Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Driving X-country should probably be a core curriculum requirement, mandatory for all students, compulsory, something from which only the blind, deaf, and paraplegic are exempt, but these days even those without control of their lower extremities can be fitted into special cars, and the deaf, well, all they'd miss out on is the endless stream of classic rock and country stations, not to mention the ubiquitous radio preachers who dominate the airwaves throughout the vast interior of this country, and so really, only the completely blind should be excused from driving across this country, because the blind, as we all know, are probably unfit to operate a motor vehicle that can travel in excess of 80 m.p.h.  It's just too difficult to know which way to turn, too difficult to see the Golden Arches in the distance, impossible to know if there's a Motel 6 at this exit or the next one.  Tonight I had to settle for a Super 8.  Not my first choice based entirely on price, but good enough considering the fact that it was 1 A.M. when my body, my good sense, and my fear that my mother would receive devastating news of my fiery dismemberment if I did not stop driving told me to stop.  So here I am, my last night on the road, in a Super 8 in Springfield, Ohio.  How many Springfields are there in this country?  Drive across country and find out for yourself.

I want to take this opportunity to offer you some pointers on driving while tired.  Not over-tired, mother, just tired.  If your travel itinerary is intense like mine has been, you are sure to encounter some stretches of road upon which all of your faculties will have vanished, as if they'd decided to set up permanent residence at the Shell station, 200 miles behind your tail lights.  Worse: sometimes you will be an interstate zombie after dark, when the sun is not streaming into your eyes, stimulating your brain stem, and this is when you need a battery of techniques to keep you safe.  The point of a X-country journey is not to perish in a ball of flames, but to improve your life and to deepen your understanding of your country and its people.  I have found that it helps to be incredibly cold.  Roll down the window and let the night air slap you.  When you become too cold, roll up the window and crank the heat until you become unbearably toasty.  Meanwhile, you should be scanning the radio dial for the most repulsive song or radio program your ears can stand.  To make it from Bloomington, Indiana to Springfield, Ohio tonight, I endured an hour of Christian propaganda about a criminal drug addict who found Jesus in prison, who learned to read (the Bible) in prison, who was subsequently paroled, then fell back upon the heroin needle, who returned to prison, repented again, and then finally, after he'd gotten clean and truly devoted himself to God, quickly died of esophageal cancer and was delivered unto his lord.  Listening to that compelling tale, I began to worry that in another minute I would be transformed into a born-again Christian, like Randy, and return to Massachusetts an alien to my friends.  The up-shot: I was wide awake and ready to start passing semis.

What you will learn from driving X-Country will be tailored to your own personal fears, aspirations, hang-ups, dreams, libido, educational arc, intellect, passion for country, politics, religion, culinary-bent, and desire.  It's a huge country and there seems to be more than enough room to do whatever the hell you want.  Mostly, you will have so much time to yourself.  It's impossible to sit behind the wheel for so many long hours, in control of your direction and speed, to not have something happen in your brain, to not have some shred of personal growth, even revelation.  You might be able to travel across this country without gaining a smidgeon of empathy for your fellow countrymen and countrywomen, for their stations, their politics, their dress, manner, accents, education, beliefs, etc.  It might be possible, but after having spent the better part of five weeks on the road, I doubt it.  Get on the road and find out that you are only one important person among many.  Even the cranks at the midnight gas station who begrudge you your .99 cent water become real people if you wink at them just so or speculate upon their lives for one minute or less.  You don't have to devote your whole life to them, only know that they're there, selling water at 2 A.M. on a Tuesday night, in some gas station, a quarter mile off the interstate anywhere.

P.S., this is the last post of this X-Country Road and Farm Blog Adventure.  Many thanks to everyone who made this possible.


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