Sunday, July 26, 2009

Strangely Familiar

Just arrived at my campsite for the night in Mueller State Park west
of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Actually I am squatting in a campsite
that appears to have been abandoned by weekend campers who, hopefully,
have gone home early on account of the rain and cold weather. The
registration tag indicates the site is reserved until tomorrow. So in
case anyone asks, I will be known as Mr. Marquette... Umkay?
When I stepped outside my truck I was surprised by the temperature
which reminded me of my second night in Silverton, CO where the
temperature dropped down into the 20s . The cold air smells of wet
pine and the freshness that only can be experienced in our western
forests. I guess I still have some bias for my own region and its
Well this appears to be the last night of the roadtrip withholding any
complications tomorrow. As I look at the route traveled on my map,
which any worthy geographer would naturally do, I notice the shape of
a half completed infinite symbol. Some people have asked if I would
make it up to the Northwest and California, which I would love to do.
I spent a fair amount of time working in Oregon and Washington in 2001
and there are so many places I would still like to explore there.
However, this trip has the feeling of coming to an end, as all trips
eventually do. Even weekend getaways have that feeling that hits you
on Sunday at about 5:00 pm. A tangible reminder that the next day you
will be back at work, cleaning the house, weeding the yard and all the
heavy stuff of life. So this trip has that feeling as well.
For me it hit sometime yesterday as I rushed past a historical marker
without even blinking and became annoyed by the rolling topography
that was slowing my travel. The trip was closing around me and sadly I
could feel it and taste it in the drier Colorado air. Sad because I
wasn't sure that I had accomplished my objective or even knew what it
If learning about the places in our country was my target I
accomplished some of that, while also realizing that a
incomprehensible amount remains unknown to me. If learning something
about her people was the goal then I observed a lot of that as well,
despite the difficulty of engaging them beyond common niceties. If the
purpose was to learn something of myself, then after some 44 days of
good thinking time I hope I have accomplished a little of that too.
So on the last night of this adventure I lie in the back of my little
pickup truck shell and peer out at the huge forest around me, hoping
that the rightful occupants of this camp spot don't return to reclaim
their turf. And so it has been on this trip. Seeing just a fraction
of this beautifully ordinary and complex country through the
windshield of an old pickup, and knowing that I only see and
understand a small part, and have little claim even to that. Looking
back at the map, the half complete infinity symbol looks quite

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Woke up to rain this morning in the Mark Twain National Forest. Spent
last night at a campground near the Ozark National Scenic Riverway in
Missouri. Very beautiful hill country with many rivers and small
communities tucked into the hills. Drove through central Missouri
before crossing into Kansas below and bypassing Kansas City. This is
all such beautiful country and fun to drive with a lot of hills and
turns (of course I avoid the interstates on the trip home too).
Tomorrow will be the great trek across Kansas and into Colorado.
Tonight I am at Eisenhower State Park in ag country. Surprisingly the
campgrounds are mostly empty, fortunately for me since I have not
conversed much with other campers beyond regular niceties. It has been
a beautiful evening and I am trying to soak it all in, knowing that
the trip will soon be over where the real world awaits. It has been a
wonderful journey, still I very much look forward to seing family
again. Well, I hope to post at least once more with something more
profound so until then.

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Calling Elvis

Really it was inevitable. Like some kind of magnetic force the oasis
of Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee drew me from the far off quarters
of my road trip. Here there are many other pilgrims, wanderers and the
ordinary, well fed American tourists. The reasons for our trek to this
place are many, but collectively we find something of ourselves in
Elvis, Graceland or the journey here.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twilight Unfolding

After a rather ordinary baseball game in Columbus last night I pushed
on to Auburn, AL hoping to stay at a state park nearby. Arriving late
I found the park and gates closed so I pulled down a dirt road and
crawled up for a few hours of sleep I hoped. No more than three hours
passed before the spotlight of a state trooper filled the shell of my
pickup. I opened the door of the shell and prepared my story which
was easy since I didn't have to fabricate any of it. I explained where
I had come from and where I was going and why I had chosen this spot
of dirt outside the state park. He also had his line rehearsed and
said "you can't just sleep in your car like this" I said it was what I
would be doing if I had been at the campground which he must have
accepted as a reasonable argument since after running a check on my
I'd he let me stay there. After laying there an hour I realized any
attempt at falling back asleep was futile so I packed up the truck and
headed up the road towards Huntsville where I am planning on checking
out later today. As I turned a bend of hwy 431 near Ruth, AL I
noticed a gathering of cars and traffic by the side of the road. In
the darkness I could see people with flashlights unpacking their
trucks and setting up stands and tables. I have been sitting here in
my truck watching and listening to the sounds of local farmers
constructing a market on the spot as the sky changes from black to a
light blue and pink in the east. The traffic continues to filter in,
but now its the cars and empty pickups of buyers instead. Seeing it
all unfold is fascinating. Somehow, amid today's supermarkets and
mega-lo-marts this spontaneous market still has some competitive
advantage. Maybe it is the fresh produce, or location that makes it
all possible. I believe it is probably a large measure of tradition
and culture that gets them up at 4:00 in the morning to continue this
instinctual ritual.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Woodbats at Golden

Millions of miles of roads knit this great continent together. Sewed
on this tapestry are the buttons of baseball stadiums that act as
buttons to hold the patchwork together. To me these stadiums,
American Legion fields and community softball complexes are the
shrines and humble meetinghouses that give us a common experience and
religion. So that might be a stretch, but tonight at Golden Field in
Columbus, GA the ritual is taking place between the Columbus Woodbats
and the EA Big Train. The comforting part and the reason for this
post is knowing that a similar ceremony is playing out in nearly every
community in the nation. While our politics, culture and economics
stretch the seams, a trivial game helps keep it together.

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Go West!

Today marked the start of week 6 on the road and also the start of my
trip home to Salt Lake City, Utah. My trip to Nashville and the other
places of Southern Georgia stir up my fondness and wonderment of these
people and places. I can say that I am proud to share some history and
lineage with them.
As I head home I will try to keep the same traveling habits that bring
meaning and enjoyment to the journey. While I am aiming to be home in
a week I have a couple of days of buffer time to explore and get lost.
Getting lost is the surest way to see the real country and sometimes
meet the real people.
Even as I sat here I met a man from Jacksonville, FL who has been
rambling a lot of his life as well. While he says he is a drifter his
comment about "hecks and specks" make me think that he's been dyed in
the wool.
So I guess my journey has reached its peak and only the conclusion
remains. Here's to a safe and respectable home stretch.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

White Sands of Panama

Just heading back to Georgia after an overnight jaunt to the white
sand beaches of Panama City, Florida. As we arrived Sunday the skies
darkened and threatened to spoil the rest of the afternoon. We were
able to make it down to the beach for a while before the rain started,
which not not materialize to much. We had seafood for dinner at a good
restaurant. I have always been amazed at how dependent and excessive
Americans are with their air conditioning. While 75 degrees would be a
great reprieve from any warmer outside temperature, most buildings are
kept around a teeth chattering 67 degrees. Perhaps it is my own
sensitivity, as I have always prefered hot to cold, but I can't help
but think that collectively as Americans we have isolated ourselves
from any environmental discomfort. It is as if upon the invention of
air conditioning, or any other new thing, we are so enamored by the
improvement that we try to make up for lost time by extending its use
beyond what's necessary. Perhaps it is just human nature to push these
bounds, or more likely its an American phenomenon. As Steinbeck
described it, that's why we (Americans) are here because we were
unsettled and were willing to take chances while the others preferred
predictability and remained in the homeland. Can't help but think
that this continues today inside of our America and there will always
be both the unsettled ones and the conditioned ones. Once we were a
nation of the restless, are we still?

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