Wednesday, June 12, 2013

without gps

I have this old, worn and tattered atlas. You know, an atlas, that piece of paper with roads of different colors showing freeways, state roads, and dirt road and green indicating national forests and little dots representing cities. My atlas is becoming an antique, in that no one, apparently, uses atlases anymore--and I did purchase it in approximately 2007. But I love my atlas. It's been across the country and back (and then again). It's traveled on adventures in Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware. In California. In Colorado. And all throughout Utah and Idaho. There is something I love about maps. There is excitement and hope in a map. You can plot your route as best as you know, but there is always the unknown as you start and as you travel. And isn't that how life is... hopefully we have some general sort of idea of where we're going. But the greatest beauty of life is taking that general sort of idea and then experiencing the unexpected turns and vistas along the way. 

Before I started my latest travels to California, I was teased a bit about my atlas and my lack of GPS. Now, don't get me wrong, GPS is great--it's nice to not be continuously lost. But sometimes, it is pretty great getting a little bit lost. Or at least traveling off the well familiar road. There is something freeing to be able to take a road that looks interesting. Or being able to stop and investigate when you see something crazy. No auto-mechanical nagging voice telling you to turn right or turn left or make a u turn as soon as possible. Because you might just discover this crazy, random collection of structures that could easily be from some hippie commune experiment. (Whatever it is, I am still thinking of it nearly a week later.) 


Freeways were built for a reason. Travel is quick these days and you can make good time on a freeway. In fact, on the freeway, you are almost compelled to make "good time." Even if you see something that looks interesting, if you are on a freeway, you are more likely to keep on going and continue on the road well traveled. The road less traveled might add more time to your travel, but sometimes it makes that journey a whole lot more interesting. Why follow the path everyone else takes? Why not strike out without GPS every now and then?

An atlas gives you the big picture. A picture of what is around you. But until you are there, in the midst of it, all an atlas provides is a hope or a vision. Sure that little grey road looked harmless enough--who knew it would be a narrow two lane winding mountain road full of speeding California drivers? But that's the fun! Discovery. The Mojave National Preserve was once a large green blurb on my map. Now it is a place of cactus balls stuck in my feet, lizards falling out of trees, amazing blue sky, 117 degree heat, and beautiful open space.

This journey to California became a journey of discovery and rediscovery. I rediscovered my love of George Strait. I rediscovered my love of new adventures and open space and deserts. And I made a new discovery: I quite like old forgotten motels (and other built structures) along old forgotten roads. So even in the hum drum of everyday, I hope to still rediscover the things I've always loved (like writing!) and hopefully discover old and forgotten things with new eyes.

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