Monday, September 10, 2007

From Columbia and back

Whew. Just back from a 12,000 mile trip around the country: from Columbia I exited I-70 and left the numbing interstate behind to take to the blue highways (the disused, time chewing byways and windways typically ignored on our maps until, say, we are fleeing hurricanes in Houston and the interstate has become a very long and narrow parking lot) all the way east to the Atlantic, dropping into the deep South before continuing through Texas, the Southwest, up the west coast, across Big Sky country to the upper midwest through to New England and down the east coast to Maryland before finally cutting back to Missouri. I met a lot of characters, drank a lot of beer and learned to rate cafes by the number of calendars on their walls. It was quite a trip and as happens after a journey of some length, I now feel the need to recover. I made the entire trip on less than 20 bucks and did it mostly from the comfort of the settee on the back porch. No gas guzzling guilt here.

I've just finished William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways (and discovered he lives somewhere nearby.) Heat-Moon writes in the 1999 afterward: "Perhaps it's in our blood, maybe it's just in our history, but surely it's in the American vein to head out for some other place when home becomes intolerable, or merely even when the distant side of the beyond seems a lure we can't resist." Such was the impetus, in the spring of 1978, for Heat-Moon's not cross country but circular country trek through the beauty and blight of backroad America, not sure in the end if he had learned what he wanted to know because "I hadn't known what I wanted to know. But I did learn what I didn't know I wanted to know." Which is why some of us are compelled to journey. Again and again, we set off as we can: by foot, thumb, car, train. And by book.

Journey often, journey well. Library cards are free.


Jenni said...

You know what happens when you recommend a book, don't you?

nothingness / everythingness said...

armchairs, armchairs are everywhere ;-) again