I’ve written before about the merits of not disobeying the call of the road when it summons thee. So this past weekend when it called, I went.
I’ve found that to satiate my “urge for going,” as Joni Mitchell once crafted into a song, I needn’t venture far. I live in Montana for pete’s sake, a truly uncompromisingly beautiful, wild state. And we’ve got a lotta land here, too. A person could spend lifetimes exploring here and never be able to see it all.
And not only do I not need to go far, I don’t need to spend a large swath of time either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes venturing far and spending extended periods of time off and away from home is a lovely thing to do, but I’ve been finding that even weekend-long trips simply 2-4 hours from my doorstep are not only sufficient but immensely satisfying.
I wrote this on my writer’s Facebook page the night before setting out this past weekend:
For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I want to sleep under the stars in unfamiliar terrain. I want to wake up in a fresh locale and navigate my early morning rituals in a locale where no one knows me. I want to sit in a coffee shop in a small town and write unobstructed by the comfortable air of home.
And perhaps some of this allure has a little something to do with the fact that I know full well – as clear as the sound of a bell – that I grow little, if at all, unless I edge outside of my comfort zone.
So, this past weekend, I went here:
I recently completed a solo 10-day road trip loop around the states. Here are the stats:
I left home in Missoula, Montana on Friday October 12th at 5:40am (camped over night in Medina, ND)
I arrived in Stillwater, Minnesota on Saturday October 13th at 12:30pm
I left MN on Tuesday October 16th at 5:00am and arrived in Bull Shoals, Arkansas later that same day at 6:08pm
I left AR on Friday October 19th and arrived back home in Missoula on Sunday October 21st at 12:19pm (camped over night in Paxico, KS and in Kaycee, WY)
Grand total of miles traversed: 3,834.3 miles
Since Friday October 12th, I’ve traveled 828.9 miles plus 380.6 miles plus 781.1 miles away from home. When grand totaled, it comes to 1,990.6 miles. And one of the places you can find yourself when traversing that far from Missoula, Montana is Bull Shoals, Arkansas, population 1,950 – which equates to my having driven approximately one mile for every resident in this quaint and lovely little town, in order to get here.
I left my good friend Wendy’s, in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, at 5:00am on Tuesday October 16th and arrived later that same day at 6:00pm at my mom’s place in Bull Shoals. Here are some road notes I scribed down whilst en route (in order of appearance):
6:30am, 41 degrees. Daybreak cuts the tension of darkness in a sharp jut of sky to the east.
Like miles of lane barricades on the highway with no trace of road construction in sight, I trust the process of life, even if I don’t understand it.
A road sign reads: Hope, 1 mile. Wouldn’t it be great if it were as simple as that?
I strode over the border into Iowa at 7:30am and watched the sun pop up over the horizon at 7:31. Bearing honored witness to a sunrise so inexpressibly beautiful that it floods the sense, these words came to mind:
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for this one precious life.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for being a citizen of this great country.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for the highways and byways that connect us.
More road notes:
Friday (Aug 31st), a motorcycle ride to Lolo Pass revealed a furthering of a truth I’d already suspected: autumn is edging out summer in the mountains.
Saturday, 3 planes to cross the country revealed another wave of contemplation of the many ways I connect with my sense of what it means to be home.
Day of mindfulness at Morning Sun, outdoor walking meditation
Sunday, a community of path-walkers gathered in the woods, revealed a higher calling to go the way of the ancient urging of togetherness.
My husband Mike leading the way through Glacier National Park, July 2018
To experience what it means to fall in love with motorcycling – to have an enthusiasm alight and burn within – one needs to embody certain qualities:
- An ability to sit still.
- Adaptability to weather varying road conditions.
- Fortitude (cuz it can sure get gusty out there)
- Enough openness of heart to allow the wind of a ride to clear out the mental static, replacing the day’s un-pleasantries with spaciousness and ease.
- Strength of character to both hold your own and be a good pack member.
- Steadiness of disposition.
- A go-with-the-flow approach to life enough to make it possible for the rumble of an engine beneath you to stir up a power that recharges you.
- An appreciation of what the open road has to teach and offer.
- An admiration for the capacity of a ride’s ability to alter your perspective of time and space and sense of connection.
Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk
Heart: Let’s take to the open road! Adventure is calling! Banff or bust!!
Brain: I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. I mean, we should really be focusing on getting our first book published and rededicating ourselves to the second book we started.
Heart: But, the road! Adventure! Let’s seize the moment!
Brain: Well, we DO have friends there now who will only be there for a short while. And it’d only be for a few days. It’ll start getting cold up there pretty quick, too – and since we’d be camping it does make sense to go sooner than later.
Heart: Huzzah! Let’s start packing!
Brain: Whoa there little fella. It’s still a couple of weeks out yet IF we go. I’m still on the fence.
Heart: Screw the fence! We only live once! Life’s too short to have fences! Open fields, that’s what I say!
Brain: What about the fact that we still have our taxes to do? Our 2016 taxes! And we have to work on those class proposals, finish painting the garage, do that one thing we talked about, and have loads of other adulting tasks to take care of?
Heart: Whee!! Look at me running in this open field! I’m freeee!
Brain: Okay. I’m in.
(Inspired by the Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk)
In lieu of a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve been coming up with a new mindfulness practice for myself at the start of each calendar year. Last year I partook in what I called Bumper Sticker Practice, where I paid special attention to bumper stickers while driving around town and jotted down the ones I found particularly interesting/funny/odd/strange/beguiling. I so enjoyed having a mindfulness exercise to do while driving that I decided that my new practice for this year would also involve something I could do while on the road. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what it would entail, I landed on: Observations On the Road. It involves my jotting down either an outer observation, or an inner observation prompted by something I see directly around me, while either driving around town, stopped at a red light, or otherwise hanging out in my car for some reason (such as waiting to pick my stepson up from school or waiting in line at the drive-up teller at the bank).
Last year, with the Bumper Sticker Practice, I wrote a blog post in June, documenting the stickers I’d come across in the first half of the year. Now I’m back to do the same with this one!