Transcontinental Toaster

***

No major epiphanies or moving observations about the American landscape this time around.  I’m just driving my ass off, trying to get to New York City in time for work.  No time for love Dr. Jones.  Although I’ve driven this route in various parts quite a few times, I’m taking the most direct route from point A to point B.  No meandering trips to buffalo country, scenic byways, or off-roading through the desert.  I wasn’t really looking forward to this one, but I’ve found I’m quite enjoying it.  Its the opposite of my northern journey earlier this year in route and spirit, but a catharsis nonetheless.

I often wonder why I enjoy sitting in my driver seat for 12 hours a day, only my radio and dog to talk to, for days on end.  Plowing through weariness, driving over mountains, through storms, right foot plastered to the gas pedal.  I don’t even really like driving that much.  In a city, the thought of driving 5 minutes to the grocery store sounds like torture.  I hate packing, and really hate planning.  But once my butt is in that seat, the music is turned up, I escape the gridlock and hit the open road, all is seems right.  There used to be the excitement of conquering a continent, but now that I’ve seen it all, I’m honestly pleasantly shocked by how much I still love it.

***

I prefer driving in the day, obviously nighttime has a disadvantage because by dusk I’ve been driving for a banker’s shift already, but each has their allure.  The mornings are always groggy, but exciting.  After driving in the dark for hours, you wake up in a random town, and its like “tada!” the curtain of darkness is lifted.  Whether its Terre Haute, Tucumcari or Truth or Consequences its always a welcome surprise.  Sometimes a circle of mountains, sometimes a sea of grasslands.  Sometimes a “Hills Have Eyes” town, you never really can’t tell when you pull in the night before.  My morning routine is always pretty much the same.  Drag my ass out of the stiff motel bed, struggle to get my bags and Irie out the door in one trip before check out time, and get my “breakfast off champions” while I fill up the tank.  Banana, maybe some pretzels, and a huge cup of steaming “coffee”.  The shitty gas station coffee is more of a placebo than actual caffeinated goodness, but it does the trick I guess.  I carefully sip the molten stained water for the first hour or so, and listen to talk radio as the cobwebs eventually fall away.  Then the moment comes.  I plug in the iPod, and start playing some tunes.  There is nothing better than watching the movie of country rolling by, with my own personal soundtrack.  Sometimes its a John Ford flic, some times something out of Clerks, but always surprising, ever changing, entrancing.  My first east to west road trip I listened to Herman Hessse’s, Siddhartha, and I heard a quote that resonates with me to this day.  To quote the Buddha, when I’m on a road trip my mantra is; “I can think, I can wait, I can fast”.   Fine, I can’t fast, but I’ve learned to love the thinking and the waiting.

***

At night its a different animal.  Usually there’s been a stunning sunset finale to the “movie” and as the light fades, I start to feel like I’m out of my element.  I’m usually cracked out on Mountain Dew, Subway Veggie Delights, and road madness.  I was all of the above last night, but realized that I enjoy this portion of the trek in its own respect.  I was in New Mexico and into the Texas Panhandle, and again the tunes where good and loud.  I felt like I was in the middle of a dark, endless ocean.  With nothingness in all directions, the lane markers that went out into the forever were my lifeline.  At first I was white knuckle clenched, trying to stay cool as I barreled into the dark void.  Then the ocean metaphor came to my head.  It was like scuba diving at night.  You can only see what’s a few meters in front of you, and who knows what’s lurking in the shadows.  The 16 wheelers where my only nocturnal companions, and I felt like I was swimming with a scattered herd of blue whales.  Every time I saw one of the slow moving giants I was nervous, they seemed unpredictable and alien, but as I timidly skirted past their undercarriage I was calmed by the presence of another life form in the blackness.  As I passed one by one, I felt like they were amused and confused by this little “toaster” trudging through their migratory route.

***

Tomorrow I’ll be in New York City.  A couple days ago my feet were in the Pacific.  In between, a country went by and I feel like my mental batteries are refreshed.  Just don’t ask me to drive to the grocery store.  Unless its on the other side of the country.

***

Photos from the drive.  Thanks Tess for the “Toaster” reference.

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