Just about every time I travel I learn something important.
Work-related trips, for example, have taught me the value of roadmaps and the need to listen closely when someone gives me directions over the phone. I’ve learned, too, to ask if the first road to the right after crossing the railroad track just beyond the Baptist church is a paved road, a dirt road or just gravel. It makes a difference.
It’s also important to write things down and then take the piece of paper you’ve written on with you when you leave on your trip. And write down every turn, even if you think you’ll remember that you have to angle off to the left at FM 4291 and then take a hard right onto a gravel road that’s not marked.
Write legibly. I don’t. Anyone who has ever tried to decipher my interview notes can attest to my inability to write more legibly than a Rhode Island Red scratching in the dust.
My sister and I hatched up a scheme when we were in college together and taking the same once-a-week history course. She would go one week and take notes and then share them with me. I’d go the next and share my notes with her. She found it in her best interest to attend almost all classes. She still let me borrow her notes. She’s a good sister. I think I got a B in the class. She earned an A.
Pay attention to landmarks. I once pulled up to a huge house across from a statue of a white horse, marveling that farming seemed to be pretty profitable in this county, only to realize after banging on the door a few times, to no avail, that the instructions said to drive past the statue for 2 miles and then turn right. Details, details.
It also makes sense to jot down the phone number of the person you plan on visiting. I offer two good reasons for that. The first is obvious. When I get lost I can call and get new directions to replace the ones I wrote down incorrectly. The second is to call later and fuss about the bad directions you received.
I’ve also learned a few things on my rare fishing trips. The most recent lesson is this: If you have a pair of rubber hip waders that you haven’t worn for several years, you might want to stomp around in the bathtub for a few minutes instead of waiting until you get into a river to discover that they have sprung a leak.
Recently I had a few minutes to kill before a meeting began so I availed myself of the opportunity to fish one of the local lakes.
I keep a fly rod in my truck most all the time because, well, because you never know. I also keep a small box of my favorite flies handy. I sometimes toss my waders in just in case. On this particular adventure I had gotten everything ready — rod set up, fly tied onto the leader, waders pulled on and secured to my belt.
I walked down to the river, found a smooth place to enter and slowly waded out to ankle depth. My feet got real cold real quick. The waders didn’t so much leak as take on water. My socks didn’t get damp; they got waterlogged. Water sloshed around in the waders and when I pulled them off I discovered holes as big as quarters.
Of course I continued fishing until my feet got so cold I couldn’t feel anything but the imaginary tiny shards of glass that seemed to pierce every square inch. I caught one rainbow trout.
I also have learned over the years that one should always keep a pair of dry socks in the truck when traveling, because, well, because you just never know.