All the Way Home

IMG_0741It’s been an awful, dirty ragged sock of a winter. Already we’ve had more thaws than I have fingers to count them on, and not just because I’ve gotten careless with the table saw. 40-degrees one day, a dozen below the next. Rinse and repeat. Snow in sporadic bursts, hardly enough to cover the detritus emerging from the previous thaw. The damn dog dug out a front hoof from one of the lambs we slaughtered, and then the rain revealed it, and when my wife tried to throw it back to the compost pile she instead hit the truck mirror and broke it to bits. So now when I’m trying to hitch up to the trailer I have to keep getting out and walking around to see how close I am.

(In case it’s not obvious, this whole hoof/mirror anecdote is supposed to be a metaphor for this frigged up winter)

I drove 20 hours over the weekend, to western PA and back, and I couldn’t stop wondering about the lives of the people in the cars I passed. There was a Lincoln Continental, early 90’s era, headed east on I90,  dragging so low in the hind end I just about had myself convinced the trunk was full of bodies. Or drugs. Or guns. Or maybe all three. When I passed, I scarcely dared glance over lest I get shot. But I did anyway (curiosity killed the cat and all that), and just as I passed the Continental we both passed a cop and I looked down and saw I was doing 85, so I hit the brakes hard, and the dude in the Lincoln watched the whole thing and was laughing his ass off. Then he sort of tipped his cap as if we were in on a joke. Which maybe we were, and I was reminded of that wonderful line Jason Molina wrote in the equally wonderful song “North Star.” Half of that was my kind of joke/But I don’t remember which half. (Molina died a couple years back, age of 38. Drank himself to death, basically. Broke my heart a little when I heard)

Honestly, it’s a bit of a curse to be so damn curious. For instance, I’ll never know what was in that trunk, and it’s still bugging me a little. I’ll never know about the guy driving that car, what he does, where he lives, where he was going, and so on. And all the other people out there, like the dreadlocked white woman with the “I love dirty hippies” bumper sticker. Or the tanned couple in the little Ford Feista with Georgia plates. They came by me at 90 +, like they were in a real hurry to get somewhere it wasn’t 37 degrees and spitting rain, and who could blame them for that. The guy was wearing a cut-off shirt, had some sort of tattoo poking out from beneath the frayed edge where his sleeve used to be. That much I could see.

And all those houses right on the interstate! The old abandoned farmhouses, the little ranches with lights in the window and sad old cars in the driveway. One story after another after another, but I can’t know what they are and never will, and it’s really none of my business, anyway. So I guess I’ll just keep my eyes on the road, keep the pedal down, keep pushing toward home. In a couple hours I’ll stop for another coffee, drink it fast and ride that jagged surge of caffeine all the way home.






15 thoughts on “All the Way Home”

  1. Wondering about people I see along my travels is one of my favorite past times. Like you I wish I could know their whole story…but then again maybe I’d be disappointed if I did.

  2. Strangest winter I remember in the past decade. The extremes make planning hard. From 200+ inches of snow last winter to about 24″ so far this winter, 70° changes in 24 hours, and frost coming out of the ground in the garden in mid-February, it’s just a little uncomfortable.

  3. Hey! Western Pa is my neck of the woods! I can’t imagine what brought you out here, but hello just the same.

  4. Glad to know someone else is curious about the stories all around us. I don’t travel at all really but this kind of thought occurs to me when driving around my little part of the world or standing in line places like the post office. At least in line you can talk to people as I am want to do. In fact, I think I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations in line at the post office. That, and the DMV, the great equalizer of us all. Safe travels and thanks fro the post.
    Nice looking hats, by the way. Fin and Rye originals, I assume. 🙂

  5. You wanna know the story on that Lincoln trunk? Not nearly as interesting as you hope. Those cars all came with adjustable air bag rear suspension, and the suspension fails in all of em. Which means the car rides on the rubber bump stops until some other failure puts it in the junkyard, which is to say, never; they’re pretty reliable.
    Still and all, in my experience you’re not likely to find the best of society behind the wheel of one. So I’m not ruling out your theory of the bodies.
    Your vintage truck has great aftermarket support. Check in the type of auto parts store you hate (auto zone, analogous to tractor supply), they probably have mirror glass cut to fit your truck.

  6. Hmmm, like the guitar in that song.

    There’s not alot of I-90 in PA… if you’re cutting through NY watch the lame ass speed limit, and the sneaky Thruway cops. They like to ‘hide’ in little forested paths in the median, especially after the Buffalo area. Punks.

    Whenever I drive on highways, unless it’s some spectacular view or wild city, houses and fields depress me a little. Like a reminder of all that isn’t very natural. Or like something wasted. Thank god for music and singing in the car. It’s fun when there’s a vehicle where you’ve just ‘gotta see the driver’….hehe. Except that guy in the Detroit area that liked to drive around naked and make his hand disappear. There were many ‘sightings’ and he enjoyed putting on a show. Be careful! :}

  7. It has been a nasty winter. Saps been flowing off and on for a month I’m sure; I won’t be tapped until the end of this week. The driveway is a mess. Standing water and mud everywhere. Thank you for saying it so much better than I could.

  8. As I read this, I am picturing this great start to a road trip movie, Ben and Lincoln Continental dude both get busted, cops discover some dried beaver tails and unidentified hide clothing in Ben’s trunk, and this whole crowd of characters, the dude, the farmer, the hippie lover, and the sun addicts end up in one jail cell . . . Ah, c’est la vie, we’re all in the same boiling pot whether we think we know the stories or not.

  9. Lucky you didn’t end up pulled over or in a ditch, granting other curiosity seekers reason to wonder. I’m somewhat curious myself about what message was important enough to venture to a college, it being higher education and all.

  10. In curiosity you’re not alone. I’m like that all the time. And what a rich course of stuff to build your next novel on! Don’t change and keep us posted on all the interesting cars you drive by on your way home. Just don’t kick the dog for digging, that is what dogs do. Just love him.

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