I recently took an eight hour road trip from St Louis to Minnesota to visit my friend for his birthday. I missed the first scheduled visit, scheduled appropriately on his birthday, for a variety of reasons; work, school and lack of cash being the three. Now, three weeks later, I have lost the desire to not miss school and work, and cash is not an issue for the time being.
The drive is long and meditative, in a strange way. It’s like I am traveling in an orb of silence, free to be trapped by my owns thoughts, strung along by them until I am no longer the one thinking them but I am experiencing them for 8 hours. These moments are broken up by the occasional surge of adrenaline, where my car drifts into the next lane, seconds from ramming into an oncoming car while I am busy looking through my CD book.
At about the three hour mark of the drive is when the giddiness I get at the prospect of solitude, especially when it is hard to come by, turns to anger and annoyance, at the fact that I am alone and in a car. It is the moment where, hypothetically, I realize that it would no longer be convenient to turn the car around and go home, abandoning the trip and the unknown of driving through rural Iowa, and returning home to the known, the routine and the comfort of noise and conversations. Not that I would ever turn back, but the underlying idea that it could be done at any moment gives me a sense of control over myself and the trip.
At about six hours the anger turns back into joy upon realizing that I am almost out of Iowa, and will not have to ever go back in (until the drive home). The bitterness I felt while gawking at local Iowans while stopping for gas at a run down Hyvee had turned into compassion; maybe the Iowans were not born like that? Maybe they’re not all bad? Maybe they’re only like that because of how they’re raised, they’re not inherently different than us after all? Though deep known we know that, and this is backed up by the data, they are.
Empathetic thoughts like this quickly disappear once I cross the border of Iowa leading into Minnesota. Quickly the surge of happiness that came from escaping the turgid slums of Iowa, The State That Will Not Be Named, evolve into the realization that there are still about three hours left in this drive and there are absolutely no CDs that sound good right now.
There have been times when I have left for Minnesota from St. Louis around midnight, causing this point in the drive to arrive at around 5:30 AM, which further intensifies the previously mentioned feeling by gripping onto my eyelids, doing its best to keep them shut. Luckily, this trip was planned more conveniently than the last. I left at around noon, a full twelve hour swing in my favor and reached this part of the trip while still fully awake.
The next hour and a half is characterized by repetition; driving through the same cornfield (not just in Iowa apparently) with absolutely no rest stops, no restaurants and no civilization.The visuals repeat so egregiously that it seems more like driving through an old Hanna Barbara cartoon, where the one still of animation was used throughout the episode.
Upon hitting Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic and a really big Talbot’s, I am hit with the warm realization; I am almost home (I’m from Minnesota, that is information that should have been presented earlier). The drive flies by after that.
Arriving back into St. Paul, Minnesota where dreams are made and sports talk radio stations are plentiful, is a completely religious experience, especially while arriving in the winter, when the weather is so frigid that you question why people ever bothered settling north of Kansas. After all, Sebald never said “Progress moves northwards”.
Despite all this, the trip went very well, much food was eaten, many bridges were burnt and after the first few rollicking hours back, I realized I forgot my chargers at home.