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Last week, I had the opportunity to spend seven days driving cross-country with my 24-year-old son, Brian. It wasn't just an opportunity. It was a privilege.

As our kids get older, the sad truth is that we don't get the chance to spend as much time with them as we'd like to. They have other things on their minds - their social lives, jobs, school, sports, whatever. They don't need us anymore. At least, not in the same way as they did when they were young. There's that great line that Dr. Henry Jones says to his son, Indiana: "You left just when you were getting interesting."

Brian graduated from college a couple of years ago, and then moved home and worked for a local wine retailer, learning about the business and become knowledgeable about wine and, especially, beer. But as I've said to a number of folks, he never lost his urge to work in sports management, marketing or media, and he kept dreaming of moving to California. And so, having saved some money and with no compelling reason to stay on the east coast, he decided to move to Los Angeles ... and lucky me, he took me along for the ride.

We spent seven days driving cross-country. Not the speediest route, but one that suited us. We stopped in Ohio so he could visit friends with whom he went to college. To Chicago, so we could visit his older brother. (David, an actor and writer, is studying at Second City and has done a number of plays. I'll be bragging about his latest show in a week or two.)

And then, north to Minnesota, where we enjoyed an unforgettable evening at Target Field, watching the Twins play the Royals from perhaps the best seats we've ever had, hosted by Phil Lombardo and Kevin Baartman of Lunds/Byerly's. (Thanks, guys. Sometimes it is hard to impress a 24-year-old. But you knocked it out of the park.) On such evenings, I have to pinch myself and remind myself how lucky I am to do what I do and have the friends I have.

From there, we drove west to South Dakota ... through the Badlands, a tough and forbidding terrain that made us wonder why, when the settlers reached it, they didn't just turn around and go home.

Then, it was on to Mount Rushmore. I've seen North by Northwest so many times, it would have been foolish not to. I found Mount Rushmore to be the most strangely exhilarating experience ... exactly what I expected it to be, and yet not at all what I expected. There was an intimacy to the mountainside that I found utterly surprising. And while I walked in with a little bit of an attitude - wondering why humans had the gall to essentially deface a mountain - I walked away thinking that it was, at some level, perfect. Those four guys deserved a mountainside, and we'll never see their like again.

We spent that night in the tiny town of Custer, South Dakota. (Great name, huh?) We found a terrific little brewpub called Bitter Esters, where I enjoyed a delicious Coffee Pub Ale with the breakfast burger. Nothin' could be finer, especially at 9 pm in the middle of the Black Hills. (My experience is that there's almost always a brewpub, and it's generally just about perfect.)

After that, we drove to Denver and Colorado Springs, where MNB reader Jim Hadley, director of Partnership Marketing with the United States Olympic Committee, gave us a wonderful tour of the USOC training facilities and offered invaluable guidance to Brian about his career choice. I've never been so impressed by the Olympics experience as I was that afternoon, nor as thrilled to have a readership so diverse that it includes someone as nice and smart as Jim.

The next day, we had the longest stretch of driving ... from Denver through Utah and then through a corner of Arizona and down to Las Vegas, Nevada. It also was the most spectacular ... words cannot possible suffice in describing the fantastic mountain passes, canyons and natural beauty that we observed. I've been to every continent except Antarctica, and in driving these roads, I've never been so impressed with or proud of America.

I'd didn't feel quite that way about Vegas ... but we had margaritas and burgers at (natch!) Margaritaville ... did some small-scale gambling ... and then the next day drove to Los Angeles.

We spent a day getting Brian settled in with friends, and then I took them all to dinner before they dropped me at Los Angeles International so I could fly home and Brian could begin his new life.

I'll admit it. I cried as he drove away. I'm a reasonably tough guy, but I cried. Enough so that he stopped the car and came back to make sure I was okay. Which I was. But I couldn't help shed a few tears for the little boy who has become a man, and in gratitude for a week that we're unlikely to ever have again.

He drove away. I got on the plane.

Two nights later, I was flipping around the channels, and I came upon Field of Dreams. I couldn't help myself. I watched it right to the end, when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) has a catch with the ghost of his father, a catch he has yearned to have for decades. I've always loved that scene, but never so much.

I think next time I go to Los Angeles, I'm bringing my mitt.




That's it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!

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