What’s more compelling and creatively inspiring than a road trip? How many novels and films have the road trip spawned? From Jack Kerouac’s counterculture buddy trip “On The Road” to Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize-winner, “The Road,” to . . . National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies, and a movie I highly recommend, “Almost Famous.”
I’m heading out this week on a solo road trip. I’ve taken a few such trips in the past, and they have been memorable and important. I drove alone from Santa Cruz, CA to Buffalo, NY, many years ago, a road trip that served as a key transition in my life and got me pulled over by a Texas Ranger, ostensibly for speeding but I think because I had California plates and therefore was likely carrying drugs. I managed to talk my way out of any trouble.
To put a difficult personal experience behind me, I took a road trip to the shores of Maryland where wild ponies ran and I came back better for it. Once I took a solo motorcycle trip through Switzerland to help stir my creative juices and confront a few truths about myself. I almost accidentally tipped my motorcycle over a ravine when I got off of it to stretch my legs. One self-truth I discovered was my quick hands to save the bike.
Despite these adventurous moments, the mainstay of these trips was the solitude I had to face during many long hours of driving and riding. As I like to quote myself, “Solitude is one of life’s intense experiences, and yet seemingly nothing is happening.”
That’s because it’s all happening inside yourself. As a writer, I’m used to spending a lot of time alone, but working alone is not the same as experiencing solitude, where your mind is free to wander anywhere it wants to.
My mind inevitably starts asking some of the tougher questions: Am I the person I want to be? What should I do next? Am I on the right path? (GPS takes care of the pavement; I’m talking about life’s path.)
I’m looking forward to this time of solitude—and to what I might uncover about myself. Whatever that may be, I’ll embrace it.
This road trip is taking me to Alabama, right into a hotbed of COVID, unmasked BCS championship celebrations, and the spawning grounds of a new U.S. senator, that Trump sycophant Tommy Tuberville, who is probably less qualified to be a senator than I am. Oh, Sweet Home Alabama.
But I miss Julia so much I’d traverse Hades in order to see her, and right now Julia is in Alabama. I’ve been down there twice previously to see her, and have flown on both of those trips with Harriet, but this time I’m solo.
Sixteen-plus hours of driving, and a return trip a week later. I don’t know how long the trip will take, what I’ll see, or what I’ll discover. I’ll have podcasts and music and books and food. And a hybrid car that can go 500 miles on a tank of gas. Mostly I’ll have solitude. It’s what I want.