Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | May 16, 2009

The Open Road

roadtrip-main_FullI drove out of Napoleon, Ohio, Thursday morning, heading southwest toward Ft. Wayne Indiana;  I had stayed at a motel just off the entrance-ramp to US Highway 24.  As I pulled out of the motel parking lot and swung around the corner ready to jump on the highway and jump into my day, I glanced up at the overpass and saw that the normally bustling traffic was at an utter standstill.  Just beyond the end of the entrance-ramp, a patrolman had his lights on and was holding traffic at bay.  I made the split-second decision to abort my plunge into the fray, as it is a policy of mine that I do not participate in traffic jams.  So I drove under the overpass and toward downtown Napoleon, thinking that I would take a secondary road for a few miles and then hop on the highway.

As it turned out, I chose a road through town that paralleled US 24 quite closely, and I could shortly see that the traffic had cleared over on the highway.  So I followed the signs for the next entrance-ramp.  As I crossed the bridge over the highway, and prepared to turn onto the ramp, I became acutely aware that things were not as they should be.  Looking down on the road below, I could see absolutely no traffic; none—in either direction.  I thought perhaps the highway was closed, and I looked for a patrol car or barricade blocking the ramp.  But there was nothing at all impeding my clear path to the highway.  So I did a 270 degree semi-circle down the ramp and I was on my way.  I thought I had perhaps entered the world of the Langoliers (see Stephen King’s book—and movie—of the same name if you don’t know what this means).  Here I was, headed west on this normally busy road, and there was not a car in front of me or behind me for as far as I could see.

I often think of taking long road trips on vast stretches of nearly abandoned highway—a dream in this age of congested roadways, hurried commuters, and just-in-time-delivery semi-trucks.  Thursday morning, however, I experienced the open road in its purest form.  I have only seen it this way one other time in my adult life. Years ago, 1994 to be exact, my young family and I were traveling east from Hannibal, Missouri, on a Sunday morning along Interstate 72.  I don’t know if it was because it was a Sunday morning, or if this was just a sparsely traveled road, or perhaps it was a strange anomaly, but for miles we saw no cars along this ribbon of road that stretched out to the horizon before us and behind us.  This was very odd for a major interstate highway in middle America, and would be strange at any time of the day and on any day of the week.  What a joy it was, however, to drive this slice of road.  It is something I will never forget because it is a scene so rare nowadays.

The open road may not often be found in its pristine form, but even in a somewhat corrupted form it can still be exciting and liberating.  The open road is probably the last bastion of real escapism and true freedom in a society that often seems to confine and even oppress.  It is a place where we can be free to go where we want, stop when we want, eat when we are ready, rest when we need to, sing along with the radio at the top of our lungs, and even have a one-sided conversation with the trucker in front of us.  The open road is one of few places left in America where we can live out our dreams if we choose, in the way that we choose.

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Responses

  1. Are we there yet?!

    🙂


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