“That’s the place to get to – nowhere. One wants to wander away from the world’s somewheres, into our own nowhere.” D.H. Lawrence
It was always my intention to devote a certain amount of this blog to travel pieces. Not necessarily make it a ‘travel blog’ but at least share more posts about being on the road because, well, it’s one of my favorite places (despite the title). For me, it’s hard to beat an open stretch of pavement leading to unknown places and my ipod shuffling through my playlist while I swig bad gas station coffee and beat mercilessly on the air drums/dashboard. But, as is most often the case, life has little regard for the best laid plans of mice and men. Still, there’s no time like the present to try and make amends.
I recently took a brief trip to New Mexico, just ahead of the Memorial Day crowds. I’m happy to report that the Land of Enchantment, once I got off the freeway and headed into the hills, lived up to its billing. But here’s the thing – while pictures of sweeping vistas and snow-capped peaks are wonderful, for some reason my eye has also been drawn to less awe-inspiring scenes. Roadside oddities, mostly. In particular, our failures as a species. When those best laid plans go awry. When dreams both big and small end in quiet desolation. Maybe it comes from growing up around Detroit, a city that never really got back on its feet after the riots of ‘67 and fell into such disrepair that it became the poster-child for the term ‘ruin-porn.’ Or maybe it’s that I see some stoic elegance amidst the destruction. Then again, maybe I’m compensating for my own perceived failures (too heavy?) or maybe it’s just a train-wreck mentality. Take your pick.
Along with these random remnants of humanity is the simply weird – plenty of that around, too. I’m sure they all have their stories, so I like to think that I’m picking up where Charles Kuralt left off (sans mistress, of course).
Questa is a blip of a burg in northern New Mexico that wears ‘rough around the edges’ as though it were a badge. And like an emissary, this sits just north of town, welcoming intrepid travelers.
I had a job a few years ago that involved a great deal of travel in Wyoming and western Nebraska. At first blush it appeared to be a perfect fit, considering my love of driving and the opportunity to explore new places. Of course, the actual work consisted of stocking shelves in grocery stores, overnight, so that was a bit of a trade-off. Still, it gave me the chance to poke around in some of the loneliest places in the lower 48.
There’s an old Jimmy Buffett song called Son of a Son of a Sailor wherein he sings “…I’m just glad I don’t live in a trailer.” Well, this guy outside of Ogallala appears to live in half a trailer, but at least he has his priorities in order.
And as long as we’re talkin’ trailers, this former mobile home in Ethete, Wyoming (a community that appeared to have more canine residents than human ones) gives new meaning to ‘open concept.’
Welcome to what Rand McNally refers to, with great optimism, as the ‘town’ of Angora, Nebraska. There’s not so much as a driveway or parking lot to be seen, giving the impression that someone simply dropped this building in the tall grass and walked away.
When people talk about ‘God-forsaken’ places, much of Wyoming comes to mind. And I imagine it can be tough to keep your faith out in these no-man’s-lands, where evidence of a higher power (or anything else, for that matter) might prove hard to come by. Yet still we seek guidance. It looks as if the Vatican hasn’t done right by this diocese in Jeffrey City…could use a little more stained glass, if you ask me.
And I think perhaps God has forsaken this edifice at the foot of the Wind River Range.
Then there’s just plain WTFery. Some guy decided that the fringe of civilization north of Alliance, Nebraska was the perfect spot for a post-industrial Stonehenge ‘reboot,’ so he planted a ring of vehicles in the prairie and, yes, he calls it Carhenge. In very un-American fashion, admission is free.
And here’s another high plains artist, working in a unique medium…
Until next time.