Thursday, February 4, 2010

The West

The urge to travel. Insidious, relentless urge. Impossible to suppress once it surfaces. I first experienced this desire in my early teens. (Early teens seem to be a ripe time for many strong first desires... But that's another story!)  Images of snow-capped jagged mountain peaks, wide open spaces, deserts and grassy plains stirred the great roaming beast. Coffee table books with glossy color photographs and magazines with stories about the Continental Divide, Death Valley, The Great Plains, big sky country, and massive, thundering herds of buffalo. The West.

There's no horizon on the east coast. It's all great buildings, dense forests and rolling hills. For a boy living in Maryland, that long flat distant horizon meeting an unbroken sky was a foreign concept.

One day, I came across a copy of On The Road.19 years old, no life direction and now stoked by Kerouac's depictions of new wild places and of people "mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

Not long after, I looked up an auto delivery company in the Yellow Pages (remember them?) and asked if they had any cars going to the west coast. It did not matter where. I wanted--needed--to see the sun set on the Pacific Ocean by week's end! With little more than 500 dollars in my pocket, an old Nikon F2, and a single green canvas rucksack stuffed with underwear, t-shirts and jeans, I was off. I stayed in youth hostels and crappy roadside motels. Ate fast food and drank gallons of coffee. Harsh, bitter, burnt coffee from diners and mini-marts... not the gourmet fresh roasted beans you can pretty much find anywhere today. It was great.

I made the trip 6 more times after that. And then that was enough. Sitting for hours at a time behind the steering wheel watching the yellow stripes zip by eventually lost its appeal. The love of the West still burns, though. So I get out there when I can. It's not often enough, of course... but I know it's there, and that is comforting.

 “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

Gotta go!


  1. Killer post man..I enjoyed every bit of it...a true Kerouac fan myself!

    Cheers, Jeremy

  2. I suspected that about you my friend! OTR and Dharma Bums... Should be required reading for teenagers the world over.

    Then they can move on to Fear and Loathing. Heh!