I was, sitting in the Moab Ramada Inn. In thirty five days I'd driven
from San Francisco to Maine, down the East Coast and back across the country.
San Francisco was just two days and 921 very empty miles away. I
loaded up the MINI and headed westward across the big, empty expanse of
land between Utah and Nevada.
Before I left San Francisco, I packed the CD version
of Michael Chabon's newest novel "Summerland" in the glove compartment
- all sixteen hours of it. I thought it might entertain me across
the vast stretches of South
Canada or Kansas.
Michael's time slot, however, was always filled by National Public Radio,
crazy right-wing talk shows or the occasional farm report.
Moab disappeared behind the red rock cliffs, I pulled Michael from the
glove box. (Everyone should carry an author in the glove compartment.
Authors come relatively cheap and most are sufficiently starved to fit
nicely in the average car.) Michael began the story and I edged the
speedometer past eighty.
When I reached Eureka, Nevada, I decided it was
time to go home. I pushed the accelerator to the floor and skipped
my last overnight destination.
Before I left Nevada, I made one last stop: the
shoe tree. I pulled off the side of the road and took off shoes
I'd worn all across the country. I tied the shoelaces of my
favorite black and white Sketchers and tossed them into the tree.
I'd come full circle from the
first day when MUNI Guy and I marveled at the hundreds of shoes in
the branches high above. Perhaps leaving footwear in this tree is
like a mother burying a bit of placenta from a newborn baby: As long
as the shoes dangle in the wind I'm destined to return to the road.
shoes safely in the tree, I climbed back in the MINI - the little car that
carried me eight thousand miles with nary a problem. I pulled away
from the tree and onto the highway - a spot fifty miles from the nearest
house, gas station or inhabited area....and...the flat tire monitor came
on and the brakes failed.
I was so close to home...so far away from another
human...and my nearly-new car was dying in the middle of the Nevada desert.
I snatched the tire gauge from the glove compartment.
Driver side front tire: 37 pounds. Passenger side front tire:
37 pounds. Passenger side rear tire: 37 pounds. Driver
side rear tire: 37 pounds.
the tires were sound, what was the problem? I started the engine
and the danger indicators returned. I turned off the engine, restarted
the car and the lights remained. One more time...off...on...and the
lights went off. The flat tire indicator was quiet, the brakes were
Maybe it was the heat of the Nevada desert, maybe
it was the little car reminding me how well it behaved until now, perhaps
it was my punishment for leaving a perfectly serviceable pair of shoes
high in the branches while children in Ethiopia have none. Or, more
simply, perhaps it was just the inevitable result of buying a British motorcar.
Eight hours later, the MINI and I rolled into
San Francisco. Twenty-some-odd states, two countries and 8,998 miles
in 36 days. I was happy to be home and ready to go again. I
really think someone needs to pay me to be a full-time travel writer.
have stories to tell and more to say in future journal entries. My
humble gratitude to everyone who joined the Pledge
for Pledge Campaign to help raise $2,924.35 for charity. Thanks
to Drew for coordinating
the Bears of San Francisco donation. Thank you to Saint
Great Dane for house-sitting and taking car of my cats for more than
a month, Erika Lopez
for the fried-egg penis amulet that worked right up until the last day,
for providing several really funny additions, MUNI
Guy for his support, Erik in Pittsburgh, Matt
in Denver and Scott and Michelle in Iowa for providing housing. Finally,
thank you to the many, many people who sent me notes along the way.
Everywhere I traveled, people asked me one question
when they learned about Road Trip 2003: "Why?" My answer:
"Because I can."
unsolicited advice: Leave, go, travel. Range far and wide across
the world. Meet people who live elsewhere, walk down streets you've
never seen, visit places no one has ever told you about. We live
on an amazing, small, beautiful, scary, sometimes tragic planet filled
with more than a person can ever experience in a lifetime. Your life
gets shorter every moment, every breath, every trip to the toilet.
Life is a limited commodity and I suspect - although I don't know for certain
- God didn't design us to spend it behind a desk clicking a mouse.
After all, it was the Divine who created mountains,
gulfs, inlets, rivers, rock
arches and clouds. Man is responsible for cubicles.
Did I hear someone say Road Trip 2005?