To Make the Journey the Destination

March 22, 2007 | By | 7 Replies More

I learned long ago that the best way to think of a trip is to accept that it is more than just dead time between here and there. I have a friend who has recently driven to to the East coast a couple of times, and all he saw (or wanted to see) on the way was the Interstate and its Rest Areas. When I was a child, I also just wanted the trip to be over: “Are we there, yet?” Now, I find that the walk, the ride, the drive, even the flight can be a primary object of interest in a trip.

Anyone who has seen my travel page can tell that the destination is just a nominal goal during my vacations. Sure, I have accumulated plenty of air miles on business trips. But even there, I meet interesting cross sections of our country when I sit with congenial strangers. I have looked down to see the 100 yard strips of forest along the highways that conceal the vast tracts of clear-cut deadlands and strip mines (called our National Forests) from public view. I once got to see my own neighborhood from a few thousand feet at night. Could you spot your own? I got to ride in the co-pilot seat of a Cessna flying up to Minnesota during the flood of ’93, and saw the flood over the entire upper Mississippi valley, when the nominal goal was to meet with a customer. On that trip I got to practice my radio triangulation skills that I’d only before used in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Let me tell you, taking off from a wet, grassy field is a different kind of excitement.

Anyway, I bring this up now because I’m planning a weekend trip to Cincinnati for a dance, one that I’ve been to over a dozen times. The destination is primarily the thing. However, this time the plan is to break loose from the two comparable interstate routes that we know too well, and take the bisecting route along Federal Highway 50. According to AAA, this will add over 2 hours to the 5:35 Interstate drive time to cover the same number of road miles.

StL to Cinci via Rt 50

The point isn’t to get from here to there as fast as possible, but rather to see what there is to see. I don’t expect to find anything spectacular, but one never knows.

Shall I attempt to justify this post as a social or political commentary? Anything can be twisted that way. I telecommute, so I save significantly more in fuel and automotive amortization there than these trips consume each year. I drive a 1998 car that still gets over 35mpg highway after 140,000 miles (yes, we record the mileage and gallons for every tank). Sure, we put on as many miles as a bedroom community commuter, but our miles produce stories and pictures worth sharing. I have heard few interesting rush-hour stories.

One could argue whether my daily vacation travel postings and pictures have artistic merit. But if one argues, the text or images have evoked a response, therefore the artistic merit is implied. The only way to truly destroy art is to ignore it.
What about energy conservation? Well, this route will involve more slowing down for towns, and so be more costly in acceleration. But the overall top speed and average speed will be lower and more efficient. The round trip including in-town running around usually takes a bit over 2 full tanks. We’ll see.

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Category: Energy, Whimsy

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (7)

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  1. Larry says:

    isn't there some kind of famous quote or adage about the idea that travel should be more about the journey than the destination???

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Your post reminds me of one of my favoite Nietzsche quotes:

    End and Goal—Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal; and yet; as long as the melody has not reached its end, it also hasn’t reached its goal. A parable.

    Have good travels.

  3. Ben says:

    My drivers education teacher taught me that it is foolish to go joy riding. It just wastes gas, creates traffic, and increased the chance of accidental death. I don't think he has ever met a Klarman though, so in this case we will make an exception. And, in this case it seems like it may actually be necessary exploration, rather than frivolous.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    During WWII, the catch-phrase "Is This Trip Really Necessary?" was an adjunct to gas rationing in the U.S.

    "Necessary" is a value judgment. Is it necessary to drive to work? Not in my case, but for most people it is. Is it necessary to drive to work alone in a gas-guzzling, off-road, seats-six vehicle 20 miles from home to office every day? You can choose to make it so. Is it wise? Hmm.

    I drive about as many miles as a commuter does in a year. But my current sedan has been to most of the 50 states, often touring the older highways, cruising the vistas and mooing at cows.

    Today will bring a rainy drive, for a narrow band of rain is traveling in the same direction and roughly the same speed as we are planning.

  5. Vicki says:

    Enjoy the blue highways!

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    It has never struck me as anything other than absurd that so many Americans believe they need a 5000+ pound SUV to move their 200+ pound bodies around. "My road yacht is bigger than your road yacht" must surely go the way of the dinosaur someday, no pun intended. My prediction: there will come a time in the not too distant future when these behemoths will seem as idiotic as pet rocks.

    Same goes for the 300+ horsepower sports cars that people buy to travel 20 mph through city traffic. Most don't even realize that horsepower means almost nothing in daily driving, and that torque is actually what they feel when they mash on the go pedal.

    Same goes for all the dorks who bought computers with the fastest Intel Pentium processors, instead of buying a second-tier processor and spending their money instead on something that would actually improve their productivity…like more RAM or, perhaps, typing lessons.

    It amazes me that the human race has done as well at it has, when so many of our species are fools.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    FYI: Did get back. The somewhat rainy day of driving on old highways, through many towns, over the hills and through the valleys, scenic overlooks unlooked because of time, local delicacies untried, and occasional frustrating period stuck behind someone who was very cautious and slow in no-passing zones, but floored it elsewhere. We did moo at cows, baa at sheep, and snort toward llamas. We weren't sure about the correct way to address a stubbly corn field covered by seagulls in southern Indiana, though.

    As I've noticed on other trips, the towns on old highways near parallel free Interstates had died, but the ones farther away still flourish. We came home via the Interstates to save the 2 hours. After 3 days of heavy exercise and little sleep, it is also safer.

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