Olivia started singing at the top of her voice when the chorus came around.
“Well I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m going…I’m on my way, I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where…Goodbye to ROOWZEE, Queen of Corona…See’n me and Julio down by the school yard…” Olivia continued humming along, her head pulsing to the rhythm.
She and her father Jason cleared the city about 20 minutes before; the seemingly endless sight of buildings, row houses, strip malls, concrete and asphalt finally giving way to empty rolling hills of tall spring grass and the straight line of highway stretching out in front of them. The uncluttered expanse made Olivia feel like all that crap could actually be left far behind.
The chorus came around again. Olivia blurted again at full voice, “See’n me and Julio down by the school yard!”
“It’s not ‘see’n me and Julio’,” Jason said.
“It’s, ‘See you, me and Julio’,” Jason corrected.
“ ‘K. Whatever.”
The song played on, but Olivia sat quietly, unaccustomed to talking to her father. She’d been on this stretch of freeway before, when they used to go see her grandparents. Even as a little kid, she was amazed at why, except for the giant green exit signs indicating a road to places unseen, there was nothing out here. Just empty hills and the highway signs. Enormous highway signs, always looking new and shiny, as if someone finally noticed there was something to see of the world out here, beyond the city. Smaller, colorful signs promoting fast food joints, hotels and gas stations, made it seem like those unseen places were some sort of meccas; better than the city, something fantastic and not to be missed, out here, in the middle of nowhere.
The next song started and this time Jason started to hum the tune.
“Know this one?” he asked.
“Nope,” Olivia said.
“No?! Really? C’mon…you don’t know ‘Little Pink Houses?’”
“Oh, but ain’t that America, for you and me,” Jason sang the chorus as loudly as Olivia. He turned and smiled, giving her a wink and continued singing, “Ain’t that America, … something to see baby, ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah…Little pink houses for you and me.” Olivia stared out ahead at the highway, trying to hide a smile. Jason kept singing,
“…he says Lord, this must be my destination… (da dumm dadumm dumm…) those old crazy dreams just kinda came ‘n went…OH BUT AIN’T that America, for you and me…!”
Jason slapped the steering wheel with his hand, bobbing his head back and forth with the beat. Olivia kept her head turned away, making every effort to hide she was biting her lip to keep from laughing.
“What do they know, know, know…Go to work…sum sum dum dummm…” Jason mumbled his way through the lyrics and then yelled at the top his voice, “AND VACATION DOWN AT THE GULF OF MEXICO!! OOO YEAH!” He added an extra “umpf umph” through his teeth, accented with more head bobs.
“Oh my God, DAD!” Olivia whipped back around and smacked Jason on the arm. “Stop it!”
Jason mockingly winced, lifting his arm to shield himself. He sang even louder, twisting his face into one of those expressions everyone thinks singers make when they are belting out a song. . “… hey we’re something to see BAYBAY,”
“DAD!! Ohmigawd STOP IT!” Olivia feigned humiliation, holding her forehead in her hand, “Oh, My, God, you are like, so freakin’ me out right now.”
“…Little pink houses babe for you and me, OOO YEAH…. OOO YEAH…”
The song ended. Olivia lurched forward and hit the scan button on the radio.
“Oh, hey, now… that was a good station, kiddo.” Olivia repeatedly hit the scan button. “Not going to find much of anything else out here,” Jason cautioned. “Get my CD case out…”
“No!” Olivia snapped. “I’ll find something.”
The radio scanner landed on Mariachi and Norteño stations, a talk show, several Country stations, a man extolling the love of Jesus Christ, and a classical music station before coming back around to the oldies station they’d been listening to.
“Told ya,” Jason said.
Olivia turned off the radio and sat back in her seat with dramatic sigh. To Jason’s surprise, she did not turn on her phone and put in her earbuds.
They drove in silence for a while, staring at the road ahead. It was peaceful. Just the sound of the car speeding over the freeway; a kind of peace neither of them had known in a long while.
“You gonna let me drive some?” Olivia eventually asked.
“Yeah? Sure! Of course. You need some freeway experience.”
“Cool.” Olivia gave her father a quick smile.
“After lunch, then,” Jason thought a second before continuing. “Next exit, we’ll get something to eat. Good time for a break anyway.”
Jason smiled back at his daughter. They sat in silence a while longer before Olivia slowly leaned forward and turned on the radio again, just as Elton John started to beg to not let the sun go down on him.
Wrote this a while back based on two prompts: 1) “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” (Carl Sandburg) 2) Road Trip