Monday, March 16

the end is the beginning is the end

Last week my trip came to an end. I've spent the past three weeks trying to write a conclusion. On Saturday I reached a mental cliff and literally wrote "nothing" over and over again until my mind hit the bottom about ten minutes later. Safely down, I came to the realization that what I had just written was garbage and, consequently, it was banished to the folder of unfinished works. Let's try again.

When I first began my journey I had not created any grand objectives. I have long viewed the solo cross-country road trip as a kind of medieval chivalric romance where the distressed damsels and horses are replaced with the voices in my head and catalytic converters. I embarked on this quest not to "discover myself," as the tiresome cliche for the uninspired goes. Instead, while I knew some amount of acute self-awareness was inevitable, I simply wanted to experience America without a script and see where my mind dropped me off at the end.

I logged 12,554 miles on the road and visited 36 states (plus Canada so that I could avoid driving through Ohio). I reached as far north as Seattle, as far south as Daytona Beach, and touched both oceans. My car has seen the east and west termini of both Interstate 90 (Boston/Seattle) and 10 (Jacksonville/Los Angeles). I've seen mountains and canyons, deserts and swamps, and even squeezed in a trip to Jerusalem just as Jesus was about to die. Talk about great timing.

I'm repeatedly asked what my favorite part of the trip was. I don't know. I knew in advance that that question would be the most frequently asked and I still don't have an answer. Sorry. Imagine something you've always wanted to see or do. Now what happens when you see and experience said thing and that same process repeats multiple times during the course of one trip? What if each experience elicits a different reaction or emotion? How do you compare and rate a hike through the Grand Canyon on a perfect day to snowshoeing around Crater Lake during a blizzard to spending a weekend in the company of good friends?

So in the end what do I walk away with? The road was the source of both my greatest emotional highs and lows. Driving is one our greatest expressions of freedom. Every morning I would get in the car and head somewhere new, somewhere I decided to go. If the sun is out and a good song is on the radio, nothing matches the feeling of being on the open road and knowing I'm by myself doing exactly what I want to do. Conversely, there were times I faced crushing loneliness and depression. When the only meaningful social interaction you have in a week includes asking gas station attendants if you can get a receipt for pump three, you begin to drown in your thoughts. In those moments of desperation, your mind grasps for air and begins flirting with the idea of turning around and heading home. So if I stop now, I'll save money, I'll lower the chances of getting hurt, I can start looking for a job sooner...Arrgg!! Or you can do something different with your life...Keeping driving!

My other take away? Perspective. Thanks in large part to my blog and all of my notes, every moment of the trip is a fixture in my mind and on paper. However, a factor as simple as a different weather pattern could have had a dramatic impact on what was written in any of my blog entries. Bill Bryson hated Yosemite National Park, I loved it. The difference? Spring and fall separated by about twenty years. The old man in Wyoming had a different take on the economy as compared with most rational people. Tomorrow morning someone could leave Washington and follow in my exact footsteps and they would have a different experience. Heck, if I take the same trip in twenty years, my perspective will change demonstrably.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog over the past several weeks. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it (for the most part). I'm sure this site will continue in some fashion as a personal blog, I just haven't begun to think about the details yet.

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