Thursday, September 2, 2010

On the road

From boingboing. Fitting, since I traded the former for the latter this month and indeed grew fatter and poorer. It's about time to embrace my inner urban cyclist and don the plad uniform of Oregon bicyclists and get my butt moving again, if only to and from the coffee shops.

August is gone, in a whirlwind of motion and motors. All the gradual house-sorting and purging accelerated into a mania as we packed up and moved out mid-month when I got a lease signed on it starting September 1. A planned trip to Yellowstone and a two-week road trip brought the move-out deadline closer than anticipated but in the end it was good to get all that done with and hit the road, with no bikes in tow, to explore the west.

You can put all romanticism aside in the mental imagery of cruising the West in a sedan full of camping gear and home-made venison jerky. The reality is that there is a stark contrast between the idyllic imagination of Western history with cowpokes, Native Americans, bison, grizzlies, etc and the beat-up pick-ups that spit black smoke in the back country, the sprawling strip malls, obese travelers and fast food-joints, land abuse and tourist trap towns. Then there's the fact that life in the Old West never was as glamorous as our collective memory would have it. It's always been a dirty, mean, hardscrabble place to scratch a living from dry land far from major routes of commodity transportation. Nowadays there's a lot of signs for Meth treatment, tired towns clinging to existence more out of habit than practicality, and agribusiness overpowering the smaller operations to bring us cheap food-like products to our pervasive super-stores.

But once you get beyond the human condition in the Old West, a road trip is undeniably an enthralling experience. Yellowstone hot springs, Teton mountains, Sawtooth mountains, all amazing sights. The best part of the whole trip came after leaving the traffic jam and display of human mental debilitation that was Yellowstone National Park, when camping was no more complicated than turning off on a random road headed towards public land and driving until an amazing campsite appeared, usually by a small stream or in a clearing with a view of the local geography. Just being a few minutes off of the main road meant that anything from moose to mule deer and quail would saunter by the site in the late morning and early evening, sometimes stopping long enough to eye the campfire suspiciously before strolling off.

Crossing back into Oregon still felt like a relief. Going over Santiam Pass in the rain was like coming home, leaving the dust and sunburns behind it's time to get urban again and get life, part II, underway. Now I just need a job.