Coloring In New Roads

I grew up in Colorado Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak and when I was a kid—and gas was cheap enough to guzzle—my dad would gather us up on a weekend afternoon and say, “Let’s go color in some new roads.”

We knew that meant we were going for a drive on some back roads we’d never explored before. And maybe, just maybe, there’d be an ice cream cone in our future.

When we’d get home, we’d clamor to be the one who got to use the thick black marker to color in the map of Colorado Dad had tacked to a wall. He would carefully unpin it, smooth it on the table, then trace with his finger the roads we’d taken. I wish I knew what happened to that map because I’m almost positive on one of those forays, we colored in some routes that are the same roads I drive on now, about 60 miles from where I grew up.

(When I told my parents where we were moving, they both said, “There’s nothing there but an intersection!” That was definitely true in the 1960s and 70s, and somewhat true when we moved here in 1990. The population was 5,450 when we bought our house and there were more horses than people here. Now it’s ten times the population, but I’m pretty sure we have more pizza places than people these days.)

But I’m sure I colored in some of that road as a kid.

When I was a kid we took the occasional road trip to visit family in Jackson Hole or Oklahoma, and once we even went all the way to California, but mostly we hung out in Colorado, on the plains and in the mountains.

When I had kids of my own, we traveled further afield, the five of us taking road trips all over the country. Every night, though, we’d open up the United States map and color in our new road.

I thought about these maps recently when a friend of mine said she took a wrong turn on her hike, but it was okay because she took some trails she hadn’t been on before.

And I’ve been thinking about them more metaphorically too.

In the last few weeks, I’ve colored in some roads on my personal map when I recently taught a hybrid class, to a group in person as well as a group on Zoom at the same time. Never done that before.

My husband and I went to watch a model yacht regatta. Never done that before either. We technically colored in some Colorado roadmap too.

As I’m working furiously on a Christmas cozy that I expect to have out in late November, I realize I’m coloring in some writing roads I’ve never been on before, even though this will be my fifteenth (!!) book. This story involves a community Christmas play, which I also had to write. Never done that before. When I asked a college pal who runs an arts center to take a look at it and check over my formatting, he told me he could see it getting produced all over the place. That would definitely color in some new road for me!

Of course, some roads let you glide over perfectly smooth asphalt with nary a pebble in your path, while others are bumpy and full of washboards, jarring your insides like you’re a pioneer steering a buckboard with a runaway horse.

But that’s what makes the trip interesting.

What have you done in your life to “color in some new roads” for yourself?

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