Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

Dad and son trip

Mike Straub and his son, Adam, are taking a 17-day, 48-state road trip in this 2016 Corvette to raise awareness about autism.

Adam’s dad is still working on the bon voyage party.

The ultra-organized father who has already put in hundreds of hours planning the trip.

Who has figured out the 10,000-mile route he and his youngest son will travel to see 48 states in 17 days. The motels where they’ll sleep each road-weary night.

Who knows the car that will get them there: A metallic-blue 2016 Corvette convertible.

Mike Straub knows just where he’ll take the photo in each of those states as he and Adam make their epic journey.

And how he’ll spread the word that they're raising money for a Nebraska nonprofit that helps Adam and other young people on the spectrum.

He also knows where he will pick up his son, a Millard West High School freshman with Asperger’s syndrome, on May 29.

In front of his school, says Straub, a 46-year-old software company executive.

“I’m working with the principal and superintendent to get a couple hundred kids out there and I’m trying to get a couple dozen Corvettes to form a procession behind us as we leave.”

Not a grand-enough goodbye? “I’m working on a police escort.”

I met with Adam and Mike on Mother’s Day.

The shiny Corvette with its “Y WAIT?” license plate was parked in the driveway of Mike's sister’s house in east Lincoln, and Adam was stretched out on the couch, a lanky, blond 15-year-old.

Adam and his dad talked to me about the Omaha-based Autism Action Partnership and how its Circle of Friends program helps break down walls between students with autism and their classmates.

“The other students get to learn about autism,” Mike says. “And Adam gets to learn social skills.”

They talked about PACE, the network’s program that helps older students prepare for employment.

They talked about trips, too. The one-on-one adventures that began eight years ago.

Older brother Eric, now 17, was first. Then Adam. Then Eric. Adam, Eric, Adam, Eric.

Now Adam.

Adam isn’t a big talker. But he’s got a dry wit and a load of charm, says his mom, Jolene. He’s affectionate and funny and he has trouble, too, talking about his feelings and fitting in.

He wants to be a friend, his parents say.

But he doesn’t always know how.

Is he excited about the trip?

“I am excited about the trip, actually.”

The teenager with red-and-black glasses (and red-and-black socks and very red shoes) lets his dad do most of the talking.

Mike explains how Circle of Friends helped break down walls for Adam in elementary school, and that the transition to high school was easier because Millard Public Schools works hard, too, with its #BeKind initiative.

I’d first met Mike in 2011, when he and his brothers were getting ready to embark on their 20th annual Brothers Trip and were hauling their 73-year-old dad along to Alaska with them. (Eric flew out to Anchorage to ride home with his dad, camping and creating memories as they went.)

In that first story, the brothers admitted to being planners. Analytical without being anal, they said.

I remember this when Mike sends me some background material, complete with talking points, route maps, monetary goals and an elevator pitch: We need to move beyond awareness. We need acceptance and action … donations will help Autism Action Partnership continue to innovate and refine their programs so those on the spectrum have what they need to be successful in life …

Supporting a cause came later in the planning process.

Mike always lets his sons decide where they’d like to go, but he knew Adam’s first idea — put the Corvette on a ferry and go to Hawaii — wasn’t going to fly with Mom. (Hawaii without her? I don't think so ...)

His second idea — how about all 48 states? — didn’t sound too feasible, either, but after weeks of trying to talk Adam out of it, Dad started planning a route.

They’ll travel more than 800 miles in Oregon but only eight in Wisconsin; 775 in Montana and just 19 in Michigan.

They'll be home to see Mom and Eric on Father's Day.

“I spent a lot of time on Google maps coming up with new roads and new routes,” Mike says. “I wanted a trip that would be meaningful to us.”

They’ll stop in Portland, Oregon, for a cousin’s graduation. They’ll curve down Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina, navigate Lolo Pass and Beartooth Highway out West. (“This is where it’s OK to make fun of me,” Mike says. “I’m rather meticulous on my route planning.”)

Last winter, as he meticulously planned, Adam’s dad thought about how he could make the trip even more meaningful. And that’s when he contacted Autism Action.

“I’m hoping it takes off,” he says. “It’s a call to action and these donations will allow AAP to do even more, take it to a higher level. Create some programs other states can model.”

Mike has gathered a few sponsors, he’s contacted media (Ellen, are you listening?). He’s taken pictures and shared videos of a boy and his dad cruising and talking about how autism feels.

“I know it’s hard for you guys, basically, like, to understand me,” Adam says, top down on the convertible.

And: “It’s hard for me to interact with other people.”

He knows he’s different, his mom says. And he knows he feels different.

“But he doesn’t know how to explain it.”

They’ll have a lot of time to talk on the road, Mike says. And hopefully raise a lot of money for Autism Awareness Partnership so they can continue helping kids like Adam.

You can follow the trip on Facebook: 48 State Drive For Autism.

They’ll head north from Omaha on May 29 and drive for 7 1/2 hours, hit Iowa and Minnesota and spend the night in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Their shortest day will come as they shoot down Georgia into Panama City, Florida, Mike says.

“We’ll spend an afternoon on the beach and one of us will probably take a nap.”

Adam smiles. He seems to know who this might be.

“You probably will.”

Watch Mike talk about the upcoming trip:

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK.


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