This must be the place: So many miles, so many roads
I hadn’t slept that long in years.
After driving up and down the East Coast for the better part of the last two months, from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, I found myself awakened from a deep slumber last Thursday morning — almost 6,000 miles and 15 states total.
The purpose of the trek was to simply reconnect with the deepest part of my soul, which resides along the open road. Sure, I find myself out and about most everyday as a regional journalist in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia. But, where I’m in my essence is exploring areas never before seen or interacted with by this bearded writer hailing from the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.
What’s funny is that when you finally return back (to your home, your bed and well-worn lounge chair), who you are in that moment isn’t the same person who put the old pickup truck into drive and merged onto the highway those many weeks ago.
I find it takes awhile after you return to fully comprehend and make sense of your road trip. You’re usually more tired coming home than how you felt before you skipped town. But, that’s OK (it’s ideal actually), seeing as you threw yourself out into the chaos — no mercy, no prisoners, no problem.
Emotionally? Between serendipitous encounters and unexpected vehicular repairs, I tend to break even, but with my soul always leaning towards the positive, seeing as everything — good, bad and the ugly — is an incredible thing to experience, and ultimately will hone in more on the core of your being.
I remember one morning when I awoke in a chilly tent in the middle of Brazos Bend State Park, a surreal and mesmerizing prairie-meets-swamp landscape just south of Houston. The early sunshine soon warmed my face when I emerged from the tent. Moseying over to the nearby campground bathroom, I brushed my teeth, spit, and smiled at the familiar face in the mirror. There I was, some 1,005 miles from where I currently live in Waynesville, 1,979 miles from my hometown on the Canadian Border.
Then there was that night — after numerous days of truck camping — when I finally decided to splurge on a nice hotel room for my birthday — the Astor Crowne Plaza in the French Quarter of New Orleans (on Super Bowl Sunday when my beloved New England Patriots made a miraculous comeback). A nice, hot shower and fresh bed sheets for a well-deserved nap, only to hit the town with our red paint buckets in hand, all up and down Bourbon Street. Not to mention the spicy jambalaya and gumbo I found in front of me, real deal NOLA cuisine in a courtyard restaurant tucked away right off the main drag.
Or what about the random overnight stop in Waverly, Alabama? Population 140, the town is home to the Standard Deluxe, a beloved music venue (and screen printing business) which also includes a legendary outdoor stage for the Waverly Old 280 Boogie, a twice-a-year festival that attracts upwards of 1,200 folks, hosting the likes of Charles Bradley, Jason Isbell, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Alabama Shakes, and countless others. I arose the next morning and went for a run down a muddy dirt road behind the building, only to find myself a ways down the desolate route, standing in awe of a long forgotten waterfall and abandoned mill at the end of a 35-acre lake.
And I think the most important thing I took away from these last several weeks was the mere notion that I’m still able to connect deeply and sincerely with a member of the opposite sex.
Being on my own for many years, and also kind of distancing myself from the dating scene (over the drama and anxiety of it all), it was a pleasant surprise to be in the presence of a femme fatale during the entire excursion, having her as my co-pilot and partner-in-crime from the Deep South to the Big Apple and back again.
After the last couple of tumultuous breakups, I put an end to even attempting any form of a relationship beyond either being friends or, well, short-lived flings that never really seem to go anywhere. I’d rather just be on my own, doing my own thing, even if, at times, it can get very lonely with a deafening silence those long nights in your apartment just leaning back in your chair, gazing out the window onto a world rushing by.
I’m not sure what will come of the femme fatale. Right now, she’s somewhere in Nicaragua, wandering the coast and probably striking fire in conversation with some stranger, now kindred spirit and lifelong friend — a trait of hers that always made me smile. Plans are in the works for her to return to the states at some point this spring. Who knows? I remain happy, nonetheless, more so since she has entered the picture.
Sitting here at my desk, typing away, what remains is that justified feeling — that sense of self only obtained when jumping off the edge — where the entire odyssey was worth it, every single second and mile it took to complete the jaunt.
Like I said, it’ll be awhile before I’ll be able to figure it all out in my head on just exactly what it was I experienced out there in the great beyond. But, there will come a time when I do, and in that time I’ll place that knowledge, love and pure wonder on the shelves of my mind, next to other lines in the sand between my intent and the ultimate outcome.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 There will be a “Chocolate & Bier Pairing” event and fundraiser for The Community Table from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at Heinzelmännchen Brewery in Sylva.
2 No Name Sports Pub (Sylva) will host The Swinging Tire Drinking Choir (Americana) at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.
3 The fifth annual Smoky Mountain Home Builders Association “Chili Cookoff” will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville.
4 The 11th annual Outhouse Race will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Sapphire Valley Ski Area.
5 There will be a winter art reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at the Franklin Uptown Gallery.