Interstateland

(I wrote this on Sunday, November 18, 2007. For security reasons, I didn’t let it out into the wild until now.)

Tomorrow, I’m taking my family on a trip to Erie. As we were packing the van, it occurred to me that I’m looking forward to the trip. Maybe not to children complaining in the van, but we’ll see how that goes. But the actual trip will be nice. I like long drives. I find them to be quite relaxing, oddly enough. And this means that we will be driving along the interstate.

I know people who avoid the interstates, finding them to lack character. I don’t think that’s entirely true. Yes, driving along the interstate generally means that you don’t have to have the inconvenience of interacting with local culture, but the interstates have their own culture. Think of it as Interstateland.

I actually like Interstateland. It consists mostly of long stretches of empty road, punctuated by gas stations and rest areas. You can recognize the denizens of Interstateland when you stop at one of these oases. There’s a certain rumpled look, a thousand-yard stare, that marks out the citizens of Interstateland. It’s the look of too many miles, not enough sleep, caffeine, and that special kind of fatigue that comes from sitting in the same place for hours at a time. You pass in the hall outside of the bathrooms at the rest area, and you nod in recognition: fellow travelers in Interstateland.

It’s a happy place, Interstateland is. There is no racial discrimination, no sexism, no wars. The motto is simple: “Gotta get there tonight.” The rulers are obvious: the giant semis that track through this utopia. There is no famine, for above us all shines the Golden Arches. And the green signs go before us, leading us into the night.

And then, you find your final exit ramp, and you emerge into the real world once again.

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3 responses to “Interstateland

  • James

    Ah, but even just for a visit I don’t like it. I’ll go there when necessity overrides beauty, but I much prefer the inconvenient beauty of the small towns that still have left some reflections of their history and the beauty of the homes, people’s yards (porches!), city halls that are older than my grandparents, used book stores, little local restaurants with character (and I could go on).

    The beauty of travelling west (having family in Colorado and all) is that avoiding interstateland in southern Iowa or northern Missouri doesn’t really cost that much time.

    But even though it took longer I fondly remember our last trip across northern PA on route 6, enjoying the weaving through the small towns, seeing the rivers and the hills and the farms. I completely understand your desires to “gotta get there tonight” and in circumstances where that is true we joyfully travel in that land o plenty o cliches, but I am thankful that we are blessed sometimes with the time to enjoy the journey in addition to the destination.

  • James

    oh–and welcome home!

  • A Dark And Quiet Room » A glorious reality

    […] have. So I believe that we will also simply…be…places. No more travel times. No more Interstateland. Just the joy of being where you ought to […]

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