Ten Reasons (So Far) Why Road Trips Are Less Than Wonderful These 21st Century Days
1. The roads are too damn crowded. Even in the wide open spaces of Eastern Oregon’s Malheur County, an irresponsible, big honkin’ Chevy Tahoe or Ford F350 Super Cab with the requisite “Support Our Troops” yellow or stars-and-stripes or now even camouflage magnetic ribbon will feel the need to zoom up on your speed-limit-65 mph – law abiding-tail and pass you going 80 or 85.
2. Every place is mostly the same. Big box stores like Wal-Mart and national chains like KFC and Dairy Queen, out here in the west Safeway and Albertson’s supermarket. You have to seriously study guidebooks or web site like roadsideamerica.com to find whatever quirky, off-the-beaten path eateries and sights may be left.
3. So many of the other non-truckers roaming around are the 82 (or is it 87) % self-identified white, Republican Christians often with their RVs. Conversation while waiting in line to check in at a motel is less than scintillating.
4. Yeah, the price of a gallon of gas is over two bucks. Personally, I think it should be even higher. But more, it’s the guilt of a being a solo driver in a car using gas and oil, those blood-tainted bubbles, to indulge my whim to see if I can drive from Corvallis to Boise, Idaho and back in four or five days? I did manage to stop at a Citgo in Boise (we don’t have any in Oregon) and pump $30 into the Venezuelan economy: one politically correct gold star for me.
5. There’s free coffee in most motels and hotels thse over-caffeinated 21st century days but what’s it with the packets of non-dairy creamer? I mean they have those mini half-and-halfs that don’t need refrigeration. Why not add 50 cents on the room charge and have a bowl of them next to the Mr. Coffee pot?
6. When you are traveling (and thus eating meals) alone, eavesdropping on the conversations of fellow diners isn’t as much fun as it used to be. There used to be at least one interesting person/couple/crowd you might even want to talk to. Not no more. I swear Friday night, at the Hood River Inn happy hour, the topics at the crowded tables around me were: home remodeling, a kid’s upcoming wedding, choosing a retirement community, what a teenager has scheduled for her busy summer, how tired everyone is, how stressed everyone is, how much everyone needs this martini after such a busy/hectic/crazy week at work.
7. Speed limits. Why is everyone in a rush to get places faster only to arrive more jangled, ragged, frayed around the edges, praying to God/Yahweh/Allah that you arrive intact, in one piece? All this in spite of the fact that we all end up at the same traffic light on the exit ramp in Hood River, Oregon waiting for it to change from red to green.
8. When you’re traveling alone, you can’t really gawk at the scenery if you end up in one of the few remaining beautiful parts of the United States as I did this week—I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge (protected from development as a National Scenic Area on the Oregon side only); climbing the pass into the north central Blue Mountains; skirting the edge of the Wallowa Mountains between Baker City and then coming down the border between Oregon and Idaho, fields and fields of what have to be potatoes and maybe Walla Walla sweet onions, too. Instead, it’s all a whiz and a blur and you are been there, done that, gone.
9. Frequencies at the low end of the FM band where it’s normally fine turf for my iPod with its iTrip to broadcast my 10GB/2100 songs of music as if I had a really CD player but, instead, Christian radio keeps breaking in interrupting Patty Griffin or the Allman Brothers or Son Volt.
10. Maybe it’s just me but, as the miles pass especially here in the West, I can’t help thinking about all the innocent humans yet more mean white people (mostly men) coerced, enslaved, trapped, bribed, hustled, hoodwinked, shoved out of the way so they could claim this land as their own—manifest destiny!—and now refuse to pay taxes on it or want tax breaks to start a business or get pissed because the government subsidies for your ranching or dairy farming aren’t high enough because you are entitled to land as far as your eye can see even if once upon a time, somebody (maybe your greedy relative?) stole it from someone else.
There’s no place like home—is that what I’m saying? Mostly I wish this country had a system of reliable high-speed trains! That would be such a civilized way to live, to see the rest of the world…