On the road.
I can do anything. Stop at every Starbucks on 95, even when the latte I got at Vince Lombardi’s rest area is still half full. I can take a pee break every 45 miles with no one making wise cracks about how much water (and coffee) I drink. I can get off the highway in favor of local roads and less convenient conveniences. Listen to Classic Vinyl on Sirius for three hours straight. Pull over at a rest area to take a nap or write something down I happen to be thinking about. Randomly decide to stop halfway to my destination at a funky motel with lavender shutters and no wifi. Change my plans! Make new plans! ANYTHING.
As Ms. GPS ticks down, reminding me when I’ll arrive at my “final destination” (at least for this leg of my trip), I might throw the little minx a curve ball. Ask her to find a nearby Apple Store. The glitches I’ve been living with on my phone are suddenly two exits away from being solved. While I’m strolling across the strange parking lot, I think about what living in this city would be like. “Wow, this mall has an Anthropolgie. I can see living here.”
I like to drive past university campuses. Work, read, or write in local coffee shops. Type local coffee shop passwords into my computer and tell it to “log in automatically.” I could be back here one day, after all.
I imagine that, instead of driving south into the lowering sun, I head to the lecture tonight about the “emergence of eco-critical art history.” I ask the barista for directions to Mitchell Hall. As I walk out with my tall black decaf he says, “Enjoy the lecture!” I get back in my car and head for the highway.
The sun falling low in the sky is almost as thrilling as the sun on the rise, glamouring the horizon at dawn when I launched this trip. Long, long ago this morning, or yesterday…. Or last week. Long shadows make me sad, but mostly happy.
When I am on a road trip by myself, I pull over often to get out of the car and take pictures. The trip I’m on as I write this, spring emerged before me as I headed south. Any roadside bush with its branches fuzzy with baby leafbuds is worthy of my attention and immortalization via iPhone. The sun falling slantwise on a clump of crocuses or the green-gray of an awakening field. Sometimes these small moments feel like a fist slamming into my chest to awaken my heart.
Getting there might be the best part. But being there—that is wonderful too. When I am there, I am elsewhere. Mysterious and new, or familiar—a place from my past, perhaps, elsewhere excites me. Later on, when I head home again, elsewhere will whisper in my ear, “There is noplace like home.” By then, I’ll be tired of my road trip and ready again to believe that truism.
But while I’m in the sexy arms of another city, another state, or another stretch of road, I’m damned fickle.