This must be the place
It’s the only place I feel at home. The open road. Once it gets into your system, you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to make sense of it. The highways, bi-ways and back roads in this country are the circulatory system of America, the blood pump and heartbeat of a hurried people on the move. It is the essence of humanity, for good or ill, and when you take that first journey away from familiarity, you’ll understand what cosmic discoveries lay just beyond the horizon.
As a kid, I was lucky enough to travel a lot. We weren’t a rich family by any means, but there was always enough time and money to at least escape from Upstate New York every-so-often. My parents believed you learned the best through hands-on experience with the world around you. So, we took off, to the Rocky Mountains, around New England, down south, and beyond. Seemingly every weekend was an adventure, at least to somewhere we’d never been before.
And that craving for the unknown only amplified when I was granted a driver’s license. I’d take off every Friday evening or Saturday morning for my high school sweetheart’s house an hour and a half away in the depths of the Adirondack Mountains. For a 17-year-old, that was a big deal, being alone, out there on roads you never knew existed three towns away or the next county over.
I thrived on the “escape.” The more I wandered away from my tiny hometown, the more I didn’t want to return. I was over the whole John Mellencamp-esque nature of my youth. I desired new people, places and things. And the only way to do so was, well, simply starting up the engine and throwing the vehicle into drive.
Once that high school diploma was in my hands, I high-tailed it for college in Connecticut. Even down in The Constitution State, I would still venture out, usually by myself, for nearby cities, or just down side roads, in search of something beautiful nobody knew about or had merely forgotten over the years.
At 22, I left the northeast for Eastern Idaho. I was finally on my first (of many subsequent) cross-country road trips. I meandered around Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and California, witnessing first-hand the towns I only knew from many hours combing through atlas maps back in New York.
When the economy tanked in 2008, I found myself as a freelance journalist. With no worthwhile job opportunities in sight, I circled the United States for the next three years, covering music festivals and tracking down old friends in new towns, folks I’d come to cross paths with and adore throughout my previous travels.
The open road, to me, is where I find myself. Whenever I would stand at an emotional crossroads in my life, I’d pack up the truck with what little I owned and head for wherever or whoever would have me.
I sometimes think my obsession with the open road is all in an effort to stay on the run from the inevitable — old age, responsibilities, obligations, maybe even old girlfriends I still yearned for. I figure as long as I’m holding steady at 75 miles-per-hour then the sands of time will never catch up. It may sound foolish, or even selfish, but, the only mirror on the open road is a rearview, looking back at what you’ve left behind, knowing that in your heart-of-hearts this is correct direction to aim your soul.
But, as they say, the more you run, the more you run into yourself. And, at 30, I’m beginning to see the consequences of my decisions to flee. For every adventure had, I’ve missed just as many weddings, funerals, births and birthdays back home. And yet, many years ago, when that urge to roam got into my body, I knew there would be hard sacrifices made, more than I could ever account for.
I’m a writer, and from early on, I realized you needed to seek out the secrets of the world to become the finest scribe you can be. There have been nights, too many to count, spent wide awake in the middle of the night, at a prairie truck stop or in some Midwest diner or along a lonely coastal road, where I’d perhaps question what the hell it was I was trying to do.
And yet, each time that notion would make itself known, it would vanish when the promise of a new day would appear with a sunrise to the East — back to where I originated, back to where it all began, back to the starting line, where the finish line is as elusive as it is glorious. Someday I’ll track it down and cross it, someday I’ll know what all this was for. Someday.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 No Name Sports Pub (Sylva) will have Dirty Soul Revival (blues/hard rock) at 9 p.m. Aug. 8.
2 A discussion on Southern literature with authors David Joy, Mark Powell, Charles Dodd White and Jon Sealy will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.
3 The Concerts on the Creek (Sylva) series at Bridge Park Pavilion will have Porch 40 (rock/funk) at 7 p.m. Aug. 7.
4 The Dillsboro Arts & Crafts Market will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15 in downtown.
5 Mixers Bar & Nightclub (Franklin) will have The Freeway Revival (rock/jam) at 9 p.m. Aug. 8.