Thursday, May 18, 2006

Route 66: Hit the road, Jack

"A traveler is to be reverenced as such. His profession is the best symbol of our life. Going from - toward; it is the history of every one of us." - Henry David Thoreau

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I'm looking at a map of Los Angeles and I realize that, in about a week, I'll be there - the main vortex of the West, the spinal column of pop culture, the main nerve.

I'll be passing through Pasadena, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills. Say these names out loud and you might as well be saying "Camelot" or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." The midwestern mind hasn't evolved enough to process the places I'll be visiting beyond TV Land.

But I'll be there.

I focused most of my research on the beginning - Illinois and Missouri - and the end of the trip, because I think it's important to do a fine job at either end. The middle will take care of itself. Hell, it's Oklahoma - what more do you need to do?

I'll be picking up my Chevy Aveo tomorrow at 10 a.m., dropping my own car off at grandma's, grabbing a bagel and (hopefully) coffee with Suzanne, and then I'm off. Chicago, down Michigan Ave. and Adams, onto Ogden, and into America.

My iPod is loaded, my digital is charged, my maps are being printed as I type. I can't do much more. I've prepared for far too long. I need to hit the road.

A lot is riding on this trip. I've felt the need to escape since at least March (maybe it was looking forward to the Route, or maybe it was the last throes of the winter blahs), and I've been in a pretty rotten mood for the last two weeks. I haven't wanted to talk to people, haven't wanted to hang out. I haven't slept well, which is odd for me. I'm cranky, I'm tense. I'm hoping that, with just me and my thoughts, mile after mile, all that will melt away. Like rubber on the highway, I want to leave a lot of what I've been feeling in California, and come back the Dave I've wanted to feel like for oh-so long.

And I've got too much that's been occupying my brain here. I need to leave it behind, too, maybe for a little while. Hopefully forever.

Every one I know and care about is worried about me leaving. They wish I had found someone to go with me. But so do I. The thought of 10 days of non-stop driving - even for a professional driver like me - is daunting. And no navigator means I'll have to rely on my wits to navigate the road. My wits can't be trusted.

In some ways, I'm glad I'm going by myself. I've always done just fine alone. Maybe a little lonliness is just what I need.

So tonight I want to sleep well, and wake up tomorrow feeling like I do right now: there's something I have to do.

And I'm leaving tomorrow to do it.

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