Sunday, May 18, 2014

I took an 8 week road trip in the summer of 2011 to de-stress from a difficult job in the world of law and state government - and as the beginning of ACT III of my life.  The vast beauty of the country laying out before me, accompanied by music, talk radio, audio books or silence, was a perfect way to start anew. The plan was to stay off interstates as much as possible and stay in towns off the beaten track, to be in the moment. On the one hand, a long road trip empties one of the past and the future, but on the other hand recalls history.
I began in Las Vegas, Nevada - headed up to Portland, Oregon - then meandered east all the way to Ocean City Maryland.  Next: through the south to North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, then a few days in Texas, New Mexico and back to Nevada.

I enjoy the anonymity of travel. One is an observer and not valued (or devalued) based on one's career, family, income level, origin, or connections.  Adrift on the road and on walkabouts, one experiences the humanness of existence. One is a part of this vast grouping of land and people, buildings and industry, farms and mountains, and roads and water, all of which are connected. Who and what we are, and what we have become, and the "baggage" we carry seems less important and lighter. That is freeing.

I visited many places in this country to which I will not return. Life will go on there, though I have seen the near death of a number of small towns that were thriving in the past. I could imagine their pasts and their futures. The small towns stand out along with the vast amount of undeveloped land in this country.

It is calming to be on the road alone (except in the beehive traffic areas). The crazy divisiveness of politics and prejudice becomes just a gentle hum. Nature prevails. On occasion, time slows down, particularly when the landscape is repetitive, only broken by the occasional billboard.

In flat places like western South Dakota and eastern Texas, I would see a shape that broke up the flatness in the distance and keep my eye on it until it formed into a silo or barn. In other moments, time flew, particularly as darkness descended and my fear of driving in the dark reared up. Road trips are a way of time traveling. The land evokes the days when Native Americans were the dominant people, when industries rose and fell, when forests covered much more of the country, and when the civil rights movement was in its infancy.

The last few weeks of the trip flew by more quickly than the first few. Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska seemed to be leisurely and refreshing drives. As the trip ended, obligations and chores came back to my mind. Today, this trip is almost like a dream. By writing about it and looking at my photos, I experience it tangentially. Already, it seems long ago. 

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