Tuesday, August 10


Without planning, there is no journey. Unless you have a destination or a purpose you do not make passage through the world. Planning can be as simple as subconsciously thinking you need to move out of the way of a moving object or as complex as the process which will eventually put a human being on Mars.

But what of planning without a journey? We call that longing, daydreaming, wanderlust. It takes a great deal of energy to cycle across the continent. To hold that potential energy back is to build up a dynamo that may someday burst.

Purpose and destination sometimes coincide. When they do not they are much harder to justify.

"Why do you want to summit Grand Teton?" a friend asks. "I just do," is a non-answer.

"Why do you want to ride your bike cross country?" "I don't know," leaves the interviewer unsatisfied.

"I want to ride my bike cross country to the base of the Tetons and summit the Grand." That is a plan for adventure. There is much more implied in that statement than: "Just because."

In doing some reading about the history of the interstate highway system in the US I came across Dwight D. Eisenhower's account of crossing the country in a military convoy via the Lincoln Highway in 1919. Reading this account and some of the history of the Lincoln Highway led me to some information on the Dixie Highway, which I had traveled upon as a kid when we lived in southwestern Ohio.

Oddly, about the time I was reading about Eisenhower's Lincoln Highway adventure I heard a song by a band called the Tiller out of Cincinnati, Ohio called "There is a Road (Route 50)" and I watched the taping of a radio show where the songwriter told how he would turn out of his driveway onto route 50 and head east to work, but often he would wonder how far he could go if he turned west. Highway 50 used to be a major highway before the Eisenhower interstate system came into being.

And then one day my wife swelled my heart nigh to bursting when she said, "Y'know, in a couple of years when the kids are old enough for us to ship them off to stay with their grandparents for the summer we should ride our bikes cross country."

In my mind I was mapping as fast as my little mental map would allow. South from the Denver area to Pueblo to pick up Highway 50, then follow that sucker east til her hit the Dixie Highway. Detour south to visit the kids and family in Kentucky, then shoot up through Ohio on the Dixie to its intersection with the Lincoln Highway and pedal west on it all the way back to Colorado. It might work. It could work. It was working already, burrowing into my brain and into the smallest fibers of my being.

I had a goal and the purpose was quickly forming itself around the framework of the route. I would write a book.

And then of course the whole scheme fulfills my driving purpose: to fill in my mental map as completely as possible. My brain is wired to compulsively explore. My feet move with their own volition, my brain plans and strategizes on a subconscious level all the time. At any given moment I am ready to amend my daily plans to incorporate a new leg of a route or tick a new road or place off of one of my thousands of tick lists.

Journeys allow me some release. Taking a trip, seeing a new place…my soul is restored and strengthened. Planning some trek across the planet allows me to escape the humdrum of cubicle life. It gives me hope and something to aspire to. My secret maps and lists give me great pleasure.

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