Explorer vs. Road Warrior

The Explorer in me is always at war with my inner Road Warrior.

The Road Warrior comes from my childhood and my dad’s approach to a road trip. It’s not that we didn’t stop along the way and do fun things—we always did. I have great memories of national parks and horseback riding and river raft trips and seeing lots of quirky roadside sights (Bedrock City, the House of Mystery, Crazy Horse).

But when it was time to drive, my dad took this seriously. We put miles under our tires. We were on a mission to get to our destination. No whimsical “let’s go check this out” type stops. No stopping for anything, except for gas. I learned early on that you took any stop as an opportunity to go to the bathroom. There was no such thing as stopping only for that.

We took photos of destinations we were at, but no one ever thought about stopping purposely to take a photo while we were driving. Lunch was a picnic alongside the road. Break out the cooler, eat, pack it back up. Keep rolling.

I find myself doing many of these same things. Today I even ate lunch while driving. I simply pulled to the side of the road, hopped out (leaving the car running) while I dug into my trunk for cheese and beef jerky and crackers, then hopped back into the driver’s seat to eat and drive at the same time. When I was done, I waited until I found a “historic info” sign to pull over next to so I could throw stuff back in the cooler, quickly read the historic info about some guy named Mullen who created the road from Montana to Idaho and predicted how revolutionary trains would be, then continue on. “Down” time from driving—about 5 minutes.

But…then there’s my Explorer side; the side that’s curious and wants to see more and learn more and experience new things. The side that wants to chat with the locals and hang out in sidewalk cafes and go on hikes and poke through museums.

That side of me has been developed during my own travels. I don’t want to just pass through. I want to experience a place.

The Explorer says “Let’s hang out and see more.” The Road Warrior says “We have to hit the road and put some miles behind us. We’ve got places to get to.”

Like today. I stopped in Helena long enough to hike up Mt. Helena. I could easily have settled into Helena for the evening. After my hike, I would have loved to settle into the brew pub at the base of the mountain to quench my thirst. I could easily have wandered the streets of the historic district and taken the Last Chance Gulch tourist train. I could have checked out Saturday nightlife in downtown Helena or looked for some interesting restaurants serving Montana beef. I could have looked for the Sleeping Giant mountain that I remembered from my childhood. Or looked for the book store where I remember buying a book on pioneer life in Montana from a woman’s point of view.

But my inner Road Warrior needed to hit the road. It kept thinking of getting to Minneapolis and the miles between where I was and where I needed to be. It didn’t care that it was already 4 p.m. and that I’d chosen a somewhat lonely state highway for my path eastward. Staying in Helena wasn’t an option. The Road Warrior had to have its way. The Explorer had had a hike, it was time to hit the road. So I did.

The Road Warrior got me to Miles City tonight; easily within reach of Minneapolis on Monday. But the Explorer has reasserted itself. Miles City has a  Range Riders Museum. Then there’s the book on little-known North Dakota sights. The Explorer has plans for tomorrow. What will the Road Warrior think of that?