RoadTricks

RoadTricks
Grant Wood, New Road, 1939
"I imagine Kokopelli, the Road Trickster, will be guiding our way."

The Muse has been hankering after a road trip to The Great Southwest ever since we relocated to Colorado. She figures that once we finally move back to The Great Northwest, we'll live far enough away from those vast and fascinating wastelands that we'll never feel moved to visit, so she's created a deadline of sorts. If not now, then when? She holds a short list of spots she'd like to visit. As usual, I feel relatively disinterested in the undertaking. I approach long road trips with the same enthusiasm I employ for root canal surgeries. I dread them beforehand, though I usually manage to click into some semblance of a spirit somewhere along the way. I'll go, but I'll drag both feet before we leave.

I understand that I'm nobody's great gift to driving. I don't exactly hate driving, but I'd rather take a train.
I overall prefer ground transportation, flying still seeming a gross violation of fundamental physical laws governing humanity. Oh, I understand that heavier than air flight has become routine, but it still seems more quantum than Newtonian, requiring a firmer form of belief than I readily muster. Gravity haunts me up there, aching to get even for my ungracious rejection of its usual dominion. Car travel's little better, insistent upon moving much faster than the divinely-inspired speed of a walking horse. I find speed unreassuring. Surrounded by drivers less qualified than me, I grit my teeth and maintain continual vigilance, relaxing only after the driving day's done. Let's say that I tolerate driving, though my tolerance has shrunk as I've aged.

I maintain a small bag of tricks to maintain my sanity on road trips. I keep my water bottle close, since I understand that without it, I might feel compelled to purchase bottled water, an affront to almost everything I hold dear. The Muse fulfills the crucial role of navigator, insisting upon paper maps which she maintains with most of the sincerity of a chief librarian and continuously consults. I distract myself with trying to calculate arrival times in my head, a pastime I'm poorly suited to engage in, but it keeps me from obsessing over how poorly everyone else on the road seems to be driving. I cluck a lot behind the wheel. I much prefer two lane blacktop and modest speeds. Freeway travel, given the sorry state of our national infrastructure, seems best left to long haul truckers, professionals who actually understand how to operate their vehicles. I prefer short driving days punctuated with frequent breaks. I do not care much for roadside attractions and I usually choose to stay with the car while The Muse peruses. I feel paranoid out there, more comfortable with my water bottle than with exploring fresh territory.

As rough as the outgoing road usually feels, homecoming's much worse. Heading home sets more definite expectations and often results in trying to 'make time,' as the saying goes. Five hundred miles from home and a day to traverse feels more like a sentence than an opportunity. I tuck down my head and focus upon headway, usually missing any interesting vistas along that final way. I've not experienced surprise or delight over any lodging in decades, each having been homogenized into predictable uniformity. I feel overwhelmingly anonymous when checking in and even more so when checking out. Trip Advisor®, along with every other travelers' tip sheet, proves uniformly unreliable, often leaving what used to be perfectly respectable little greasy spoons noteworthy and therefore overrun. I tend to rely upon my nose, a fallible but nonetheless more reliable compass when seeking sustenance. Local food hardly exists anymore, though The Great Southwest might prove different.

I warmly anticipate visiting with old friends along the way, this serving as almost the sole saving grace of RoadTricks. I will revel in listening to local dialects and discovering small unsuspected histories. Each small town holds a unique past, though each might seem quite the same upon arrival. Imagine my delight at learning that we've stopped in the birthplace of the ballpoint pen or the location of the original Bob's Big Boy®. I imagine bygone days, aching for their authenticity amid the homogenizing neon and garish plastic signs marking our more modern times. Maybe we could stay in what was once a grand old hotel, now fallen on hard times, with half the oddly-shaped rooms rented by the month and decorated with mismatched Salvation Army furniture, instead of some ubiquitous Holiday Inn Express®? Maybe we could walk dusty streets to supper instead of driving again? Maybe a prolonged absence of decent wi-fi signal could be our new best friend? In The Great Southwest, I imagine Kokopelli, the Road Trickster, will be guiding our way.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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