Along the Way

by Shiraz Johnson

  • Essay
  • Multimedia
decorative header image from Volume VII Issue 2 · Spring 2021

It’s difficult to remember summers where my dad and I didn’t pack backpacks, coolers, books, and ourselves into a car and drive west from our home on Long Island. For most people, a road trip is about getting to a destination, but for us it was about the road. Highways, side streets, and rundown dirt roads. We spent most nights in little motels with bright blue swimming pools and American flag murals, but for two weeks each summer we called our car “home.” I have fond memories of visiting museums and old friends, riding horses and roller coasters, and singing along to music coming out of car speakers.

All images courtesy of Shiraz Johnson

All images courtesy of Shiraz Johnson

This piece reflects those times, as well as the shared “road trip experience” of many Midwesterners. My collage and poem were inspired by the trips spent driving through Missouri—Ted Drewes frozen custard (featured in the bottom right of the collage) is a must have! I wanted to give others a little taste of that warm feeling of being curled up in the front seat of a car, of being on an adventure. Take a listen to the “Midwest Playlist” to hear some of the amazing music that came from the area, and maybe one day you’ll take a road trip and decide to put it on while driving in the middle of nowhere. Rootstalk leaf-bug icon marking the end of the article's text.

To listen to Shiraz Johnson's playlist, click on the image above to open the playlist in _Spotify_.

To listen to Shiraz Johnson’s playlist, click on the image above to open the playlist in Spotify.

Along the Way

By Shiraz Johnson

Roads in
middle of nowhere,
are made by
cars before us
paving the way
in dirt

I’m going to Graceland
and in response my dad
tries to find
NPR an antenna
searching through the
night sky for
a radio signal
that is too far
away to pick up

We’re in perpetual
darkness except for
when the car
coming at us forgets
to turn off their brights and I have
to blink hard
with blue spots
dancing behind my
eyelids and
feel guilty
because my dad
can’t drive with
his eyes

And as we’re driving in easy silence
on the road
made by other cars
I realize that
maybe my dad
is making a
road for me,

[MaryVille, Missouri](

MaryVille, Missouri

[Indiana Dunes National Park](

Indiana Dunes National Park

[The Bean,](  Chicago, Illinois

The Bean, Chicago, Illinois

About Author Shiraz Johnson
Portrait image of author Shiraz Johnson.
Shiraz Johnson ’22 is a third-year student at Grinnell College majoring in mathematics and concentrating in statistics. She is from Long Island, New York, but is glad to have Iowa as a second home. Shiraz is the co-president of Grinnell’s Math Club and works for two different libraries in both New York and Iowa. In her free time, Shiraz enjoys crocheting, baking, reading, and playing board games.