Friday, February 3, 2012

The Great American Road Trip

I had thought to write about some time spent in Guatemala, but then I became aware an amazing thing that had been sitting unnoticed beneath my very nose.  And perhaps yours, too, for that matter.

The Great American Road Trip

Road trips are so much a part of American life and thinking that it scarcely occurs to us that they are travel.  To an American, travel is passports and dangerous-looking foreign plumbing and Frenchmen poking through the underwear in your valise.  In our curious perception, sitting in an airplane seat from Chicago to Paris is travel, but driving along the old route of US 66 to Los Angeles is not, even though you drive past Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield and the courthouse where he practiced law, the largest Indian pyramid in North America at Cahokia, cross Mark Twain’s Mississippi at St. Louis and go through the Missouri hills where Jesse James hid out between bank robberies, then drive through Comanche lands and the Indian Nation and see the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, the Navajo lands and the Three Mesas of the Hopi, past the old territorial prison at Yuma and across mountains into the Mojave Desert and finally come to the end of the highway on a Pacific beach.  You might have also seen along the way the Grand Canyon and a giant meteor crater and driven through a lava field where the sharp black rock came up high on both sides of the road and traveled for days through country where wonders human and natural piled up on all sides.  But that isn’t travel; sitting in an airplane seat is travel.

I love long car trips and have driven across country many times and know that the off-ramp of the Interstate can drop us into places as different from our own as if we had beamed down from the Enterprise.  And during most of those trips I kept a journal.  I drove slowly and stopped often and saw wonderful things.

So if you want to travel, but don’t want to worry about drinking the water or having Frenchmen poke through your underwear, get in a car and go for a road trip.

1 comment:

  1. I've driven across our country 8 times (and done another 8 trips via rail). It is traveling! My favorite was in 1989, when I was coming back to Pittsburgh to finish up grad school after spending a year in Nevada. I had two weeks and spent much of the time (until eastern South Dakota) on two lane roads, camping and staying in small run-down hotels.