Tom Ross: Time to take a road trip

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— The full moon will rise over Soda Mountain on Wednesday. The Broncos report to Greeley on Thursday, and already the August calendar that hangs in the kitchen is filling with reminders and appointments.

I've got an itch that needs scratching. I feel a road trip coming on. Summer is far from over, but it's definitely time to take stock and re-prioritize.

If you haven't done many of the memorable things you planned to do this summer, write them on the calendar in red.

Do it now.

I would submit to you that a road trip should be on your list. I'm talking about the kind of road trip that doesn't involve a precise itinerary or timetable, just a destination. Don't make a motel reservation, because you won't know where you will be spending the night until you get there.

I know there is a downside to traveling without a reservation you could spend an extra 45 minutes looking for a campsite. And you might even get cranky. But if your room at the Generic Inn is booked before you leave home, you'll feel obligated to arrive there at a reasonable hour. You'll end up eating greasy French fries in the Bun'n'Run 200 steps from the motel. And baby, that's not a road trip.

A road trip is rolling into Torrey, Utah, in the dark after watching the last light fade from the Egyptian Temple and discovering the Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe. And then discovering they serve freshly baked pies for dessert.

A road trip is winding your way up the Oregon coast past all of those dazzling sea stacks to Newport and getting turned on to freshly shucked Yaquina Bay oysters and buying a quart.

Leaving Steamboat at dawn and fishing Montana's Madison River that same afternoon that's a road trip.

Taking turns driving all night to ski Mammoth Mountain, Calif., that would be a road trip.

Relax, you don't have to travel hundreds of caffeine drenched miles to qualify for an official road trip. You can go to Palisade for the peach harvest next month. Or you can head south over Poncha Pass and drop into the San Luis Valley. Your ultimate destination may be the Great Sand Dunes, but when you get to Moffat, and you find yourself curious about Crestone, turn off of Colorado 17 and check into the Slice of Heaven B&B. Spend an afternoon poking around one of the sleepiest little art gallery towns in Colorado.

You can get up the next morning and head for the dunes, but when you get to Mosca and you see the sign for the alligator farm, don't pass it by. It's a road trip.

The whole point of a road trip is to taste freedom, if only for 56 hours.

And you cannot experience freedom if you have to be at a certain place by a certain time. That's just the way it works.

Leaving Steamboat in March to watch the Rockies play spring training baseball in Tucson and never getting any further than Flagstaff that would be a cool road trip.

Waking up on Friday and saying, "Honey, let's drive to Vegas and see if we can catch the Who concert," when you don't even have tickets that would most definitely be a road trip.

Picking up a road map and noticing that Colorado is really only separated from Texas by a narrow strip of the Oklahoma Panhandle, that could be the beginning of a road trip. Recalling that your favorite George Strait tune is "Amarillo by Morning," now that could seal the deal. Setting off to find the best barbecue joint in Texas that doesn't have any plates, but serves hot, nasty meat on a big square of butcher paper that could be a road trip that never ends.

A sudden realization that you've never seen the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, and you're not getting any younger, that could result in a brutal December road trip.

Realizing that you need to drive south in order to recover from your road trip to Green Bay that could lead you all the way to Key West. And from Key West, hell, you might as well drive up the gulf coast to Biloxi. Mississippi isn't that far from 'Nawlins. And really, Baton Rouge can't be more than about 550 miles from Austin.

And once you're in Austin, why you're in a state that is only separated from Colorado by a narrow strip of Oklahoma.

But there would still a lot of barbecue between you and Steamboat.

So, what are you waiting for? Gas up the mini van.

Just promise me you won't call 1-800 and book the Family Budget-Tel before you set out. Promise to be adventurous and eat at mom and pop restaurants.

If you do, you might even meet some locals, which is really what traveling is all about. At all costs, stay off the Interstate whenever possible.

If you're on a four-lane highway, you're not on a road trip. Got it?

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