on the open road
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Just the other day I would’ve never imagined I would be driving across America, but, that’s what I love about my life. All of my years roadtripping have built up to this. The mother journey. From travelling back and forth from Kentucky during college and all of the places I went during that time, to just the other weekend’s trip back to the state to visit best friends and film a Christmas video, to recently commuting to work in Atlantic City, all prepared me for the day I knew would one day come I just never knew when. Now a life goal is being fulfilled as some of my best friends and I make the journey clear across America from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. To make it even cooler, Thursday I stood on the beach in Atlantic City and scooped up some Atlantic Ocean and hours later set out on the journey.
So, how did it all come about? Wednesday morning I stood in the shower and just boldly prayed that the day would be momentous.. that something would happen that would be a game changer, something monumental and exciting. In my mind I thought I might get a new job offer or meet someone that might change my life. For some odd reason, I never ask for something epic, at least not as often as I should, but I was confident and knew that the prayer would be answered.. of course, as should have been expected, it was certainly nothing that I could have predicted, but something much, much better. That night my friend Nina, who recently moved to LA, was home for Christmas and needed someone to drive her car out to the west coast. Naturally, my friend Jason and I jumped at the opportunity and Nina’s dad, who works for the airlines, made arrangements to fly us back. The timing was perfect and within hours we roughly prepared and set out on our adventure.
At the time I was feeling pretty cozy at home. I was tired and the trip was so sudden I was slightly hesitant but I just knew that this was exactly what I was hoping for. A lesson I learned a long, long time ago from my first trip to Africa to going away to college was that whenever I was comfortable in a situation or place and circumstances came up that would make me uncomfortable, that is when I would learn, grow and experience the most. And here it was, one of my life dreams right before me… attainable and made possible, I just had to say yes. So, Thursday night before we embarked I checked Drudge Report and the headline was “The Open Road” with a photo of a RV van driving. Everything was in place, and I just knew that my prayer had been answered.. epically. Be careful what you pray for.
And so, as with anything worthwhile and spontaneous, we set off under incredibly short notice and drove across the wildly expensive PA turnpike, passed the creepy gothic town of Wheeling, West Virginia on the Ohio River, through Ohio and met my good friend Jacob in Indianapolis for dinner. We ate at this sweet hole-in-the-way Cajun place called Yat’s. We then drove 4 more hours and spent the night in St. Louis, the murder capital of America and home of the famous giant (lame) arch (the gateway to the west) though, McDonalds has two of them and might be just as big.
Battling massive winds we drove through to Missouri (misery), passed Tulsa and Oklahoma City into the Godforsaken wasteland that is the northern Texas panhandle. With tumbleweeds blowing across the road in pitch black darkness with flat land in all directions with nothing on the horizon, gas stations and exits few and far between we eventually stopped at what we thought was an exit but the town was simply abandoned and looked like it was just left in the 70’s. Middle of the night, new years eve, Mclean, Texas.. nothing but an abandoned gas station and abandoned downtown, a scary water tower and a rundown flickering neon sign from a Norman Bates looking motel. With no cell service, internet connection and our gas light on, the only thing that could have existed out there were aliens and zombies..
Onward to Amarillo, Texas and then to Las Vegas for new years day and finally, Los Angeles and I can scoop up some Pacific ocean in my hand and know that I conquered America. (Praise Marty Moose!) Good things take time, but great things, they happen all at once. It’s how destiny and free-will both exist and are intertwined. It’s how everything works together for our good and there is an open road that is set before us. 2011 was epic, from the 9.0 earthquake in Japan, the Egyptian revolution, the death of Osama Bin Laden, Mommar Gaddafi and Kim Jong iL, to the global protests, Occupy Wall Street, the Euro crisis, the passing of Steve Jobs, Hurricane Irene, Weinergate and many other events.
As we enter this new year: “What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, every poem an epitaph” – T.S. Eliot.
There’s nothing I love more than traveling and being on the road. Maybe that’s why I’m always so unsettled, why I feel like I could never live in one place for too long, why I can’t stay put geographically, why I’m obsessed with maps and am a human GPS and want to see and explore as much as I can. Maybe it’s why journalism fits me so well and maybe because if I accomplished all of my dreams I would be unsettled because I would always need a new dream to accomplish, a new goal set before me, a new project, a new road to travel. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
Welcome 2012, with nothing behind me, everything ahead of me.. as is ever so on the road.