Last Sunday afternoon I finished packing the truck and, during one of Central and Eastern Oregon's rare rainstorms, headed east on an extended road trip. I had a vague notion of various destinations, but my intention was to let spontaneity and serendipity govern my movements. My wanderings have taken me to Chickahominie Reservoir, Sugarloaf Mountain, Yellowjacket Lake, the Steens Range, the Owyhee River, and the Craters of the Moon National Park. Today I am resting at a Starbucks in Idaho Falls, Idaho and plan to travel toward the Wind River Range in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. Every night I have slept in my old REI tent and eaten lots of meals of granola to accompany my special dinner of turkey and cheese sandwiches. I have encountered cold wet weather and significant heat. I have rolled along avoiding interstates, and stopped often to take photos of mountains, deserts, antelope, and wildflowers.
Of course it is reasonable to ask where the value is in traveling like this. I see folks cruising in motor homes, RV's, fifth-wheelers, camper vans, and in passenger cars. The motels and campgrounds are full every evening with people who are touring to see the beauty of America. Each person travels according to his comfort zone and comes back from the experience deeper in knowledge and a richer person. Years later, people recall proudly to others certain place names they've visited. Like on a treasure hunt, they have acquired figuratively special markers, points or medals for seeing first hand each spot. They gather fondly beautiful sites, like charms on a bracelet, and give them an important place them in time. Was Janey six or eight when we took the Ford? Was it 2006 or June of 2008 when we went to Arizona? Like shiny marbles in a large jar of mainly opaque ones, these travel moments stand out glistening amid the mundane spots of time.
As for me, in this scheme of adventure, I appear as an aging hippy whose image contradicts convention. I am sporting a seven-day-growth gray beard and am tanner than I've been in months. The other day I bathed naked in a primitive hot spring in the Alvord Desert and today cooled off in the Snake River. I am not out seeking enlightenment or struggling to explain my place in the universe on this trip. I am a father, friend, fly fisherman, a book reader, a writer, and artist out gathering more pictorials of the world. These views are like stamps in a collection never to be completed, I hinge them in my consciousness for no apparent purpose other than the bliss they bring me and then move on to discover the next joy.