Armchair Peregrinations

October 10, 1998

One of the best things about traveling across the country is that you exist for awhile in a different state of mind -- the road does that to you. After a couple of hundred miles, you've long since left behind the anxiety you might have felt briefly about the fact that you were unemployed and hadn't a clue as to what your next job, or prospects for a job, might be. You only know that the morning started out at dawn in a small town in the Midwest, wide-open prairies and farmland all around, and up ahead was a scenic route along a remote section of a Nebraska sandhills river. It doesn't mean anything that this trip will end in a matter of days and the serious business of getting on with job hunting and other punishing realities will begin. Nothing matters on the road except THAT day and only that day. Its sights, sounds and adventures become your occupation, goals, and dreams. You fill up the day and live it fully because you may never pass that way again.

During another of my lengthy road trips in the mid 1980s, I wrote these journal entries on May 22 and 25, 1986: (5/22) "Miles and miles of rolling southern Iowa farmland, pastures and woods. Sunny skies and mild temperatures. Driving has an hypnotic effect after awhile. I am lost in a kind of blank reverie -- almost as if I cease to be. This is when I'm not stiff and uncomfortable from sitting so long. Sometimes I just stop by a bridge over a creek. It's so much quieter than one can ever imagine. That is, until the next car roars by." (5/25) "Followed the North Loup River through central Nebraska to the Niobrara River valley. Encountered there a place along the river so sublimely beautiful that it left me then, and now, groping for words. A dirt road out of the sandhills led down into a valley of huge cottonwoods and small streams, along with groves of burr oak, ash and cedar trees. The Niobrara here is a wide, flat sheet of swiftly flowing water. A cool wind rustled the cottonwood leaves. The river was a refreshing tonic and the woods an idyllic retreat, set in this narrow valley amidst rolling hills, grasslands and pines. What an afternoon to savor and remember."

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