We sailed through California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, clipping Montana and Arizona along the way. No mind-numbing traffic, rolls of hay for days (each scene could’ve had its own frame, entitled The Great American Landscape), blocks of bright green surrounded by seas of waterless yellow, decrepit road-side shacks, small places with big stories, ordinary towns at the base of extraordinary mountains, deep red and pink. This was the America I hadn’t known.
We ended up spinning over 3700 miles of road in twelve days. Exponential tire rotations. Twelve tanks of gas. From San Francisco to DC, then practically back again. And yet it feels like nothing. One hundred miles pales to 1000. Before, as many as fifty would’ve been a big affair. Three hours in a car would’ve been a dozen lifetimes, now it’s cake.
They say comparison is the thief of joy. Not for road trip brain. Time and space become so concretely relative to a point of unwavering contentedness. No future distance will seem insurmountable, no period of time will be plagued by made-up endlessness. Indeed, comparison is now cause for joy. One day in a car will be long, but it will never be twelve.
How to aptly describe a road trip? How to recall what has been seen and felt? Panama by The Cat Empire plays on loop. Delirium sets in. Just watch:
Ah, take a dip in Lake Powell. Bring your telescope. Watch the stars. Sift through wet clay-sand with your toes. Cool the fuck off.
The blood-red American expanses of Wyoming! A state with a heart as big as its sky.
Vegas: You’re tacky and I hate you.
Then we’re left with charmed California. Where the roads end. We left San Francisco only to be on our way back, left the fog for a few moments of sun and travel-induced clarity only to open the curtain and crawl back in. The fog stays, we go. The fog stays, we change.
Wait, was that yesterday or last week or last year? Whose turn is it to buy gas? I’m not listening to you with that sunset in my face. I want more cookie butter. We missed our exit. Turn around! Too much cookie butter. I’m tired, can’t sleep. Ramen, go to hell. Let me close my eyes for a second. Roll over once, then once more. Go in circles on the ground like a greasy on-the-go hotdog. Running water is a nice thing. Can you play Panama again? These people can’t drive! But neither can we. Our shit’s piled to the sky, so high we can’t see. Pack up your socks, scattered everywhere like tiny white dirty ghosts and leave! Leave for wherever you want, wherever you can manage. I’ve lost a sock! There’s no actual destination. That’s the joke of it all. I’ve lost all my socks.
That’s road trip brain.∗