Windshield Time

It’s done.  Last day of vacation.  Tomorrow morning I will be waking to an alarm clock, adding my work email account back onto my phone, and start paying attention to the text messages telling me when services are down.  It’s back to endless meetings, dealing with some projects that don’t go anywhere and other projects that come straight out of left field and into production.  I even took a quick peek at my calendar to discover I have a budget meeting, scheduled after my normal quitting time no less.

For the last four weeks none of that has mattered.

The bulk of vacation was spent on the road.  Windshield time.  Countless miles.  Landscapes that varied from breathtaking to mind-numbing.  Endlessly scanning the radio for something that will help pass the time.  (How many years have I promised myself to get an iPod connection in the truck???)

“If I describe hiking in the mountains as ‘soul cleansing’ then driving dusty backroads is ‘soul liberating’.” 

It’s one of my favourite quotes.  It should be considering I said it.  There is another variation of driving that has an impact on the soul that also needs to be considered — the marathon.  Those times when the destination is the goal, not the journey.  When you are putting in hours and hours between stops.  When all you can do is make mental notes about the places you see whipping past at 110km/h hoping you can remember them long enough to file them away for future trips.

The difference between walking and hiking is simple:  When you walk, your mind wanders from subject to subject whereas when you hike your mind starts to narrow its focus to whatever is most important at that moment.  That focus gets sharper and sharper the longer you go.  Go long enough and eventually you end up focusing on the most basic instinct — survival itself.

Driving is similar.  Country road driving liberates the soul — it is allowed to go wherever it pleases.  You dream, you laugh, you explore everything “out there”.  But marathon driving isn’t about “out there”, it’s about “in here”.  Deep inside of you.  What matters to you at your very core.  It’s all about introspection not speculation.

I was very fortunate that in between bouts of marathon driving there was lots of time for other things, including some absolutely fantastic exploration time in Wisconsin.  I guess if I ever became eligible to work in the U.S. I think Oregon has some competition in terms of where I would live.  Easy access to the ocean might be great, but the land of Cheeseheads did something to me. 

This trip was about friends and family.  Chris is Shaunavon, the in-laws in Regina, Dale and Helen in Manitoba, Emily in Illinois.  Catching up with Graham and Maureen, our former Priddis neighbors now living in B.C., in Indiana. 

The trip was about rust and moss.  Lichen and stone.  Ticks.  Abandoned railcars on side tracks.  Concrete silos and the inability to find an ice cream shop in Baraboo on a Sunday.  The Forevertron, which today I can’t adequately describe other than to say “The normal rules don’t apply there — time seemed to lose all meaning.”  Rick’s White Light Diner — never seen the cook put his feet up on the counter and bring out a baseball bat to illustrate how he threatened a priest once.  From classic landmarks like Mount Rushmore to tacky roadside attractions like Carhenge.  Dirt roads to Interstates.

The trip was learning that commerical radio in Montana consists of both kinds of music:  country AND western.  (Nod to the Blues Brothers fans in the audience.) 

Three provinces, twelve states.  Hundreds of photos.  Memories and friendships to last a lifetime.  A renewed DanOCan who is more ready to experience life now than ever before.

Where do we go from here?  Only the road knows…

Wind at my back and the sun on my shoulders
Pushing me moving me a little bit closer
Sometime a little trust is just enough to take you there

I love this feeling of freedom running through my veins
Been too long at the crossroads waiting for the light to change
Even if it takes forever and I never find out where it goes
Heaven knows
I love this road

— “I Love this Road”, Emerson Drive (2009)


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