A Capsule of Time During Cross-County Travel

gray asphalt road under blue sky

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 and an unpleasantly long drawn out dream featuring strange and fractured elements from a past I’d rather forget was more than enough rest for me. Now I am wide awake, my insides 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 and almost starve myself. But, I gave in to the roadside fare, and now in my failure to recognize my GI tract’s limitations, I am 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 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 is in such disrepair to spell the end for any hopeful revitalization. There are a few exceptions, where promise of new technological industry, new hotels likely keeping a few homeless souls otherwise off the street, and a few last ditch efforts for citizens to return to some sort of productive labor are paying some dividends. These situations are sadly few and far between; 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 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 limited contents of their wallets and bank accounts. For as much as it may seem like greed, it is those 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 bulldozing 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, ghastly reminders that it doesn’t take tourists much to travel thousands of miles to be utterly disappointed.

What is 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 others for the unavoidable rat race; or, at least, we are led to believe that it’s unavoidable.

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, 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 carry 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.

When we reach our intended destination, I hope that these travel struggles prove worth the effort. I am weary of disappointment. There isn’t much more to entice me to even get out of bed anymore; at least there I can grow complacent, but also restless and lethargic. There is 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 existence. Still, I feel my own senses are barely sufficient, yet my wit is somehow insightful enough to avoid the worst of impending doom that threatens all us foolish primates who 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 conclusion that many who wander are hopelessly lost. 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 misery. Putting someone in charge of heavy machinery they barely know how to operate sufficiently can never end well, especially when going in any random direction provides a similar result: more tourist attractions that over-promise and under-deliver, 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.”

I am 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 impromptu essay to a close, I’d like to finish with the very moment I am 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 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.
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