Random Observations and a confession?

In Travels With Myself on June 29, 2013 at 2:08 am

First, some random observations without judgment. I spoke too soon about the ubiquity and constancy of public radio. From the middle of Illinois to the middle of Missouri I had a very hard time finding good, clear NPR broadcasts. On the other hand, I had no trouble finding as many as a half dozen protestant Christian stations in that same frequency band. The State of Missouri runs rumble strips down the middle of its major two-lane roads, but not along the edge; and they mark their county highways with letters rather than numbers. In Illinois, they sell a full range of liquor at gas station convenience stores. The opposite of these things must be noticeable to those who travel from here to New England, also.
The route through Missouri and into Kansas has been surprisingly not so different from Connecticut. I could have easily been driving from Willimantic to Middletown on Connecticut’s Route 66, or across 190 from Union to Enfield. There is, for me, a sense of the connectedness of places that I didn’t find in Illinois or Indiana. The roads are busy enough with small towns and cities, with signage and road markers, that I always felt that I was getting somewhere and that the road connected that somewhere to wherever I was at the moment. Towns didn’t pop up suddenly out of cornfields, but approached a little at a time. Also, the roads sometimes ran fairly straight, but often wove gently through the countryside, rising and dipping as they went, and so were, in some way, less tedious, less wearying.
But while there was more to look at, the seeming familiarity of the scenery gave me time to think. Some of my readers may wonder why I am not talking more about the attractions along the way, why I have not stopped at historical sites or famous landmarks; why I’m not posting a lot of photographs. In the interest of full disclosure, I will try to explain.
I have come to the realization that I do not see myself as a tourist, but as a traveler, a sojourner. This trip is not about collecting souvenirs or counting the places I’ve been. I’m not out here to see what has been seen, and probably much better appreciated and described, by so many others. I am here just to immerse myself in the traveling; to pass through, not to stay. I am a mongrel mutt as a tour guide, I’m afraid. “The Gateway Arch has stood for more than 40 years as America’s tallest monu . . . Look, a man selling hats! . . . and a squirrel!” My only hope is that I am enough of a raconteur to make my observations interesting.
One thing I must confess I am not is a picture-taker. I simply never remember to take my camera with me, or even to take it out of my pocket when I do have it. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there are certainly many instances when a picture has generated a great many thousands of words. But I have to say that for the most part I disagree with the sentiment. When I look at a photograph, and that is all I am to know about what you have seen, then all I can really know is what your eyes saw and you chose to point your camera at; and I know what the camera saw. But give me just a few well-chosen words, and I may not necessarily see what your eyes saw; but I can begin to understand what your heart saw. In these entries I hope to offer snapshots of the heart, to show you my journey, not just the journey. I hope that will be enough.
And what of those artists who can create pictures that do, indeed speak volumes? I don’t take anything away from the profound and moving beauty of their art; but often when you look at the all the words they have inspired, you realize that the thousand words they’re worth are the words of the viewer, not the photographer. This is, of course, how it should be with art. It begins a thousand conversations, but too often they are cast in the voice of the observer, not the artist.
On the other hand, I expect to reach Colorado tomorrow or early the next day. Even I may find it impossible to resist taking out my camera for the Rocky Mountains. Even for me there may be times when words won’t be adequate.
One last observation: it is getting harder to avoid highways and interstates. We Connecticut Yankees have two interstates running north to south through the state and two running east to west (I know, I95 is technically N-S, but it doesn’t run that way in Connecticut); but there are lots of other choices to get where one is going directly enough so that even a stranger with a map can figure it out. But out here there are dozens of interstates and state highways; and few logical straight routes in between them. As I approach the mountains, especially after my West Virginia experience, it will probably be prudent to stick to the nice wide, safe interstates and avoid those little red lines with the “scenic route” dots running along beside them. I just hope they have lots of places to pull off and take pictures.

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