On a gorgeous, bright, windows-open, radio-blasting, Carolina afternoon last week, there I was bouncing down the highway off to pick up my daughter at soccer practice.

Up ahead, through the pollen haze, loomed a lumbering yellow orange bus. Not an ordinary bus. This bus looked like Ken Kesey’s Further, the travel choice of the Merry Pranksters as they criss-crossed California in 1960’s, spreading their message of joy, rock ‘n’ roll, and freedom. It looked like a mirage.

With exploding sunsets and dreamy landscapes splashed on its sides, this bobbing blimp of fun reeked of adventure and dare. The rest of us, well, we were in the carpool lanes, the checking-in, what’s-for-dinner, cell-phone lanes. The bus said “Margaritaville” as its destination.

I knew Jimmy Buffet was in town, the same way you know about that new hot teen movie starring that girl opening this weekend, that play on campus with that visiting Oscar winner, that Louie was going pro. Info crawl, the leisure scrawl, always out there. But this bus right in front of me was much more real. It was like a time warp.

But I had responsibilities, miles to go before I rested.

My turn was ahead, I flipped on my blinkers. Psychedelic! Right before my eyes, the Magic Bus took the same turn.

And again, a few miles later, it turned, I turned. We were now out in the country, on winding Orange County roads. Just me and that party wagon rolling round the bends. We paired off again, veering right this time. I thought of my daughter waiting for a cold Gatorade, my dogs “protecting” the house waiting for their scoop of Purina.

Just a mile from the soccer fields, the Margaritaville bus turned left at a tiny RV Park sign. I’d driven that road 100 times and never seen that sign. It was like Harry Potter’s Platform 9 1/2. I slowed down, peering down that road. It seemed to go on forever. Who knew what awaited visitors at the end? But there went the bus. An orange ball now, bumping confidently through the greens and browns of rural Orange County.

I waved, remembering a time when, on a whim, a carload of us, out to get ice cream after a movie in Chapel Hill, decided to go to the beach instead. We awoke, sleeping on the sand in Wilmington.

Five minutes later, I’m loading and unloading sports bags and back bags, smiling, and repeating the mantra, “So, honey, how was your day?”