This is the time of year when work takes me out on the road with some regularity, teaching at conferences along the I-95 corridor from Maine to D.C. Other work commitments will require time in the air or on the rails, but it's the time spent on the road that's special to me.
Summertime and the open road go together like diner fries and ketchup; it's not really summer for me until my first road trip.
There's a thrilling feeling of freedom at the outset of a long car journey, as if the whole of creation, or at least North America, is there for the exploring. Even though I'm taking the same basic route as always, the hundreds upon hundreds of exits that flash by more than a mile a minute contain limitless possibilities, as urban landscapes, rural towns, and yet more endless stretches of asphalt reach into the unknown horizon.
I'm in my mid-thirties and that puts me at the tail end of the last generation to have had an unbridled love affair with driving and the American highway system. Today more and more youth are waiting on getting licenses during adolescence, when the freedom of the open road is perhaps at its most enticing (and deadly, as it's worth remembering). Significant increases in the cost of fuel and tolls further put a damper on the teenage rite of passage that road trips were for myself and many of my peers.
Intellectually I know that's a good thing. The price paid for the open road's freedoms in both environmental impact and lives lost is unconscionable. Our world is changing fast, and the day isn't all that far away when self-driving cars, fuel costs, and the need for drastic reductions in carbon output will put an end to the freewheeling highway experience of my youth. Something will take its place of course, but that something will belong to the generations after mine.
Some part of my heart will always belong to the road, so for now my fuel tank is filled to the brim, my tires have plenty of tread, and I've got a date with the horizon... or at least New Jersey.
Today's post was heavily inspired by Seanan McGuire's ghost-story love letter to the highway: Sparrow Hill Road, which I heartily recommend, particularly the audio version.