Answers to the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Most people ask me, are you going to do this alone? My reflexive answer is yes, it’s just me. Forty years back, it was Joe at my side, but Joe is in India working and when he gets home he has a high school graduation party for his son and a titanium hip, mild diabetes, and bills to pay. He is too busy.
And he loves me but thinks I’m crazy.
So yes, I will be hitting the road solo, but I will not be alone. Since I was a young child, I have never felt alone. Wherever I am, I feel the people I love and the people who love me around me. So I will carry a lot of people with me. It’s a bit like the feeling in a road race, when you are, at the end of the day, responsible for putting one foot in front of the other and getting across the finish line, but you know that there are so many people moving you along.
This weekend in Syracuse we had our annual 10- mile long hill race, an event we call the Mountain Goat. On every block there are crowds of people cheering us on, and every mile there is a band making music to lift our spirits, and it is an overwhelming feeling of support and togetherness.
So I’m going on this trip physically alone, but in a real sense with each one of you who wants to follow, and question, and listen.
And once someone picks me up, I won’t be alone at all, will I?
What, Where, When?
This is a hitchhiking trip, and as such it’s impossible to pin down just what it will become. I will be carrying a backpack and soliciting rides. I have no reservations, no tickets, no firm destination. Since I’m in the northeast the road is likely to take me south or west. I don’t care which direction I head out as much as I want to be on the road.
On August 17, 1978, a 25-year-old guy named Grey picked me and Joe up from the side of Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City. One at at time, he put us on the back of his BSA motorcycle, and shuttled us from the highway to his house. He fed us pizza and beer for dinner, let us camp in his backyard, and in the morning when he took us back to the highway, we thanked him a number of times.
What he said in reply has always stuck with me. “We’re all on the road some time.”
So what I’m doing is going back on the road. I don’t have infinite time, just a few weeks for the first leg. I own and operate my own massage therapy practice, and I have some great people who will stay behind and take care of things (probably better than if I were there. No, definitely better). But at some point I do have to come back, write some paychecks and check in on things. My running buddy JimMcKeever’s son is getting married on June 9 and I want to be there. Stuff like that.
I’ll pack my pack, I’ll have a phone with me, a laptop for writing, and I’ll see where I end up. I am not trying to replicate 1978. Believe me if you have seen my hair from those days, or listened to enough Bee Gees and Travolta, you would not want that experience revived. It’s 2018, and we live in a very different country. How different? We’ll find out.
I am at the stage of middle-class middle-age life when the mortgage is dwindling and the college costs are in the rear view mirror. The kids are good and my wife and I are frugal. We’re not rich but we don’t have worries. If Ellen and I go to her favorite restaurant we can spend almost as much as I did all summer in 1978.
Hitching was once the only way we could see the country. That is not my circumstance today. In a pinch, I have a credit card. My phone can help guide me to where the good rides are, and if necessary, a hotel room (looking back at my journal I noticed that Joe and I did spring for a hotel one night back in ‘78, though I have no memory of the place). And, on a dark and stormy night, no parachute in sight – did somebody say “Uber?.”
I am not setting this up as an endurance test, to see how much I can suffer. For that, I can run marathons.
This is to see the country again. From the ground, as a random passenger.