Down Roads

Let’s travel down roads. We’ll find places and they will be ours for moments. Let’s get to where the land lays out in front and behind us — where there are places we’ve been and places still to see.

I have only been driving for a few years*. No teenaged backroads joyrides. No college road trips that weren’t at someone else’s whim. No coming of age cross country journey.

I still have the nervous habits and low endurance of a novice behind the wheel. Highways are white knuckle zones so we take the long way there. Wherever there is, we find the back roads, the service roads, the alleys, and the dirt tracks.

There is an unspecific promise that these roads have more stories to tell. Chance discoveries, mysteries, and hidden treasures are always down these roads. The leftover, forgotten, misplaced, and purposefully remote are never along the highway.

There is this feeling on some roads, which is linked forever with the opening scene of Gus Van Sant’s film My Own Private Idaho. The lonesome, somewhat desperate moments in which Mikey, played by River Phoenix, talks by himself into the quiet dawn air of a golden stretch of Idaho road.

I always know where I am by the way the road looks.
Like I just know that
I’ve been here before.
I just know that
I’ve been stuck here…
like this one fucking time before, you know that?
There’s not another road anywhere that looks like this road.
I mean, exactly like this road.
It’s one kind of place.
One of a kind.
Like someone’s face.
Like a fucked-up face.

It’s a feeling of impossible familiarity in the face of seemingly endless difference. The road stretchs out in either direction until its divergent ends dim giving no sense that they end.

Cars and driving I have no particular fondness for but they are the relatively easy means to finding places you might never find otherwise. Driving can be tedious and anxious but it condenses how big our world feels in a mostly controlled way. I’m glad, even if it sometimes still feels surreal, to have this late in life ability to choose a destination, a pace, and a route.