Posted by: chptr37 | 04/10/2009

Pg. 9: Five States, One Day

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Starting the day in New Orleans with a bit of writing. Notice the tools of the travelin’ trade: MacBook in a candy-apple red cover, Timbuk2 packback, headphones, free Internet, coffee on its way, and Canon G10 camera (not pictured, obviously).

Stats:

  • Miles Today: 499
  • Miles Total: 3936
  • From/To: Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama to Georgia to Tennessee
  • Slept: Haven’t yet, but boy am I gonna.
  • Soundtrack: The Lord of the Rings on iTunes Audiobooks.
  • Best Thing: Five states, one day. Also, being less then 900 miles from seeing my family for the first time in years.
  • Worst Thing: Not having time to see the pretty pixie on my way through Mississippi.
  • Quote of the Day: “Stay tuned for the tornado warnings and thunderstorms that are sweeping their way through Mississippi.” On Mississippi Public Radio as I was halfway through the state.

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While I was on the road today, I was thinking about this blog, and I realized it isn’t turning out to be anything like what I expected. Although to be honest, I’m not sure at all what I expected from a “travel-writing blog,” considering I never actually planned to do any travel writing at all, ever.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I rarely write non-fiction. As I’ve said before, I much prefer to lie, to make things up, to not have to abide by the rules of truth and experience. Even on the rare occasions when I do write non-fiction, it tends to be years after the fact, after I’ve had time to ruminate on it, to think it over and make connections between what happened to me and how it pertains to the larger world. Either that, or I make it funny. That way, I can stretch the truth under the disguise of making the story funnier, and no one can yell at me for it.

Second, I’ve never quite understood travel writing. I mean, I understand it as a reader, but I don’t understand it as a writer. My favorite travel writing has less to do with travel and more to do with the writer themselves, and their own lens through which they see the world. For example, I’ve been some of the places Bill Bryson has, but I’ve never seen them the way that he does (although, in interest of full disclosure, I should say that I tend to read his funny stories and skip the dry… I mean, historical… stuff). Now, I haven’t been any of the places that Maartren Troost writes about (and after reading his books, I’m not sure I want to), but I know that if I went there, I would not come home with the same hysterical and mind-blowing stories that he does.

All of which leaves me at a loss when it comes to writing this blog. I’m traveling to and through places where many people have already gone. If not in person, then in some other way: TV, movies, books, the Internet. And, at least at the moment, I’m not staying anywhere long enough to really sink into any particular place and see it through any eyes other than a rather quick glimpse of tourist. I trust my vision as a writer to pick out the things that no one else does when it comes to fiction, but I’m not sure the same could be said of non-fiction.

All of that might have something to do with why this blog has, surprisingly, turned inward. I thought it would be about this landmark or that, this city, that national site. Instead, it’s been about letting the landscape and the culture sink into me—as much as I can get in such a short time—and then sitting down to write something. Often, it’s the last thing I do before I pass out for the night. After being in the car all day, finding a hotel, lugging bags in, stuffing my face and crashing on the bed with my laptop. I start with a few words, like “While I was on the road today…” and then I see where it takes me. I’m writing by the short and, at the moment, rather dirty beams of my highlights. I can only see four or five feet in front of my face and I have to believe that the road doesn’t end in a cliff somewhere outside of my field of vision.

So, what does that all mean for me? And for you? I guess it means strap in and hang on, because while I may be driving, I have no idea where I’m going or what route I’m going to take to get there. The sun is going down, it’s growing dark, and I can only see the next few feet of pavement. Still want to come along? Good. Because I saved you some room, and I could use some assistance finding the next stop on the map.

Incredibly far and not-so-fast, s.

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Ending the day in Tennessee with a bit of a sunset.

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“Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ~ DH Lawrence.

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Responses

  1. I guess I’m along for the ride because I’ve always had this desire to drive across the country, but never the opportunity (and may never have, but I’m okay with that).

    And I wasn’t “expecting” anything while reading along – was more interested in what thoughts occur to someone who’s driving across the country.

    Plus, you find the best quotes. 😉

    Robin

  2. Ero: Glad you’re along for the ride! It’s good to have the company. I’ll even share my chocolate. Maybe.


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