Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Death of the Great American Road Trip (or, You Can Only Look so Far to the West Until You are Staring at Your Back)

In early February, I was sitting in a friends house, before he forsook me for marijuana, and we were discussing the fact that he had never been on a road trip as an adult.  I had; in 2006, me and three of my friends went to Gainesville, Florida to visit a friend's girlfriend at college.  We were there for four days, only went to the beach once (Gainesville is in the middle of the Florida), spent most of the time at his Girlfriend's house drinking or out at random parties around the University of Florida (which seems like a pretty cool place; Gainesville is a pretty cool town).  We drove for 24 hours to get there in my friend's car, through the dirty south.  I was wearing a Slayer t-shirt with a pentagram on it, and got the stink eye from every single person anywhere we stopped.  It was pretty fun.  We stole a case of beer in Georgia from someone's truckbed, and while my friend drove, the rest of drank it all in outrageous ways, including shotgunning a beer while we were stopped outside of a church due to deadlocked traffic.  On the way back, we bought pot from a sketchy dude outside of Nashville and drove through Illinois blazed out of our minds (he was selling out of a wayside, like a boss).  It was a good time.  We were young, reckless, and pretty stupid, but we had a blast, baiting other drivers and making home-made signs to say things to other cars.  Which included having a pair of ladies flash us their breasts.  Awesome.
So my friend wanted to take a road trip either out west, or down to Florida to see one of the final Space Shuttle launches.  Either would have been cool, but I didn't have the disposable income to do it.  So we didn't.  Which is fine.  But it seems like that's something I won't have a chance to do again; that journey of self-discovery.  Like Kerouac or a monstrous incarnation of Horatio Alger: A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.
In the end, there's a sense of sadness of that.  The price of gas has driven that concept from my mind, because it just doesn't seem feasible from a monetary standpoint.  But, that's how life turns.  One day you wake up and realize that you'll probably never drive to California.  Or that you can no longer just pick a direction and drive until you don't feel the need to drive anymore.  But in the end, maybe that's what I'll do.  Work for a while, then drive until I find somewhere that isn't here.  Somewhere I can regain that sense of adventure that has been ground out of my by my situation and by the constraints of money and life in general.
That's what my first novel was going to be about.  A man looking to escape his reality and find himself a place amid the listlessness of society and the removal of learned men from within society's apex; the death of the American intellectual.  Ultimately, I became disenfranchised with the idea, and deleted my work.  Because in the end, it echoed with the hollow jingoism of Manifest Destiny and became a bastardization of the collective thoughts of several different authors.  It became an entity that I was dissatisfied with, a culmination of useless effort and insight that was actually not insightful.  It was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  And I am glad I did not pursue it further, yet I wish I didn't delete it.  Let it remain an unfinished work, locked in a purgatory for me to rediscover later.


  1. A friend of mine who is writing a book completely deleted it a good portion through, and rewrote it from scratch, it's now entirely different really. I still have all the old stuff, but she says she'll never finish it now. As for roadtrips, it's something I've always wanted to do, but I guess I was just born a little too late, like you said they just aren't really affordable anymore, and probably won't make a comeback until we have really good electric cars, or something else with renewable energy, or at least a not so depleted non-renewable source. But it still remains one of my dreams.

  2. Hitchhike across the country, hop trains and live with hobos! I was gonna do that when I was younger but then I fell in love with a girl and have since lived with her and never wanted to go anywhere.

  3. what an epiphany. gas prices will only go up.

  4. I think as a writer it takes most people years of writing and writing with other writer's styles before you find your own.

    Keep at it - and do get out there somehow to collect experience and stories for material for when the time is right.

  5. I love road trips also. been on many. It's sad to think that as gas prices rise, road trips will go away.

  6. road trips FTW...
    also, I went to UF! Gainesville is a nice place, but only once you're 21... before that it sucks.