I have been fortunate to enjoy travels and adventures of many sorts. In spite of my naturally apprehensive approach to life, I try to take advantage of most opportunities that I am presented, even if there is risk involved or if it scares me—in fact, especially if it scares me. For some of these adventures, once has been quite enough. Though I am glad I can say I have parasailed, I do not care very much if ever again I am tethered behind a motorboat with my body skipping and bouncing atop white-capped waves as an ineffective parachute fails to haul me skyward. While cliff diving into an Ozark river was something I was shamed into doing by some of my bolder compatriots, in hindsight I would have surely endured a bruise to my ego instead of those I received on my legs and backside. And I can assure you that I will never again ingest a mixed alcoholic beverage named “The Crippler,” a name I should have taken at face value.
On the other hand there are those experiences that have become passion, and I learn everything I can about them—the vocabulary, the equipment, and the clothing. Others still have become obsession, and I spend my days trying to master the necessary skills. However, I should admit that there are very few recreations in which I have endeavored for very long—no matter how focused my fixation. Eventually I set aside my interest in one thing to pick up another—sometimes forever, other times to pick it back up years later.
There is, on the other hand, one adventure for which I never seem to get enough. I never tire of driving westward along the most famed of American highways. Route 66 has become a myth of American culture, and a modern gentleman of American origins should be familiar with its mythology. Of course my inspiration originates in those motormen who have preceded me:: Steinbeck called it The Mother Road in The Grapes of Wrath. Jack Kerouac supposedly raced stolen cars along its baron stretches betweens bouts with benders. A 1960’s television show made it something to watch on television, and Nat King Cole made it something to dance to at sock-hops.
For me, the highway is a sort of spiritual rite. As I drive westward, I watch the rolling Ozark hills settle into broad grassy fields, then endless prairie. The prairie grass shortens and becomes more sparse, the soil more sandy, and the tallest things that can be seen against the horizon line are tumbleweeds and the occasional road sign. The ground begins to roll and uplift again, the grass disappears, and sandy hills become flat top mesas and frozen mountaintops.
The road and its vistas are enough to justify a road trip. However, I return for the small adventures, the kitschy curios that lie along the many miles of pavement, begging to be discovered. And every time I travel West, I discover more.