Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
There’s a world outside every darkened door
Where blues won’t haunt you anymore
Where the brave are free and lovers soar
Come ride with me to the distant shore…
Life is a highway…
– Tom Cochrane
3:15 PM. October 9, 2013.
I’m sitting at a roadside picnic area in West Texas, halfway between Fort Stockton and Pecos on US-285. The Dustmobile waits patiently to one side, resting from what has been little more than a long drive. My laptop screen catches the sunlight and blanks out, requiring close concentration as I type. It is an interesting metaphor: I have no idea what I’m writing, because of the glare; meanwhile, I have no idea what I’m doing out here. My end-game is pretty much to end up somewhere–nowhere in particular and anywhere at all. The problem with setting out to find yourself is that, since you start out with no idea where you are, you don’t know where in the world you’re headed.
Behind me, some five to ten miles away, someone is blasting–a rock quarry, perhaps. At intervals, a low rumble rolls across the distance, given form in a towering plume of smoke, clear-cut and mushroom-like. As the minutes pass, the cloud is caught up by the wind and begins to fade, bit by bit, floating away, insubstantial, as if it had never existed, a figment of my imagination.
I left home around 7:30. The air as I pulled out of our driveway bore the crisp chill of an autumn morning. We don’t get too many of those in Central Texas; I donned my leather jacket for the first leg of the trip. Lost that by the time I reached Goldthwaite, some 83 miles west; the windows went down around San Angelo; now, I alternate between breeze and air conditioning for temperature control. As always, my left arm has long since passed the roasted stage and is fast entering burn territory–one of the hazards of being an open-air driver by preference. By the time I get back, it should be nice and lobster-esque.
This trip, this walkabout, is all about randomness. Life is too well-planned, too well thought out, too scheduled. I’m out to break free of that, if only for a brief while. The whole point of the walkabout experience is to cut ties with the regular cycle of day-to-day living and strike out on an existential tangent. My first opportunity arrived quickly, and I seized it…and ended up in one of my favorite places: the middle of nowhere.