Never knowing quite where the road will take you

"I've been everywhere, man/

I've been everywhere, man/

Across the deserts bare, man/

I've breathed the mountain air, man/

Of travel I've had my share, man/

I've been everywhere."

Johnny Cash

 

When I was but 5 years old, I got to experience my first sizable road trip.

After nine years in the great white north that is Alaska — the final half-decade with a bundle of joy known as Yours Truly — my parents decided they'd spent enough time away from their family in California and ventured back south.

What lay ahead was a great wide world that was even bigger in scope to a little kid.

I don't remember all that much, but for much of the time on that trip and many others, as my Mom, my Dad, our dog Gypsy and I traveled in our old camper, my favorite place was up top in the cabover. Staring forward into a window that showed nothing else but what lie ahead, I felt like the whole world was in front of me.

It was.

Many years have passed since those youthful days of gazing into the great wide open, but I still find myself enamored with the roads we travel and the romanticism of it all.

It all lends itself so symbolically to these journeys called life that we are all upon.

It was a Friday night voyage following St. Francis High football that took me upon my latest trip and behind me I thought about all the miles traveled following this football team or that soccer team or another school's baseball team and on and on.

California itself is a state seemingly occupied by different worlds. There are towns in which cows outnumber people, cities of commerce, trends and more people than can be counted, cities that never seem to slow down and rural abodes that never seem to catch up. There are roads and streets, avenues and pavement and dirt and gravel. They all take you somewhere and lead you down a different path.

I made my way through Taft, the same town put on the map when the white-shoed Reno Hightower once quarterbacked his high school to the best of times before a tragic knee injury ended his playing days. Most of the window fronts were empty, telling the tale of a town that time seemingly left behind.

The route twisted and turned and winded and dipped and raised.

Eventually the 46 ran into Paso Robles, a town tucked away next to the 101 that had a McDonalds and a Denny's, but didn't seem to lose that small town feel.

Roughly 200 miles away from the friendly confines of Friedman Field, the Golden Knights of St. Francis lost for a second straight week, having taken roadtrips of vastly different distances to vastly different places that still saw them end up in the same place. They were winnable games against opponents they likely should have defeated that simply slipped away.

As I made the drive home, I thought about all of them on that very long bus ride back. I've been on that same bus, though it was many years and many more miles ago. It's a bus trip filled with silence and regret more often than not, one of unanswered questions and uncertainty as to where the road is taking you.

Was that stop a turning point? A speed bump perhaps? Or was it another step down the wrong path?

The beauty and agony of it all is you won't know the answer until you get to the end of the road.

I've seen a baseball game played on a sandy field shouldered by pine trees and snow-capped mountains.

I've covered a football game a stone's throw from the ocean.

I've witnessed the hopes of young men fade into the cold, desert air.

Looking back, I've seen a lot on cold nights and hot afternoons within the cities and towns, deserts and mountains and beaches of this vast land.

When I set out, I always know where I'm going, but rarely do I know where it will all end.

This job has taken me on too many trips to count and I've been privileged to write and witness the individuals journeys of many. There is triumph and heartbreak, wonderment and bewilderment, comedy and sadness.

I've gotten lost more times than I can count and have found that I'm far better off when I have directions.

I've been along the road with teammates, friends, loved ones and sometimes all alone. And when you lose yourself along the windy road, you often find other friends, like Bruce or Willie, Seger or Dylan and everything and everywhere seems to have a more profound meaning.

I know St. Francis and all its Golden Knights made it home that Friday night — actually, very early that Saturday morning. But I really don't know how their trip will end. I never do.

That's the beauty of it all. Sports. Life.

Even with directions, you're gonna get lost from time to time. And even when you know where you're going, you don't know how's it gonna end.

Maybe it's the simple fact that the road I travel, like many, leads me to the same place five or six days a week. When I take a trip such as the one this Friday past, I lose myself in the majesty of where I've been, where I'm going and where I'll end up.

And though my days at this job, seemingly just like yours, get repetitive at times, I know that there's always somewhere and someplace the road is yet to take me.

And if I can't get there by myself, I can always catch a ride with St. Francis football or Crescenta Valley softball or Glendale tennis or Hoover water polo or Renaissance basketball or Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer or Flintridge Prep volleyball and on and on. It's been a helluva ride.

That's just the way I see it, playing second string.

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