There comes a point in a man’s life when he just has to leave his job and take a 9,000-mile journey with his teenage son. In a 1974 Dart. To the End of the Road at the edge of the Darien Gap in Panama.
Kirk Millson’s 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood (to be released April 8) is a Hunter Thompsonesque journey with a PG-13 sticker on it. On his incredulous journey with his son Peter, the duo finds themselves in places most people avoid at all costs. From the “No-Tell Motels” with amenities that include mirrored ceilings, condom dispensers and a TV airing one channel of soundless porn to a random basketball game with some locals in which fouls didn’t exist, Millson’s descriptive tale in 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood is an entertaining one.
Scattered throughout the pages chronicling their trek are many gems of fatherhood at its best. When Peter defiles their bathroom after a hearty dinner, their tension-filled journey receives a well-needed break. A night out in Oaxaca during a festival exposes a timid Peter to an “unexpected affection for our formerly scary neighbors in the barrio.” While their adventure featured roller-coaster type turns in every city, Millson’s focus keeping Peter engaged in his studies back home was a perilous task on its own. At one point, he realizes Peter is falling behind and he threatens him with a plane ride home. Peter responds admirably and, in a fatherly moment, Millson connects with his son explaining, “I know I can be a d**k … I just need you to know that it’s not your fault. It never has been. I’m proud of you, even if I don’t always show it.”
Millson’s writing flows throughout the book, keeping the reader engaged with every new city and town they visit. Our first-world problems of not getting a WiFi signal when we need it, or the barista not filling our mug to the top are downright nonsensical when compared to what these two men dealt with. Muggings in dark alleyways, border crossings, sultry toothless barmaids, paying off the local police and a situation involving a camera and a mammoth local were just a few hurdles they dodged while making their pilgrimage.
As mentioned earlier, revelations in fatherhood were sprinkled throughout the tale to demonstrate Millson’s true purpose. Halfway through the journey Millson questions whether his son’s homework was being done and if they were to both return home so he wouldn’t be held back in school. So, while Peter slept, Dad was elated to find “every answer correct, the graphs and computations looked as though they had been drawn by a calligrapher … ” It was at that point in their trip that Millson writes, “Peter’s life was taking an incredible turn, and for the first time in years I was right in the middle of it.”
As a father of an inquisitive almost 5-year old, I have been fortunate to have spent a great deal of time watching him grow into a cheeky boy who still cannot remember to flush after he pees. The involvement we have with our sons is invaluable, and we must seize the opportunity to do so as much as we can. It’s important to understand that we are not perfect, just ask our wives. We make mistakes and poor judgment calls more than we like with our children. However, for the most part they emerge unscathed and a little bit stronger and smarter because of it. Millson’s journey taught him just that. He writes, “If our trip taught me anything, it’s that a father doesn’t have to be smart or talented or otherwise remarkable to have a huge impact on a kid’s life; he just has to stay involved. For boys of a certain age, a bad day with their dad is better than a good day without him.”
9,000 Miles of Fatherhood takes the reader on a journey through Mexico and Central America through the eyes of “an unemployed middle-aged man in a beater car with a kid I didn’t know how to relate to.” Millson’s humorous writing coupled with his vivid descriptions of every motel, cantina and rugged trail captured the essence of his book: a unique father and son bonding experience.
So, the next time you’re digging through the garbage pail looking for that toy Captain America shield you accidentally threw out while your son’s watches in defeat, remember this …
That’s quality time for you both.
Click here to learn more about 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood.