Driving is in my blood. I do it often and I enjoy it. It’s a mobile comfort zone. I’ve made many long distance trips and endured many hours alone while driving from point A to point B. I mentally prepare myself for long trips since some drives can be tedious and boring. I also learn and adapt to visual cues to make my drives more interesting.
In college, there were the trips I made between Houston and Dallas on I-45. I know the amount of time it should take to make the trip. I know how the outlet mall in Conroe is the cue that either I’m completely out of or getting closer to the metropolitan and suburban of Houston. I remember Highway 79 at Buffalo is where I used to turn in order to go to my grandparent’s house in northeast Texas or the way to Lakeview church camp. Fairfield is the beginning of the Dallas half of I-45. I know the exact point about 30 miles south of downtown Dallas that I can see the neon green outline of the Bank of America building at night. The McDonalds in Huntsville is where I’ve spent many rest stops with my friends going to and from church camp. Right before I get to Madisonville, I know I’m exactly 99 miles from downtown Houston. My dad and I stopped at a closed gas station between Conroe and Huntsville for a few minutes because the rain was coming down so hard. There used to be a hill between Corsicana and Dallas just east of the freeway that had “GOLF” clearly spelled out.
When I lived in Denver for two years, I spent two 8 hour days with an overnight in Lubbock. Brenham is where the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory is located! When 290 turns into 36, I spend about five hours of my drive on 36 ending up in Abilene. One time when I was driving through Abilene, I found a college radio station that happened to be playing one of my favorite composers, Kurt Bestor. I instantly fell in love that day. There’s a stretch of Highway 84 that has a lot of plateaus and rocky hills. This is the precursor to the next day’s drive or reminder of the previous day’s drive. After leaving Clayton on Highway 64, about 15 minutes into the drive to Raton, there’s a huge hill across from Mt. Capulin Volcano that keeps my attention for about an hour. It’s a beautiful drive. From Dumas to Clayton, there is little of anything to look at except corn fields and silos. Dalhart is your last chance for Blue Bell Ice Cream before you leave Texas. About 15 minutes south of Raton, a hail storm pounded my car and I almost got into an accident. Trinidad, Colorado has this one hill that looks like stair steps. Colorado Spring signifies the last leg of my journey or the beginning of the rest of my trip. Just north of Colorado Springs is the Air Force Academy’s chapel, a place I’ve been to exactly three times. Between Trinidad and Pueblo, the best music to play while you see a train going down the track with mountains in the background is Kansas’ “Song for America”. In fact, this song is appropriate for a lot of this trip.
I saw the movie Into the Wild a week ago. I don’t watch movies as often as I wish, and I come across movies like this even less often. Although the subject of the movie has its controversies, the message was very well delivered and quite thought provoking.
Throughout the movie, I continually thought of different people I know who would identify with this scene or that scene. His journey, the scenery, his misfortunes… so much brought back memories of my own journeys and behaviors. For each person I thought of, I could relate my own experience and memory of these scenes just as much. This kid had a lot of angst and loneliness trying to find the way to his purpose and I understand what that’s like. This kind of loneliness is being in a car for many hours and allows you to process anything you want. It’s you, the radio, and your thoughts.
The kinds of solitary experiences Christopher went through brought me back to the countless hours I spent in my drivers seat. The kinds of inductive reasonings and theories he would often expound upon, including the memorable quotes from several well known authors, were identifiable and familiar. It made me miss those solitary times I spend in the car. I think that’s part of the reason I like to be on the road; the open road is my freedom, my independence and my endless possibility. It reminds me that there’s more to live than just the routines and habits we develop. If we continue to do the same all the time, we lose the opportunities to make the memories that change us. Living outside your element is the experience which helps you see those new possibilities.
“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fairness… give me truth.” -Henry David Thoreau