The last time I’d seen Christine Roberts, she told me she was heading out on a long road trip, an adventure. I’m not a stranger to such shenanigans, as I’ve slept under the stars in all 50 states. But I wanted to take measure of a woman who in her 60s would travel the length and breadth of America pulling a trailer.
When we spoke during that visit, I could tell Roberts had a passion for adventure. “Setting out,” as Jack Kerouac calls it.
Encountering new experiences and seeing changing horizons would not satiate her lust for adventure. Instead, it would entice her to experience more.
Eight months and 41 states later, I ran into Roberts at Starbucks. I had a million questions to ask her, starting with her longtime job here in La Cañada.
“How did you know it was time to retire?” I asked.
“I had worked 49 years and the last 29 were at La Cañada High School,” she said. “I was ready to retire.”
Her tenure at the high school began in 1989 as the secretary to then-Assistant Principal Julie Miller and ended in 2017 with Kip Glazer as assistant principal.
“What’s your best memory of working at the high school?” I asked.
“The kids,” Roberts responded. She warmly recalled the antics of two of her favorites, Kevin Blanc and Todd Whiting who, by the way, painted a mural formerly displayed in the attendance office.
She then told me of a memorable LCHS assembly that took place not long after she began working at the campus.
“Julie Miller announced to the students, ‘I am told that if you ask him he will come.’ Then Kevin Costner walked on the stage.”
As Roberts recalls it, the actor said to the assembled students, “Guys, what do you want to know?”
Roberts marveled at the arts department and recounted several memorable productions. “I loved ‘Bat Boy,’ drama teacher Gail Caswell’s swan song.”
Roberts explained her penchant to travel began camping with her parents. She and her family traveled throughout the western states and at an early age she learned to appreciate new horizons.
“The last 25 years I would do ‘runaway’ vacations,” Christine said. “I’d sit in the car and ask myself, ‘Where should I go?’ Then I went. I loved antiquing and would explore little towns searching for antique shops.”
She explained that she drew inspiration from her grandmother. Roberts herself is the mother of two and has two grandchildren.
“After Grandmother retired, she went around the world several times, so I wanted to do a retirement trip, but I wanted to see my own country.”
I asked her if she’d planned out her travels around America.
“No, I don’t plan where I go. I want to go down the road and see something interesting and go.”
I sensed Roberts is a kindred spirit who understands that it is not the destination that drives us, it’s the journey.
One of the highlights of her eight-month excursion was the day she enjoyed her first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean after arriving in Florida. Along our border with Canada she was impressed by the mighty power of Niagara Falls. On a visit to Big Bend National Park in Texas she was taken by the sight of blooming bluebonnets.
Roberts described the majesty of the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota and recalled a meaningful comment by a guide there: “Indians need to know we have heroes too.”
Along the way she enjoyed the kindness of strangers willing to lend a helping hand and met families who live on the road and home-school their children. “Wherever they are on Sunday, they dress and go to church,” she noted.
“I can slow down, I can see the country, I can take a nap. I never know what day of the week it is, or what time it is. I don’t need to rush through life,” she told me.
I asked her for one more story and she complied.
“In Amish country, I saw six little girls pop up from a soybean patch. I saw them from the nose up, all wearing their little white caps.”
Impressed by her tales, I suggested she should keep a journal of her trips.
She laughed and said, “I’d call it ‘Grandma’s Retirement Adventure.’”