The Great American Road Trip #5
We’ve now wrapped up our two family stays and will be on the road for the remainder of the trip. The family visits went great. My brother was very surprised by our visit, which was very satisfying since surprising him was the goal of this trip.
The boys have continued to exceed expectations with their behavior. This has been a very pleasant surprise on this trip. Having kids that travel well makes it much easier to think about planning more adventurous trips.
Adventurous might be the wrong word as it turns out I have a bad case of acrophobia. This puts me in rare company according to wikipedia, who claims between 2-5% of the population suffers from a fear of heights. This sounds low to me, but who am I to argue with wikipedia.
I have 2 theories about the origins of this fear. The first is simple genetics. My mother has acrophobia and I suppose it is possible that genetics are to blame. The second and far more likely culprit is my older brother.
I remember on numerous occasions throughout my childhood, I’d be peering off a tall structure and my brother would come up behind me, quickly grab my shoulders and push me forward for a fraction of a second before pulling me back. It was a classic older brother move and after the split second of panic wore off, I’m sure I found it humorous.
However, I now wonder if those experiences birthed my current fears. I first remember experiencing this fear during my adolescence. It was more of a nuisance than a problem at that time. It didn’t alter my life in any way, and only came up when I traveled, since every new destination I visited had some tall structure to ascend.
In the past I’d never let these fears stop me. Every structure we visited I’d climb with everyone else. St. Louis Arch…check. Sears Tower…check. Empire State Building…check. Space Needle…check. Sure I’d stand about 10 feet back from the edge, but I went up none the less.
This trip has been different. My acrophobia has been far more debilitating. Standing at the bottom of the St. Louis Arch and looking up created dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea. Symptoms I’d never experienced before. I was accustomed to the sweaty palms, racing heart, an overwhelming fear. But all of these could be overcome with will power.
Will power has not been enough this trip. The white knuckled driving through the Louisiana bridges and the mountains of Arizona, Nevada, California, and Utah has been torture. I’ve finished each day with my last nerve frayed, unsure of how I’ll do it all again the next day.
Not anticipating this aspect of the trip, we made the decision not to add my wife as a driver to the car rental. At the time it was a no brainer as doing so would have doubled the cost of the rental. Even if we had added her, I’m not sure being a passenger would be any better.
So far my acrophobia has claimed two victims on this trip. The first was the St. Louis Arch. I’m not convinced we would have ascended the arch either way given how expensive it was. But after my acrophobia took over, I knew I certainly wouldn’t be taking on the arch. My wife elected not to take the boys up without me.
The second casualty was the Hoover Dam. I spent a portion of our visit to the Grand Canyon sitting in the car to steady my dizzy head, calm my nerves, and allow the wave of nausea to dissipate. Then took a harrowing drive through a particularly mountainous region of Arizona and Nevada, which culminated in the most intimidating bridge I’ve encountered to date.
By the time we got to the exit for the Hoover Dam, I just didn’t have it in me. I needed to get off the mountain as soon as possible.
I hate being limited by my fears and view it as a personal failure when something like this happens. This disappointment in myself is compounded when it has a negative impact on others, like it has on my family during this trip.
Since I’m writing this on the road, I haven’t had much time to reflect on the whole experience, so my course of action is still uncertain. My goal for these travel logs has been to be as transparent as possible. While this isn’t a typical travel log, I hope it has captured this aspect of our trip.
This will be my last update from the road. I’ll write one final road trip wrap up post after we return home.
I’m very excited for my next post, which is the next installment in my Random Questions series. I hope you enjoying reading it as much as I did.