking routes off the beaten path to avoid traffic. He calls them “short cuts” which is weird because they tend to be the opposite. That is the beauty of this day though. We are simply chasing leaves so every road we take brings its own adventure and we never worry about the time. However, on highway 87 we did hit some traffic. In fact, it was so bad that we turned the car off for an hour and waited for an accident to be cleaned up. All of a sudden Maryland was looking like a far off dream. We settled on Pennsylvania and picked up without missing a beat when the traffic began to clear. This being a foliage day, we try to keep the GPS to a minimum and use handheld maps to pick our routes, finding paths to State Parks.
As we drove, we listened to classic rock and Elvis and talked like we always do. This year I noticed that our conversations were less focused on me and my work and my romantic life. There was more of an equal balance, perhaps it is becoming a level playing field. We are two adults, a father and a daughter, two friends, rather than a dad and his child. Of course there was advice to be given, and I appreciated it, like I always will.
“Okay, crab cakes for you sir, and for you, miss?” The waiter turned to me.
“No, no, I just wanted to know if the crab was fresh.” my dad continued.
“Yes, yes very good”
“Yes, but is it fresh, or frozen crab?”
“Many, many compliments on the crab, sir.”
“Okay, but is the meat fresh or frozen?”
"Yes, delicious, one of the favorite dish."
"So, it is fresh."
“Ah, yes the crab meat is very fresh, from a can.”
That was the end of that conversation, but my dad thought he was very helpful and he enjoyed the Mexican dish he ended up getting very much.