I’ve been fortunate to have drunk deeply from the cup of travel.
True, I’ve never strolled down the Champs Elysees nor wandered the market stalls of Marrakech. I’ve never laid eyes upon Milford Sound or walked beneath the orange trees on the tiled sidewalks of Seville.
But I’ve been to Pioche, Nevada. Holly Springs, Mississippi. Sublette, Kansas and Leadville, Colorado. Woken up in the green cathedral of the North Cascades. Shared the view from Hurricane Ridge with a grazing doe at sunset. And escorted a tarantula across a parking lot in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
I’ve gazed in awe at an arm of the Milky Way from the 3AM darkness of eastern Tennessee. Heard the paper on my cigarette burn amid the utter stillness of El Malpais National Monument. Drunk chicory coffee and eaten powdered sugar-covered beignets at the Café du Monde in New Orleans.
I’ve been rendered speechless by St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier. Struck dumb by Monument Valley. And cowed by the looming shadow of Rainier. I’ve smelled the deep, rich earth of Iowa after a rainstorm, tasted the barbeque of Memphis and Kansas City, and wondered at the colors and shapes of Bryce Canyon.
I’ve climbed Mount Taylor and raced an approaching thunderstorm to its treeline. I’ve explored miles of volcanic plumbing at Craters of the Moon National Monument, and unimaginable formations at Carlsbad Caverns. Been the sole visitor at Mount Rushmore and part of the throng at Old Faithful.
I’ve sat on the porch of the Wortley Hotel in complete contentment. Pondered the Sonoran Desert after a spring rain. Spent two days in Bismarck, North Dakota stranded by a faulty brake caliper. And one in Livingston, Montana owing to an expired alternator.
I’ve been awakened by high tide washing underneath and around the car my friends and I fell asleep in after a youthful drinking binge on Padre Island. Learned the meaning of eternity on a drive from El Paso to San Antonio. Woken shivering on the Fourth of July. And eaten a Mexican dinner after a day of hiking at Arches that was as enormous as it was delicious.
I’ve seen the purple mountain’s majesty along US-93 in Nevada, and the amber waves of grain in Kansas. Yes, life is sweet.
Yet these memories are a two-edged sword; knowing what life can be makes it painful when it is something less. The more constrained I become, the more I need a steering wheel in my hands and unseen sights in my eyes.