Driveabout: Day 21, The End
It seems appropriate that the restaurant where Jae and I had breakfast this morning is called the Trails End. As we enjoyed the buffet (presented by Kellogg's, the materials proudly stated), we reflected on the past 3,198 miles right near a themed old-school map of the territories which, maybe not so weirdly, reflected the terrain that we had just covered during our driveabout. Sometimes, you just can't make this stuff up.
We had really done a grand circle tour of the southeastern United States, concentrating on its waterfront developments. Very often the first point of landing for many of the folks who came to this land so many years ago. We crossed the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains as well as the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers before boomeranging back through the bayous and swamps of the deep, deep south.
We'd tapped into the regions at their very core, through the embracing of Life and Death. In Life, we breathe, we see and explore. We feel, we experience, we dream as we sleep and we eat and drink when we are awake. It is our fuel, our sustenance, and thankfully, most of the time, it tastes ridiculously good. Our "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" tour embraced the divine gift of food prepared with extraordinary skill and through our visits to everything from barbecue joints to sushi bars, we encountered all manner of people also living that Life, on their own journeys, celebrating the things that keep us on this side of the dirt.
Through our tours into graveyards, we turned towards the other side of the spectrum, for after Life is complete, you die. Death is as inevitable as our next breath while we live. Ironic in how that next breath is never truly a guarantee. Only an assumption. The elaborate rituals through which we remember and honor our dead are made tangible by the headstones, crypts and tombs that dot our world. When passing one, it's hard not to, even for a moment, consider one's own morality.
The etchings on the markers tell stories that would fill libraries. A few words, an image, a tribute displayed upon the grown-over stones like nativity scenes. Though the remains of many lives decorated the Dead, we tried to absorb the impact of these individuals, to consider their achievements, their successes and failures, thereby paying tribute of our own, injecting their Life with even more purpose, still effective, even long after Death.
That is our legacy in this lifecycle. We Live even as we are Dead. Some would say that, for many, the reverse is just as true.
And in having no agenda or plan, simply pointing Lucky's hood off in some general direction, allowing whatever popped up on the radar lead us into deeper and more interesting places and interactions, we whole-heartedly embraced chaos and disorder in the face of all that is regimented, structured, scheduled and ordained in our daily routines. "You once were wild here" and to once again strike the attitude of the happy-go-lucky wanderer is to rediscover the heart of the dreamer and doer.
Mixed in with all of this was just sharing close personal space with the woman that I've been with for 14 years. After being gone for five months, it was almost like rediscovery in the ways that were new, surprising and delightful, we talked and laughed and had deep conversations that all felt like the first time again. Nothing brings the truth like living in a 30' can on wheels for three weeks to shine the light on all there is to see and we leaped from stone to stone in the babbling brook across the rivers and lakes and streams of our ongoing travel experiences. Each new stop was something amazing; each day brought with it a lifetime of exploration. Jae had a vision of how this would begin and what it would involve, but neither of us had any idea that it would work at all. We just went for it and ended up with 21 of the most Magical Days On Earth.
There's a project involved with this, we're actually going to be working on some sort of book of reflections, I'm not sure - again, she's got the idea for it and when it comes to ideas, Jae is a grand master at work. We've been incredibly touched by the e-mails, posts and comments that people have made to us about this trip. The depth of our collective experience is evident, and the level of interaction that we had with folks both in-person and on-line, was an extraordinary example of human society at its very best and most satisfying.
While we were on the road, many things took place in the world that reflected the darker and more unsavory sides of human nature. It's easy to diminish the effect that these events have on us all when we can isolate ourselves in our homes with a remote control that gives us only what we want to hear and see. When you're moving through various states into different regions with a variety of people all mixing with one another, the real story begins to take shape. It's a real "forest for the trees" sort of moment. I'm blessed that I get to spend quite a lot of time on the road and that dynamic movement tunes you into the "word on the street." Jae had such a blast with the diversity of people we met, the food we ate, the places we suddenly pulled off the road to gawk at. Neither of us have ever done this sort of thing before. I'd highly recommend it to anyone.
After breakfast, we struck camp one last time, hauled home, unloaded everything (did we really pack this much shit? oh, it's the stuff we brought back), dropped off Lucky and then had lunch at La Madeleine Country French Cafe (which is absolutely fabulous.) When I got back, I unlocked Rita and stepped inside.
There was no sense of "wow, this is small" or "oh, Rita doesn't have that or that." Instead, I just felt like I truly had arrived at home. I walked her from front to back and thought, what an awesome little rig. I really wish I could keep her. Lucky might've been spacious, newer, with the power to decimate any hill, but Rita could've done all that we did on this driveabout and then some. There are places that Rita has been where Lucky would never have been able to dare. Rita, being older, has stories in circulation that Lucky might have someday, but probably not. There's a story waiting down every road. How nice that we are afforded the liberty of such travel in our country. I seriously couldn't imagine living in a country where that wasn't the norm and I certainly hope that it doesn't happen to us. If that's the plan, then I'll be hitting the road harder and faster before it becomes a dim, distant memory, like when flying was fun.
One of the things that kept cropping up in my head on this driveabout was "when I go, I wanna go good." I think we all relinquish a certain amount of control over our lives and we can give it as much effort as needed. Sometimes, we don't have a choice. Driving down the road gives you a lot more options then flying or sailing or taking the train. I think we'd all like to die a peaceful death, no pain, no horror, just go to sleep with a glowing smile on one's face. I'd wish that for anybody. I do wish it for everybody. But until that day when my own death comes, I'll continue to celebrate Life and not worry about it so much.
It's experiencing the wonders of life that make life worth living. May you live your life to the fullest. Thanks for taking this trip with us. Much love and light to you and yours!
All the best,
Bing and Jae