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One of Those Suckers

On a Tuesday in June without announcement my back went out, the sort of going out that ends with the news of a ruptured disk, sends your spouse to the guest bed for a week, and garners an enlightened understanding of drugs that fall in the respective categories of the good shit and the not so good shit.  Minor care emergency doctors dispense the kind that shoo you out the door with a naively hopeful belief you’ve side-stepped a visit to the real doctor. Avoid them. Head straight to the real doctor, the one that knows you and isn’t afraid to prescribe the knock you on your ass drugs, with a refill for good measure. At times like this, know your true friends.

For my siblings and me as kids, June meant a road trip with surrogate parents (and their two children) – a couple, of no relation who positively contributed to the arduous and long suffering job of converting cretins to socially responsible individuals.  My first travel related memories are due them; the love of road trips surely rooted in those early journeys in the back of a camper-hull-domed-pick-up-truck headed to the likes of unimaginably distant, exquisitely exotic specters of Knott’s Berry Farm and Silver Dollar City via America’s original Holiday Inn, the KOA campground circuit.

The world beyond the ranch to young country bumpkins was an impressive stretch of man-made sensory overload and vibrant, uber pigment-saturated kitsch. The love of road trips stuck. Check on the camping as well. The awe of man made currency denominated achievement however, reversed itself with whiplash gusto, becoming an uber repulsion by the time I took control of my own road trip machine. For the next 18 years, a laughing, saucer eyed boy ensured June’s reign as the year’s first opportunity for a non-family related, purely for pleasure, road trip.

All American Summer Break Road Trip, classic style

In my drug induced deliriously pain free fog, the nostalgic memory of June’s past began its march. Oh how I’d love one of those color swirled round suckers the size of a tractor tire, or a town pennant like the one I brought home with Intercourse, Pennsylvania on it. Surrogate Dad thought it a riot. Real Dad not so much. Despite the glorious passing of several years since June’s death-clutch on the road trip ended with my son’s exit for college, there’s apparently such a thing as mental muscle memory when stoked by good drugs.

Tears stream as I sorrowfully pounce on the fact there can’t be a road trip this June because woe is me I’m not able. And oh God, let’s throw more fuel on this roaring pity party, maybe not even in July or way more tears, August.

Please don’t attempt comfort by reminding me I strive to never travel in June, July or August in order to avoid the drones of people forced to the roads in these particular months. Just because I can’t stand the bumbling crowds, the sniveling kids, the oppressive heat;  just because I sneer at station wagons, flip off grandparents slowing down to not miss the theme park exit, glare at pick up trucks with unsecured passengers in the back, and honk at anyone I see pointing at stupid things…doesn’t mean I no longer believe in the wholesome goodness of the American summer break road trip.

It simply means I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid them.  Unless of course I’m flat on my back, down and out, not physically able, couldn’t drive into the sweating surge of humanity if my solo road trip arrogant self depended on it.  Then I just want some sympathy.  And one of those suckers.

Dogwood City, Arkansas. Wow.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Late, For Nowhere in Particular

Rolling down some back-road cloaked in the bliss of anonymity, one arm in contact with the wheel at the point that encourages my wrist to flop carefree at the end of it, head bobbling to a slow rhythmic beat that doesn’t match my rousing vocal accompaniment to Life is a Highway that’s cranked up so loud it’s oozing from the Yukon like displaced mortar, I come across this.

Signifying a certain arm flex to the grinding pressure of today’s world, a ballsy show of throwing caution to the wind, a take-this-job-and-shove-it head toss, THIS is temptation.  If you look at it with just the right tilt of your head, you’ll get the same glint in your eyes.  Selling everything I own would enable the purchase of a few acres in any number of states, on which I could move or build a small house, delivering my bobbling head into town once a week for provisions in this.

Run Away From Home!

I don’t succumb. Others in my life would highly disapprove and I highly value these others.  I photograph the Ford and pull back onto the road with a slow-mo melodrama moving frame by frame through my brain. It conveniently loops from the part that shows me walking up to the house, knocking on the door, engaging the owner in negotiations, taking the keys from them and driving away into the sunset in that truck.  My melodramas never include the pragmatic part about what I’d do with all my crap in the Yukon, the Yukon, the exchange of titles, discussing what oil the Ford uses, insurance, etc.

Not many of us ever throw this degree of caution to the wind. But who among us hasn’t entertained the thought of running away from home, even if it’s for a mere few harmless days?  It’s a bit risque and for the first time in my long history of SRTs I see it for that. You’re out there by the droves sending me emails  about the longing to get out there. I fully understand the longing. Few things in our lives are as liberating, empowering, and rejuvenating as a solo road trip.

So I ask all of you with latent and repressed open road wanderlust sitting at home fantasizing about the cloak of anonymity, arm draped over the wheel, or resting lightly on handle bars, aren’t you late, for nowhere in particular?

An Interview of SRT by Smart Computing Magazine

Blaine Flamig, a writer for Smart Computing Magazine is a SRT fan. I realize the magazine is an unlikely one to feature road trips but there’s a rule that says never turn down an opportunity to spread the word, assuming you have one. I do. So I did. Besides, geeks and nerds drive don’t they??

When I’d worn thin the pages with my interview and got enough coffee rings on the first copy to need the second copy, I finally turned over a few other pages and was pleasantly surprised at the usefulness of the content For instance, the article “What To Do When Your PC is Slow” resulted in my trashing the Sony PC and getting a Mac. “Cloud Backup – How it Works, Why It’s Safe”, saw Carbonite becoming my new best friend. Although I have to add, they are slow slow slow. The initial backup of the new Mac took several weeks – no kidding. I no longer needed the article “Sync Your PC & Mac”, because I no longer had a PC, but “Erase Your Hard Drive”, stepped up in importance for the PC that now sat sullen on the floor,  haughtily held all my secrets in the world. There were more articles that dead-eyed ‘inquiring minds want to know’, but I never got past the titles – figured one more unusual charge and the credit card company would be calling to see what the hell I was up to.

Either I’m a sucker and extremely susceptible to suggestion or the magazine is a mind reader for those of us who know just enough to be dangerous with everything IT, but have lingering questions that no one else seems to address.

SRT in Smart Computing Magazine

The interview:

Smart Computing – Tell us about the blog’s origins.

SRT: I’ve always wanted to call myself a writer and not laugh and stutter while saying it. So I figured a blog would give me reason enough to finally apply the description with a straight face.   Having spent 40 years dreaming about travel and exploration, I married a man with some means and realized the road trip travel style I thought had been a necessity due to limited funds, was instead my preference.  When that nugget of truth surfaced, the blog gained a platform and I, a voice.  I must confess however that I did upgrade my travel vehicle from a front wheel drive 1993 Mazda MX-6 (just enough clearance to not be a turtle killer), to a new Onstar equipped, heated seats, 4-wheel drive Yukon.  It doesn’t shudder when I take it places we really shouldn’t be.

Smart Computing – What draws you to traveling and to solo road trips in particular?

SRT: Dreams. And an early understanding the people who lived just down our dirt road lived much different lives (and I wanted to know how and why).  Well that’s what drew me to travel in general. The solo road trips were born during the hard charging years of 60+ hour weeks in the financial services industry – retail with an ego.  What initially began as a way to cope and survive evolved into a passion.  Heaped on top of the high stress work, I’m a people pleaser. I think some of us are predisposed to be people pleasers and that’s not something you can escape by leaving a career. And I don’t think that label is reserved to women. The only way to escape the cursed fussing over others is to separate ourselves completely.

Short of becoming a hermit, a periodic unplugging from that predisposition is an intoxicating, rejuvenating breath of air that no amount of money can buy. Blog readers have asked me about taking a dog for a companion because they can’t fathom being totally alone.  Of course I couldn’t care less if you want to take a dog. But I will tell you the experience will be completely different. The liberation of making decisions on the fly, as fast as the brain can process, unfettered by the diplomatic process of asking what someone/something wants to eat, see, do, and when, is something everyone should experience once.

About the whole you-go-on-solo-road-trips-so-you-can-do-things-you-wouldn’t-do-at-home, you know the ‘what happens on the road stays on the road’?  Afraid not. Diane Arbus, the famed photographer took that tact, and she wasn’t a very happy person. I’m a fan of her work, but if I’d ever had the opportunity to speak with her I would have strongly advised against the sex with strangers on Greyhound buses. I go on SRTs as a release from being gracious and interested (always sincerely – it’s part of the curse of being a people pleaser).  I don’t want to create any new ties, have any appointments, no one to see on the return trip, lunches with friends, time targets to meet, some strange someone knowing where I’m headed, who I am, etc.. I go to shed myself if only for a tiny, but perfect slice of time.

Smart Computing – Has the blog turned out to be what you originally intended?

SRT: Of course not. I had no original intention anyway, really.  It’s become more impassioned towards road trip travel than I’d originally foreseen. My own beliefs toward travel, road trips, solitude, discovery, have been not surprisingly, honed by the exercise of writing down my thoughts.  The blog has gained focus over time. I’ve become the purveyor of the road trip revolution, at least in my own mind. I believe it’s possible to travel on a walk to the local grocery store. I don’t subscribe to the notion there’s a difference between travelers and tourists and personally feel that entire argument arose from the arrogance of those travelers looking down their noses at those on tour coaches, exiting en masse with cameras in hand. Those who gag on the word tourist couldn’t travel down their own street and do it well.

Smart Computing – What has the reaction been in general to the blog?

SRT: Excellent. Surprising. Unexpected. I’ve been published because of the blog. Had a book deal and movie rights purchased.  NOT. Writing opportunities have however come my way. Being a writer? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Hard work, low pay, nothing glamorous.  It’s interesting to hear the comments about how afraid people are to travel alone, to be alone, to drive off into the sunset alone.  Again, I’m not talking solely about women. The “I really want to do this but I’m afraid to do this alone” is something I hear more from men than women.  It surprised me too.

We’ve become so plugged-in the connections have morphed into chains. Now we don’t know what to do with the gorgeous sunset when there’s no one to text, no one to email, no one to speak to next to us. The power to self entertain may be the greatest death of our technological advancements.

**********************************************************

Here’s the full blurb about SRT that appeared in the magazine’s monthly feature: “That’s News to You.”

 

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

The Great Plains: and a tall tale of waving wheat

It’s 111. Degrees. That’s absolute temperature, not the oddly popular blood-and-thunder heat index.  Full on verbal attempts to describe it have fizzled to whimpers and grunts. Beyond hot was getting thrown around a lot. Hotter than hell went out when it hit 100. And that was 32 days in a row ago. What I know is the nape of my neck is dripping dank, and there’s only one wearing per bra. The front door is fatter than the frame so we come and go through the garage oven.  The house is a cave 24/7 – shutters tight, lights off. Seventy five year old trees are dropping their leaves; smaller plants bend and twist towards hope. Our world, normally jungle lush with heat and humidity is garish and warped. It’s one giant stroke victim – water, not blood in short supply.

Beyond Hot

Hotter than...Death Valley

And when I lay down at night with no cover and toss and turn for hours thinking I can’t go to sleep without at least a sheet, dreams come of the only place I long to be.

Sitting cross-legged in dirt that moves and shifts with the insects on their highway, the winter grass mounds up then splits the surface like a time-lapse documentary. A new shoot carries me upward just in time to see groups metamorphosis into pale green polka dots floating over the field. One sticks underfoot and we surf the tops of the prairie grass watching critters burrow and build; animals shapeshift from prairie dogs to pheasants, coyotes to bison. A wall of wind sweeps by and we glide to a stop to watch the returning shock wave. It blasts and tramples a bull elephant approach; my ride shuddering and ducking for cover dissolves into the aureate October light. I’m left standing at the edge of the tall grass prairie.

Looking about for sound I’m aware for the first time I see and feel, but hear nothing. Joyous with the slow mo silent movie, one step puts a boot in touch with delicate strands of gold bullion at my feet. Turning toward the setting sun, my eyes snap shut against the sandy sparks of tumbleweed. It surprises with a cold hard sting, the tumbleweed having transformed mid-air to snow.  Rays of filtered sun stream through dark clouds. The snow is heavy but the mightier wind seizes it from the clouds at such a slant, it never touches the gilded grass. In this silent halcyon, held captive between a blackened sky streaked with snow and gold at my feet, the next step forward finds a tan, dead pasture.

Shifting awake, clamoring for a cool spot on my pillow, I beg my brain to go back. But morning comes and for hours the joy lingers in the way of rare flying dreams. As the memory fades, the fight is lost to restore the high of cruising the grasses on that pale green polka dot. It dissipates almost completely by day end.  My comfort comes from knowing the October road trip is now within range of the Outlook window.

As always, I’ll pull from the driveway toying with the thought of heading a different direction. But as always, the truck will turn north, a starving beast, until the grasses come into view. And it won’t turn around until the Great Plains run out.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Best Road Trip Blog?

i’m terrible at marketing. most comfortable being behind the scenes, i desire to write, not self promote. i understand trade-offs are made. for the most part i’m fully aware what those are. self promotion takes a lot of effort and for that dedication and commitment anyone good at it gets my respect. nevertheless i appreciate, even delight in the occasional pat on the back.

it’s hard to top being nominated by USA Today as one of the top ten iconic American images with the photograph Walkway to the West.

Badlands, South Dakota

Walkway to the West. Badlands, South Dakota.

“Finalist: Walkway to the West in the American High Plains by Tammie Dooley of Tulsa, Okla. The judges, who would have picked this as the second-place winner, were struck by its “great mood – stormy, majestic, dramatic – emphasized by the drama of black and white. It draws you in and pushes you away at the same time, challenging you intellectually.” They found it emblematic of the high plains and prairies so unique to the American landscape. “The whole middle of the country is represented here,” they said.””

but that was sometime ago (November 2009). the ego needs a boost occasionally. even if it’s a trumped up one.

does this mean i can claim to be the #1 road trip blog? seems an ever so tiny stretch. think i’ll just stop at hey, good news!

a believer in sharing the love and that the BEST changes with every perspective and day to day like the tilt of the sun’s illumination on a door knob, here’s the link that lists all the others.  road trip fiends rejoice – you have many choices.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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