Oct 112016
 

During the year of focusing on writing a book, recently, I had a hiatus from wandering (ok, except for Egypt in December…). It helped me realize just how much I love being at home. I really do. It’s seductive to have your things in a semblance of order and routines well in hand. There’s something to be said for sticking around and showing up for all the stuff of daily life. You get to be with friends, of course, including the four-footed sorts. There’s time to attend to various stacks of neglected detail. I even got to chip away at that accumulated pile of good intentions.

At a certain point, however, when the intensity of the project died down and the demands on my time took a turn, I was reminded of the road…and it has been calling to me ever since.

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I hear you, my Wanderlust, loud and clear. The urge to go was uncaged during a short-haul to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in August. The road beckoned and it seems I have heeded the call. If Thoreau said (and he did), “Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything,” then I say, much can likewise accrue to those drawn to follow the ribbon of roadway that lies ahead.

If you pay attention, even the Great Plains are instructive, if only in their sheer immensity. As I plied my way from Michigan’s 600-foot elevation to my Mile High City of Denver (“mine” because it is the city of my birth, and thus holds my heart, always), I watched out the window. What others claim as monotonous is, instead, momentous: colors and skies and clouds and crops of such brilliantly subtle hues. Waterways threading the landscape completely differently from the relatively straight lines of road. Roads and rivers cross on the perpendicular, but sometimes, the same river winds back and forth, so that it crosses the road repeatedly: the Grand River in Michigan is like that, as is the North Platte in Wyoming. Then there is that one big crossing, vast and wonderful in its legacy: that midcontinental divider, the Mississippi River.

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When the drive begins to feel long, as it certainly can when thousands of miles are involved, I have made it my habit to re-frame my perception of passage. I imagine the struggles of the prairie schooners, with their fragile wooden wheels and truly slow pace. Each small stream demanded so much more effort than we are accustomed to nowadays, with our bridges and smooth highways. And I ponder the eons, during which the natural world evolved the prairie grass with its roots tens of feet deep, resilient, nourishing the still-roaming wildlife. When storms roll unimpeded across our broad midsection of land, I am thankful for the goodness of their wonder, their powerful reminders that human development does, after all, have limits. It gives me hope.

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There it was—the open road: Michigan, Illinois Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, eastern Idaho, Wyoming, with the lusciousness of the return trip home that still lies ahead as I write this at a friend’s dining table, as the western sun dances through the window. Three thousand-some-odd miles of passage in all. The road will soon carry me home again.

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Home! Road trip! Each good—very good—in its way.

  2 Responses to “Road Trip!”

  1. A wonderful trip Kate. Road trips are the best where I can cocoon myself and think about driving, if I choose to go fast, or about life, in the slow lane. I have done two roads trips since March, both over 2,000 miles long; one to AZ (Bondurant racing school) and one to S.C. for a Nam veterans reunion of my Quantico class. Joanne accompanied me to S.C. and the AZ was a solo trip stopping to see a friend in Albuquerque.

    I prefer driving in the west as you point out. Born into a land of long horizons I prefer the unobstructed spaces, unlike the east where tree lined roads prevent a view of land and people going about everyday business. However, when I did the first half of the Transamerica Trail a year ago in April beginning in N.C. through AR, I determined that was the perfect time, as the leaves had not emerged and I saw so much of that world I would not have otherwise seen. Go east when the leaves are down, go west anytime, and mostly every time.

    And by the way, “Being Mortal” is a wonderful book. Lyn

  2. This is beautifully written and invokes in me a sense of pride in our beautiful country, as well as the desire to stay home….. some weekend! I have been gone far too much and have neglected all of the things I need to do-check in with friends and loved ones, clean my house, catch up on work. The unfinished tasks have become a broken window through which I see all of the other things I need to do.
    Way to hit the road Kate, and savor the return trip too.
    Congrats on Lander! Wow….way to go!

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