Sometimes the road to an NRA Championship is more than a road, Especially Roads In Nature
Port Clinton, Ohio - Many roads will take you to the NRA National Rifle & Pistol Championships at Camp Perry.
Some are paved with natural talent. Others with years of hard work. But a few, a select few are a combination of both. This is more of the literal take on the road to Camp Perry. The actual road. A road of dirt, dust, and asphalt.
My journey down that road began early this morning. Not as early as my usual departure to NRA Headquarters, but there was a reason for that; traffic. The thought of battling Washington’s traffic on the start of a seven hour trip was a little more than intimidating. Add two hours to the seven just to break through the beltway. Using a little history along with the morning’s traffic report, an 8:45am departure was established.
So I climbed into a white Dodge Ram truck, put the A/C for low and cranked up my Sirius/XM Radio. I'm bringing the boys from my favorite New York radio show with me.
Open roads and scattered drivers were all I encountered through the first stage of my trip. Gunston Road, over to Lorton Road before jumping on Interstate 95 headed north. From there it’s 495 at the Springfield Interchange with Maryland in my sights. A breakfast bar to munch on and a Venti Mocha Frap to sip, it wasn’t until I reached Maryland’s 70 West that the problems began.
No horrifying accident or bull on the loose (thank god they save such excitement for Baltimore), no this was just a general construction delay. How much of a delay? Try an hour to go one mile. One stinking mile. Maybe 1.2.
At the time I had no idea. Trying to stave off impatience, I flipped through the stations, finished off the breakfast bar and sucked the Mocha Frap dry. That only got me through the first ten minutes. The following 50 were trying at best.
As we merged into a single lane, our speed increased and relief was at hand. Relief that transformed into frustration as we saw a group of men standing around talking, enjoying a Mocha Frap of their own, and laughing with their friends. While I envy their ability to make the most out of a tough job, the seemingly nonchalant attitude as I crept my way by was frustrating to say the least.
By then the gas tank was almost as dry as my Mocha Frap. Taking the next exit, I found a station, put it in park and started filling up. That’s when the text arrived. A text from a friend. Then a pic from their desk along with an amusing emoji. Thankful for the pick-me-up, I pocketed a smile, grabbed my receipt and got back on the road.
If you’ve never taken the trail from Washington, DC to Port Clinton, Ohio, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Lush fields of grass, open runs of farm houses and battered barns, tattered bridges over breathtaking waterways and a tunnel for those so inclined. I hear the phone ding with another text but decide to wait. Lunch is coming; I’ll have my answer then.
A call from headquarters helps pass the time as I’m halfway through the Pennsylvania Turnpike. By now it’s all become a blur. One set of cars after another drowning in a sea of concrete, jersey walls, and trees so tall they’d bury a DC skyscraper. That’s when the second delay hits.
Again we come to a crawl. Again we merge into one lane. This one moves faster than her Maryland brother but the construction zone is considerably longer. Three times as long. At least the men and women on this crew appear to be hard at work. No Mocha Fraps in sight.
A rest area appears as the gas tank again nears empty and lunch bell rings.
Coming to a stop, I see my friend has been blasting me with more emojis and tales of the day. I give my answers, send my questions, and grab a few snacks from inside. A full tank later and I’m back on the road.
Soon the Ohio Turnpike arrives. I’m close. Close enough to taste the air coming off Lake Erie. Soon the seagulls will come with more bridges, more waterways, and the impatience of a now nine hour trip. From here it’s only two hours away. Less time than it takes to make it to get to Harrisburg for the Great American Outdoor Show but more than what it takes to see my brother’s kids in Richmond.
Hands grasping ever firmer to the wheel, I take a call from Iowa, Virginia, Alabama and Virginia again. Business never rests in the Media Relations game … especially if you’re 'only' on the road. Thank god for handsfree.
Another ding raises another smile. Another word or image of encouragement I’m sure. Camp Perry is even closer. 80 West takes me to 57 North which takes me to 90 and 2 West. Now I see the birds. See the bridges and lakes and rivers that make their home on the shores and waves of Lake Erie. A rusted red truck tows a boat too big for the trailer up ahead. Now there’s a guy who believes in something greater than himself.
One final bridge takes me over one final river until the familiar stone towers of Camp Perry appear. I’m home. Home for at least the next few days.
I check into the clubhouse, collect my keys and begin to unpack. A quick look at my phone tells me somethings wrong. I need to reach out. Make sure my friend is okay. For now such assurances can only be communicated at a distance. That will have to suffice for now. There will be more when I return to Virginia. Much more.
It’s all part of the road to Camp Perry. The mental and physical exertion required to make it from Point A - the beginning of your shooting career - to Point B - achieving the skills necessary to compete for a championship. The rewards you receive along the way, the frustration at the setbacks, the encouragement of friends and the encouragement you provide in return.
It’s a long road. Some longer than others. The thing to remember is that it’s not about winning the championship; it’s about the journey to the championship. The fact that you stepped out from behind that safe place you call home, put one foot in front of the other, and lept. To know it’s okay to be scared, to question your judgement, to retreat before charging again.
In this all too short a life that we’re all so lucky to live, it’s not a question of how safe or how long you live it - it’s a question of how much. For as long as you’re safe then chances are that you’re not really living. Not pushing to be the best you can be.
So take that chance, that plunge, that leap into the unknown and breathe in the life you wish you were living. No matter what amount of doubt your friends or family or naysayers may perceive, know that the final decision is yours. You don’t need their permission to be what you want to be. You only need to believe that your journey, your road, is the path you long to take.
My road brought me to the NRA and the National Championships at Camp Perry. Where will your’s take you?