Travelers' tales

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Julie and Mark Langenfeld are happy to be back in their Cape Girardeau home. But their trip across the continental United States is a reflection of how much they love to travel.

From July 1 to 27, Julie Langenfeld and her father, Mark, set out on a trip to traverse 48 states. Julie, who just turned 16, got to test her new driving skills in their 1968 Mercedes-Benz. Julie is the third generation of Langenfeld's to drive the car.

In past years, Mark and Julie have traveled with the rest of the family to the Black Hills in Wyoming, Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, Breckenridge, Colo., and the province of Alsace-Lorraine in France. The trip to France was significant, Mark said, because his grandfather is from Turckheim, a city in the province.

Julie, a junior at Cape Girardeau Central High School, said traveling is great because it offers knowledge not found in textbooks.

"It provides you with a bigger sense of a nation, the sights and the smells," she said.

Mark said there's a certain excitement in arriving in a state and meeting somebody for five minutes, knowing you might not see that person again in your life.

"It's similar to your body being jerked around in a roller coaster," he said.

This year, Mark decided to increase the potential of seeing people from those five-minute encounters again. He designed a brochure and a picture of him and Julie, with their contact information.

Mark said the trip reinforced the idea people all over the world love to travel. Along the way, the father and daughter met French, German and American travelers.

"In Maine we met a lady working at a restaurant who, after hearing about our trip, started telling us about trips she used to take with her family," Mark said. "We shared something in common with her. We all have enjoyed traveling."

Traveling, as great as it can be, comes with compromise, Mark said. Usually he likes to take his time while he is traveling and try to get a feel for the culture of the place. This trip had to be compressed because Julie starts band camp Monday at Central High School.

Mark and Julie stopped along the road in New Jersey to look at a stone wall that seemed like it had been sitting there for 200 years, he said. Mark said he got his bike out of the trunk and rode it around the area for about 10 minutes, knowing they had to keep traveling. He wanted to observe a piece of history, he said.

"Now, every time I think of New Jersey, I'm going to think of that wall," he said.

"Even though we didn't have lots of leisure time, I don't regret anything about the trip," Mark said. Julie and Mark averaged 370 miles traveled a day.

"I like allocating my time this way," he said. "This was a different challenge. But I couldn't do it all the time."

Compromise had to also be made with an air conditioner that didn't work as they were traveling through Death Valley and New York City.

"There were a couple moments when we really wanted it to work," Mark said. "It wasn't a trip stopper."

Mark said the symbolic value of the car -- that it had passed down through three generation of Langenfelds -- was a thought that made traveling without the air conditioning bearable.

"We're glad we still have this car," Mark said emphasizing its age. "Not many people can say that. Things would've been different had we traveled with another car."


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