A Capsule of Time During Cross-County Travel

toyota tacoma on dirt road

I became very reluctant to plan any cross-country trip after the several disasters our interstate trips had become. But, these travel nightmares were never due to lack of planning or insufficient foresight; in fact, the failures of our trips were in spite of those things. So, leaving at the drop of a hat and spending the better part of twenty-two straight hours on the road was both foolish and necessary.

After sleeping intermittently in the car, with a short two hour cameo as driver, I find that roughly five hours sleep was more than enough rest for me. That’s because it featured an unpleasantly long-drawn out dream, featuring strange and fractured elements from a past I’d rather forget. Now wide awake, my insides were in great turmoil, thanks to my bowels being restless in their production of foul waste.

This intestinal failure of fortitude was clearly forthcoming, thanks to the greasy concoctions many roadside establishments pass off as food. The taste may not be that bad, but your sense of smell should tell you otherwise. This is why on long trips I mostly stick to snacks I recognize from home, even at the risk of almost starving myself. But, I gave in to the roadside fare, at my peril. Now, in my failure to recognize my GI tract’s limitations, I was left to reflect on what typically causes our journeys to ultimately fail.

To some degree, vacations are supposed to be fun, recreational, and enjoyable in some way that you can’t get at home. For me, the long interstate jaunt was about the only real fun for me so far, as the state of America in mid-2021 was in such disrepair that it spelled the end for any hopeful revitalization. 

There are a few exceptions, of course, where promise of new technological industry is paying some dividends. Newly built hotels are likely keeping a few homeless souls otherwise off the street, and new commercial developments are offering a few last ditch efforts for citizens to return to some sort of productive labor. These situations are sadly few and far between, though; many miles span between any signs of humanity attempting to right itself.

Much of this lacking comes from the fact that many people don’t seem to know any better. For so many, these darkening times are nothing more than God’s will; these are signs He has given to His witless flock that the end is near. Now, all we must do is eagerly await His arrival and praise Him for the fact we breathe at all. But, the reality is starkly grim and much worse than those promises that blind faith offers. 

Those that many entrust with their spiritual health are simply draining them of both their attention spans and the limited contents of their wallets and bank accounts. For as much as it may seem like greed, it’s those who are better-off making the best of it in a rapidly deteriorating world, in which worldly concerns have become seemingly insurmountable to the layman. 

I watch as historic landmarks, whatever heritage America may have had left to be proud of, return to the dirt from which it came. Much of it is either in the process of being bulldozed or, on its own, crumbling with great haste. Once proud communities retreat into the dust, the remnants appearing as simply lines on a map. Past glory is only hinted at by countless billboard signs, hyping up attractions that don’t even exist anymore. They serve as ghastly reminders that it doesn’t take tourists much to travel thousands of miles to be utterly disappointed. 

So, what’s worth preserving from human enterprise, anyway? To me, the collapse of communities and the hopelessness pervading both country and city places most upset me. Perhaps America was always much too selfish for its own good. What we thought of as successes were simply better thought-out and crafted attempts at cajoling us into believing we are somehow more than the sum of our animal instincts and the curious evolution of our ability to reason. 

Now, many humans have devolved to the point that no matter how many shiny nice things they acquire, they are somehow worse off than they started. Whatever innocence we start with at birth is quickly dissolved in order to prepare us for the unavoidable rat race; or, at least, we are led to believe that it’s unavoidable. Perhaps, it was for the best that I walked away from the rat race for good, even if that now means I’d be shunned by those who I thought cared for me.

For all of the talk of storing up treasures in heaven, those most vociferous in their faith have used their messages of false hope and the coming of Christ as their way of storing up treasures on Earth, as banal and temporary as they may actually be, just in case they’re actually full of shit. Those that many believe are called to holy service simply are carrying on traditions that have caused entire nations to crumble under the weight of their own hypocrisy; yet those who perpetuate the lies and misdeeds persist mostly unimpeded, because for whatever reason, ignorant fools continue to allow them to be.

I’m weary of disappointment, both in those who attempted to raise me “properly” and in my own efforts to change things for those around me for the better. There’s rarely much to entice me to even get out of bed anymore. At least there I can grow complacent, but also restless and lethargic. There’s just enough of a creative spark left within me to chronicle what days we may have left, as a species en toto, not just my own limited, isolated existence. 

Still, I feel my own senses are barely sufficient to inform me anymore, yet my wit is somehow insightful enough to avoid the worst of impending doom that threatens all us foolish primates who’ve blindly believed “in God we trust.” It’s much more productive to believe in ourselves to stay one step ahead of those directly behind us, at whatever the cost.

Tolkien once famously said “not all who wander are lost.” Yet, that begs the inevitable question, aren’t many of those who wander are hopelessly lost to begin with? It stuns me just how many auto dealerships have sprung up across the nation, as if the Almighty car and truck are our only hope of escape from our misery. 

Putting someone in charge of heavy machinery they barely know how to operate sufficiently can never end well. That’s especially true when going in any random direction provides a similar result: more tourist attractions that over-promise and under-deliver. It’s greedy real estate moguls banking on what we Americans like to call tradition, but really is just a lame excuse for “look what our grandpa’s and papa’s built and this is what’s left of it, so enjoy.”

By some incredible astronomically improbable odds, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to make these grand observations, thanks to the collision of two similar life paths which offered a remarkable set of incentives for both parties involved. As blandly sociological as that may sound, what are our lives but a search for love and acceptance? We are highly social creatures, and yet, perhaps the most selfish of all of Nature’s children. Of course we aren’t all so different, and yet perspectives, genetics, and circumstances seem to make us genuinely so.

As I bring this essay to a close, I’d like to finish with the very moment I’m writing this piece within, providing a time capsule with just the input of a single sense. There are several sounds that I revel in at this hotel stop; for all their commonality are also fascinating in what they indicate. 

One is the hum of a tired old air conditioning system, a reminder that we have become creatures of comfort, perhaps spoiled far beyond what our evolutionary limits perhaps should have allowed. The other is the sound of tires spinning rapidly against concrete and pavement, a stark reminder that humans only were once nomadic by nature by sheer necessity, and not at all for pleasure, and that the human need to explore new things shows just how truly unfulfilled most of us really are. 

~ Amelia Desertsong, July 2022

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

One thought on “A Capsule of Time During Cross-County Travel

  1. I vividly recall the pair of calamitous journeys we undertook, traversing the country from Vermont to San Antonio, Texas. It strikes me deeply how the quintessential Americana seems to have been swallowed whole by corporate giants. As we passed through towns, a monotonous pattern emerged: identical McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, accompanied by either a Mobil or Sunoco station, stamped across the landscape. The rich diversity of family-owned establishments, which once stood as facets of American greatness, appears to have been eclipsed by the shadow of corporate behemoths. These chains, with their mismanagement and blatant disregard for employees, prioritize profits over the very essence of America’s soul.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top