It’s easy to leave but harder to stay gone. I had fantasies as a kid of being some hobo who slings his life over his shoulder and shoves off into the wilds of the world. Every so often I did this with varying success. I didn’t have a pack besides my school backpack and I couldn’t use that (it had books and such in it, remember?) So instead I’d use my pillowcase, packing a sandwich, an apple, maybe a spare set of clothes. I don’t really remember what I put in there, just that it was filled. The farthest I ever got was the bottom of the driveway.
On the road when I was 18 Alaska was my first penciled-in destination. Round trip I think it was eight thousand miles. I didn’t have plans. I wasn’t prepared to go up Denali, or park myself at an abandoned bus and lose myself in the winter. I just wanted to go somewhere. Anyplace would have sufficed.
Alaska was a bit far. Especially for Spring Break. I cut the trip down to Seattle–still refusing to look up anything spectacular to do there. I just wanted to see it. If you want to know anything about me, know this: grunge music never inspired a love of Seattle; it was Frasier, Shawn Kemp, and promises of rainy weather.
The road up north feels like a crowded coffee shop. There are plenty with you on the road–private drivers, packs of teenagers, adventurers, commuters, every type you could imagine. From your car they are merely strangers, people you can see and imagine, almost reach out and touch–spit on most likely. But you’ll never really know them.
The trees pass from Oak to Sequoia to Redwood; the views change from green rolling hills to endless beaches to dark, contained woods. The car is your greatest ally. There’s only so much music you can repeat. All there is is the world around you. The Earth is almost 25 thousand miles around. You’ve now covered about a tenth of it. A tenth of the world. A tenth of the world. A tenth of the world. All in a week. Your eyes know it. That’s why you never get lonely. Only when the sun goes down and the darkness shuts you in and the world dissolves from its station around the sun and you get stuck and lost in the tiny maze of your brain. That’s when you need someone beside you. Love is nurtured in darkness. When eyes don’t matter and one brain isn’t enough. It’s what keeps you on the road. Maybe that is what my pillow case was missing.
© 2013 Christopher Dart