To say the Comanche National Grasslands is off the grid would be an understatement. With the exception of Highway 50 in Nevada, I've never driven through such isolation and vast openness anywhere in the world. And it's easy to get lost. There are no signs, no road names even, just dirt paths crisscrossing a wide, perfectly flat expanses of grass.
There are many reasons, but here's the one I currently consider most important: National Parks never close. Take Palo Dura State park outside of Amarillo, Texas. Were it a National Park, I would be there right now. But it's not, it's a state park and so I'm sitting in a hotel room in Amarillo because everyone knows nature closes at 10PM.
History rarely offers neat, tidy stories. But the messier, more confusing and more controversial the story becomes, the more it works its way into our imaginations. The legend of Billy the Kid is like that of Amelia Earhart or D.B. Cooper — the less we know for sure, the more compelling the story becomes.
New Orleans is it's own world. So much so that's it's impossible to put your finger on what it is that makes it different. New Orleans is a place where the line between consensus reality and private dream seems to have never fully developed. And a wonderful world it is.
It's travel time again. This time I'm driving my 1969 Ford truck out west, to Texas, Colorado, Utah and more — a road trip around the western United States. The first stop is Gulf Port, Mississippi. It's hard to believe, sitting here on the deserted beaches of Gulf Shore, watching the sun break through the ominous clouds, but soon this beauty will be gone. The BP oil spill is somewhere out there, blown slowly ashore by the storm hovering over us, waiting to drown the beaches in crude.
Los Angeles is all about the car. Shiny, air-conditioned comfort, gliding you soundlessly from one place to another without the need to interact with anything in between. But I have discovered that if you abandon the car for the subway and your own two feet, the illusion that L.A. is just a model train set world — tiny, plastic and devoid of any ground beneath the ground — fades and you find yourself, for a time, in a real city.
Sometimes you ignore the places close to home because, well, there's always next weekend. Which is why I never made it Death Valley in the twenty-five years I lived in California. It took being all the way across the country to get me out to Death Valley. Which might explain why I actually got up before dawn just to watch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point.
A canoe trip through the Okefenokee Swamp down in the southern most corner of Georgia. Paddling the strange reddish and incredibly still waters. Begging alligators, aching muscles and the kindly folks of Stintson's Barbecue all getting their due.
How do you make the leap from cubicle daydreams to life on to the road? You want to travel the world, but, like me, you have a million excuses stopping you. How do overcome the inertia that keeps you trapped in a life that isn't what you want it to be? Here's a few practical tips and how tos designed to motivate you to get off your butt and travel the world.
We mythologize trains because they harken back to an age of community travel, a real, tangible community of travelers, not just backpackers, but people from all walks of life, people traveling near and far together in a shared space that isn't locked down like an airplane and isn't isolated like a car; it's a shared travel experience and there are precious few of those left in our world.