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Outdoors Outpost
Direction in Life
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 • Posted July 24, 2014

Recently, I did some research on a bunch of the early explorers, such as Columbo, Vasco de Vasco, Ponch de le Own, and others. Well, not exactly research, per se. What I actually did was rearrange some paper clips into ship configurations on my desk and wore an eye patch for a while. But the result was pretty much the same as research, as long as you don’t get all serious about facts and such. Which I don’t, as a general rule.

What I came up with, from all this research, was that, as far as I can remember, none of those early explorers ever took their wives with them on any of their epic trips. It was pretty much a ‘guys only’ thing, early exploring was. And I think there’s a good reason for that. Directions.

Wives want directions. They want an itinerary, a detailed rundown of departure times, waypoints, stopovers, snack bars, clean restrooms, road names, exact destinations, travel times, and where dry cleaning will be available. They want to know exactly where they will eat, and whether the hotel has clean sheets, and an exhaustive list of all the points of interest along their route. They want answers, and good ones.

Guys don’t care about any of that. All a guy needs is a tank of gas and an open road. Guys don’t care exactly when they’ll get to any particular place, or even IF they’ll get there. Somewhere else will do just as well. Maybe better. And if they take a wrong turn they figure they might see something great they might’ve missed on the planned route. Guys are more flexible.

Columbo, for example, told everyone he was going to India, but he wasn’t going the usual way, the way everyone else went, the way that was more or less guaranteed to work, as long as his ships didn’t sink, or he didn’t get killed by angry natives somewhere along the way. No. He was going in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION, and he was going to get to India anyway. So there.

And it worked perfectly. Or at least that’s what he told everyone when he got home. “I didn’t exactly find India,” he told Queen Esmerelda, “but I did find a bunch of Indians, and some other stuff. And besides, everyone already knows where India is, anyway, so what difference does it make?”

My point is that, if Mrs. Columbo had been along, they would’ve gotten to India safely, efficiently, and boringly, and America would still not even be here. Or it would, but it wouldn’t be named after Columbo.

Women, in other words, keep accidents from happening. They plan things out, and avoid confusion, and make sure all the major food groups are covered. Which is the last thing guys want on a road trip.

My son, Courtland, and I went on a road trip several years ago to Yosemite Sam National Park, which is in California. We left home with a bunch of camping gear in my Jeep, and spent almost two weeks on the road, without a plan, an itinerary, a reservation, or a clue. Whenever it started to get dark we began thinking about maybe finding a place to pitch our tent for the night, and the next morning we decided what direction we might want to go that day, and we went. It was a great trip.

Granted, we spent large sectors of our time lost, but that wasn’t a big problem, since we were somewhat vague on where we wanted to be, anyway. We basically bounced around the country like a ping pong ball in a dryer, took pictures of whatever we came across, and claimed that was what we’d gone to see in the first place. It was a Columbo trip on a smaller scale, except that we used our own money and spoke English.

My wife would go nuts on such a trip. She would want reservations. She would plan the best route in order to maximize the available time. She would take paper plates. She would research the various points of interest, and make a list of things we should see and places we should go, and calculate the best times to be there to avoid the rush.

The difference between these two approaches to trips is that my wife’s trip involves expectations that might or might not be met. If they aren’t met, disappointment results. And then the trip is ruined. Since there are no expectations for my trip, no one can claim I didn’t accomplish my goals. I have no goals, except to return home at some point. So far that’s worked out OK.

If pressed, I would admit that my wife’s approach is better, but I would never say that in print. My wife would never admit that my way is better. And she’s probably right.

Which is why, when my wife and I go on trips together, we use her method. She doesn’t let me do any of the research, but I get to wear my eye patch . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who found India in California. Or at least some strange natives. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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