So on my ultimate dream trip, you'll find me dipping down into the small towns I love with their mom and pop shops and town squares built around a stately old courthouse.
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I've got a lot of miles on my chassis so time's a wastin' to see and do all the things on my ultimate wish list.

First up, marijuana. Like Bubba, I never inhaled. Gotta get me some. Hmm ... my favorite cousin lives in Denver. A two-for-one treat.

I'd like to spend a couple of hours with each friend I've made since college. Might have to use Face Time for some, but hanging out with them would be much more fun. I'd split a salad with Marge, swap my tomatoes for her olives, then chuckle over how the big boss couldn't tell us apart, so he'd call us by each other's names. I'd reminisce with Sally about singing Mr. Sandman in the 6th grade talent show, and remind Carla again that when I fell off my horse she went right past "Are you okay?" to "Don't tell my mother we went on the trails." With Deanne we'd marvel that our kids, now with kids of their own, have stayed close since pre-school. And I'd rehash with Liz how we flew by the seat of our pants to start the non-profit, pulling off miracles with more luck than skill.

My friends are all over the place so I'll fit that into another big wish, traveling down the old highways and scenic byways crisscrossing this country. Stopping at every historic marker with no kids yelling "keep going," and no husband hell bent on making good time (is that a universally male thing?). When our tummies were empty and our bladders bursting, his ideal spot to stop was an easy-on easy-off chain restaurant with an order-by-number menu or a shovel-by-the-pound buffet. As we pulled into the restaurant/gas station parking lot I'd be watching the quaint local eatery fading away in the rearview mirror.

So on my ultimate dream trip, you'll find me dipping down into the small towns I love with their mom and pop shops and town squares built around a stately old courthouse. You'll hear my waitress holler, "scramble two hard, grease the grits, burn the bacon," at diners where geezers gather to shoot the breeze. Just plop me down anywhere in the boonies, give me some wheels, some country music, and I'll be on my way. Add some company to share the pleasure? Increase my joy by extra measure.

If I had my druthers I'd live a short drive from each of my kids. Seeing them would be like it used to, a don't clean the house first it's just Mom coming over kind of thing. Or, "Mom, we're going to the movies, want to come?" More of that, please. Just to be clear this wish to live near my family involves no sorting, packing, moving vans or tearful goodbyes -- hey, I'm wishing here: my dream, my rules.

Before my grandchildren can drive I'd like to be around them enough to get to know them and have them know me. I'd like to tell them my stories and listen to theirs while we're doing the dishes together or walking the dog. All the while they'd be storing away memories that'll last them a lifetime -- some they'll pass down to their kids some day.

I'd like to meet the woman my son will marry (maybe he has -- his girlfriend could be a keeper). Whoever she turns out to be, she'll be sharing her life with the son who abides with me like a second heartbeat. I suspect she'll be someone special. And lucky me: She won't have heard any of my stories yet. Or had the pleasure of my narrated journeys through our family albums. Let's see ... we could start with the ones from before he was born....

Celebrating milestones with my children and theirs -- as many as I can cram into my lifetime. I want to be there, arms open, ready to enfold them after they take a bow after the class play, step across a stage in cap and gown, get that college acceptance letter, exchange wedding vows, welcome new babies or mark special anniversaries. Those moments? Bring 'em on! Sharing down times with them? Nothing I'd wish for, but I'd like to be there.

So what about me, when I'm not with family or on the road? Let's add a place like Cheers -- drinking optional -- where everybody knows my name. A spot to drop in anytime and feel at home with men and women whose company I enjoy. Add a purposeful team project that taps my knowhow and imagination -- ah, that would be great.

What's not on the list, in case you didn't notice: Wedding bells, for one. Sharing my home, another.

Seeing more of the world, now that's appealing. Would I like to noodle my way through villages in Italy, Spain, and the British Isles? Yes! And retrace my grandparents' steps in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Minsk -- the odds are against this long-held dream but this is my ultimate wish list ... let's put that near the top. For years I've looked longingly at small group travel itineraries to appealing destinations but none would do -- too expensive, too long, too strenuous. The real reason? I suspect you know by now. I've traveled alone or with groups of strangers to too many places. Traveling with my adult children or that Denver-based cousin -- the trips that enrich my memory bank -- there's room, and a deep longing, for more. Add my grandchildren's fresh eyes -- forget Trip Advisor, those excursions would earn my 5-star reviews. Venturing beyond our borders or across the sea, tempting as that might be, won't make my ultimate wish list without the company of family or a special friend.

Meanwhile, plunk me down on a two-lane road anywhere in this cultural collage of a country, and I'll be off, tripping through terrain as varied as its people, yearning to know what's around the next bend.

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