Many the Miles

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Apr 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Sue and Vincent's House (Houston)
What I did
Contemplate life and sing car tunes

Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, April 29, 2011

On this trip, I've traveled my jet, ferry, bus, taxi, train, metro, funicular (a special diagonal metro train suited for traveling up mountains), cable car and personal car. Now I'm behind the wheel of my own car and traversing the country.  I've been pushing my luck in a little too close for comfort.  Without any internet connections since I left Baltimore, I was unaware of the ravaging storms along the Eastern seaboard and the Southern states.  I was surprised to find that I was driving within miles and within hours of tornadoes touching down in Virginia and Florida (where I drove through a huge thunderstorm like the one shown here). Luckily I did not see a tornado, but for the thousands of people affected by the storms, I can only pray that they found safety and shelter.
My drive across the country is essentially following the entire length of the 10 freeway, from Jacksonville all the way to Los Angeles.  Following my longest stretch of driving between Savannah and Houston, I stopped at Vincent's and Sue's (Dan's parent's) place on the outskirts west of the metropolis. They were nice enough to show me around their new neighborhood on my short visit, as they had only moved into the area a little more than a year ago.  After a nice breakfast at IHOP, I began Day 3 of the drive.  Before I arrived in El Paso, I drove a stretch of the 10 that hugs the border with Mexico for 50 miles, never drifiting further than five miles from the Rio Grande. The infamous and much publicized Ciudad Juarez sits of the other side, a city of turmoil and war-like carnage due to the struggle with drug cartels and drug trafficking. Amazingly enough, the five miles on this side of the border is the difference between safety and danger. The murder rate in Juarez is 100 times that of El Paso, and historically the two cities were one.

Most would dread the thought of driving 14 hours a day for three days straight, with no more than short sightseeing breaks a short distant from the highway.  But I personally enjoy the prospect of the open road with nothing more than my music and my thoughts. Music always sounds better behind the wheel of a car. And my mind is never clearer than cruising the highway.  I'm the type of person who doesn't mind being alone for certain periods of time. I spent the last two years in Savannah living alone. Portions of my trip in Europe were spent exploring on my own. Now my current exodus across the country is spent largely by myself (Sandi doesn't make a good conversationalist). So generally, as was the case in Savannah and Europe, that leaves me with long periods of time with just my thoughts.

This drive across the country not only filled a long awaited excursion, but a chance to process the experiences of the last two months. Not only are the hours of driving well suited for thinking and music, but the ever changing backdrop of Interstate-10 provides a canvas to organize the details from an array of people I've met and places I've visited. It reminds me to be ever mindful of the moment and to remember the unique presence of mind to live each day.

With an excess of time on my hands, I thought about the wealth of exception and amazing people I've met on this trip.  Of the many people I'm used to meeting in daily life, I tend to assess the significance of these encounters by the sincerity I feel from the connection. Early in my trip I quickly realized that most of the people I was meeting weren't your run of the mill, easily forgotten, average encounters.  A wise friend I made on the trip told me, "Every encounter we have happens for a reason, no matter how short."  Whether for a few hours or a few days, they were people I won't soon forget. Like Helen, who I met in Santorini in a van to our hotel. She had most recently traveled Egypt where she was in a work away program helping a family setup a business near Cairo. She barely left the city on January 27 as tanks were rolling in Tahrir square.  Then there was Krista and Laura, the friend "Newfies" teaching English in Korea who were traveling during Korea's "summer vacation."  It seemed like every interest of theirs  from music, movies and travel coincided with my own.  Or Tila, much in my own style, sensed the need for change and decided to travel (as documented in her own blog Tilazway).  However, unlike my trip, she traveled 16 months across three continents! I've never been one to believe in random chance in life, and yet I don't subscribe to fate-based life paths.  Perhaps its the mechanism of travel that that lends purpose and opens our views to be more receptive to these these seemingly random chance encounters.

I finally get home tomorrow. I'm sit now at mile 2,438 of 3,205 on this drive. Tomorrow is my last day of traveling following the start of a journey which began technically two months ago. In reality, tomorrow is the first time I get to come home for good after leaving California nearly two years ago. Although I will miss the travel and adventure I engaged on this trip, and will quickly change gears as I start working on Monday, I know the long awaited rest will be soon welcomed. One can only move so far until he has to replant his roots.

Note: Blog title inspired while driving somewhere in the vast middle of Texas by listening to Sara Bareilles and her song "Many the Miles

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