Going cross-country this Summer

I cannot stop thinking about driving.

I’m taking a vacation this summer. There are places I have not been, and places in between that yearn for the attention of my curiosity. The small towns, the scenic views, the empty and quiet spaces between civilizations.

I was going to go to Bruge, Belgium, this year. I like old cities with history and culture. And beer, of course. But as I started to think more about it, I realized that I do not know this country, the one I grew up in, very well.

There are these maps people have created, showing how The United States of America is more like a quilt of different cultures and nations, and that one can often tell stark differences between someone who was raised in the Midwest, the South, or the Eastern Seaboard (for example). Also, the differences between the cities and the country reveal another way to divide us, we Americans, into different people.

And so I thought that maybe I’d fly out to Chicago, San Francisco, or maybe even Toronto to see another part of the world, and then slowly it became clear to me that this would be missing too much, and possibly missing the point.

I love cities. I love just dropping into a city with no plan of where to go, what to see, or even where to sleep. I did that in Edinburgh and London, and had a lovely time in each. And so I planned, several months back, to go to Bruge and do the same. sure, I’d probably take a train over to Brussels or Amsterdam while there, but I just wanted to wander around and take in the city. This is my favorite way to vacation. No plan, just pure spontaneity.

But what about all the places in between? What about the mountains, the slowly changing landscape, and the anticipation as you watch the world transform from field to town to field to suburb and to city, over and over again. What does the rest of the country look like? Seeing the USA this way would be like visiting Philadelphia and just taking buses from tourist location to another tourist location; you don’t actually get to know the city the way you would if you walked around.

So I’ll drive around, given that walking to San Francisco is a bit of a hike. And driving around the country is analogously similar to walking around a city, I feel. And I’ve done similar trips, before.

I’ve seen a lot of the South. Took a two-week road trip that ended up in Austin, Texas years ago. I saw Atlanta (in which I later lived), New Orleans, Memphis, Johnson City and dozens of places in between. I got to see a part if the country that was in many ways foreign to me, along the way.

But I’ve never been to Chicago, or St. Louis, or San Francisco. I have always wanted to visit Vancouver. And so this summer, I may see all these places, and all the spaces in between.

Shortly after Independence Day, I will depart Philadelphia and start driving West. I don’t know the exact route, where I’ll stop, or how long I’ll stay in any of the places. I don’t know who I’ll meet (although I have some idea, especially in a couple of places). I am not even completely sure I’ll make it all the way to San Francisco. The point is that I’m just going, and I will keep going until I don’t want to go anymore.

I’ll probably come back. I mean, I have an apartment, friends, and family here. But there’s no guarantee that I will. The point of the trip is to just go. I will be freshly 40 years old, and there is too much of the country I’ve not seen, and this is the best opportunity that I will have to see it all while I’m young(ish), healthy, and I have the money to afford the trip. And, of course, I’ll post updates and pictures, both here and Facebook.

Maybe I’ll come to your town. If it’s between here and San Francisco, it’s quite possible.