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Singular Moments of Clarity

Posted on September 8th, 2007 after 3016 miles by Dean Croshere.

I'm embedding a few photos from the terrain I was driving through as I was thinking of this. Eventually I tired of getting out of my car and lugging Boxer around, so I stopped. Trust that these views are only a small portion of the many places I could have stopped.

I’ve found that being told who I am or what I am doing without my request, or even my permission, is the height of attraction. Those moments when something or someone tells me my most inner thoughts, confirms them, are the singular moments of clarity in this world.

My most recent host loaned me a couple of books on tape he thought I might enjoy. Charles Kuralt’s America and Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck. I respect Steinbeck and I’d heard of Travels with Charlie before. I popped it in first. His first few lines spelled me, to steal a phrase. I had to stop listening because his words led me to so many other thought I found I was no longer following along.

I began to note the things he said, thinking of quoting them around the site from time to time. Towards the end of the first chapter, I gave up: I’d mentally noted the whole damned thing.

“I set them down so that newcomers to bum-dom, like teenagers in new hatched, sin will not think they invented it.”

“A trip a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality. uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself, no two are alike, and all plans policing and coersion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.”

I find this to be inexorably true. This trip, after only, 4 days, 5 days, lessee, my site says 5.35 days, oh I don’t care, some time, a few thousand miles, whatever, has very little in common with what I had planned.

1.I planned to pull off the road often to explore the nothings. I do this, but not when my fancy takes me. I have a different method. Two rules, actually. Rule one is drink a lot of water (I’m actually amazed at how dehydrated I’ve been). Rule two is avoid actual bathrooms whenever possible. This forces me to see some really cool things because I simply cannot put it off until later.

2.I planned to stop and talk to a lot of people, interview them on camera, and find out their stories. I find that I have no desire to do this. At first I thought it was because I was afraid, and I’m sure that is still there, but the first few people I talked to didn’t tell me anything interesting.

There is this temptation when a stranger walks up to you to simply clam up and give one or two word answers. The most interesting people will become lame in the face of a stranger.

Then you put a camera in front of these people? They clam up further. They don’t know where that camera is going or what you are doing with it. Then there are the legal issues of filming people that I’m not totally satisfied about.

Finally, I don’t want to have to worry about the camera, I want to talk to the people I meet, and I’ve been hosted by some wonderfully interesting and remarkably generous people.

3.I planned to film myself and upload these films onto the site. I am filming things, but editing takes time and it forces me to be alone. I simply don’t have the desire to do it. I can make the little quickies and will continue too, but nothing like I had planned.

4.I’m going to be alone.Oh being alone. I’ve got a lot to write about that, but I want to get back on the road. See, I’ve got to, erm, follow my first rule. There will be more.

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John and Me

Posted on September 9th, 2007 after 3380 miles by Dean Croshere.

Before I hit the road yesterday, I was treated to breakfast in a small diner in southern Montana. There was a live bluegrass band playing and most of the patrons were large guys in plaid shirts. It was a small town and it seemed everybody knew everybody, especially my host (the local optometrist).

I decided against picking up the band's CD.

The largest benefit of this was that I started on the road with a full stomach. The disadvantage is when the emptiness hit me.

My sweet spot for driving is about 8 or 9 hours. After that I start to get impatient and simply want to get to my destination.

The drive yesterday took me 14 hours. The views in the morning made it unquestionably worth it, but by the end of the day I found myself in a very strange mood.

I noticed this when I received an email cordially questioning where I was and where I was going. I didn't respond (I was driving, after all), but I found myself resenting the question.

I was doing what I was doing and I was putting things online, how dare anyone ask me questions?

Unsure of where these thoughts came from (Thus far, I've enjoyed all the communication I've received on the road), I began to question my mood. I found that I had withdrawn into Steinbecks book. Steinbeck got me. He new what I was doing. I listened as John Steinbeck told of many of the same troubles I was having as he traversed the country towards me. The Yellowstone conversation was particularly close to home.

"You went HOW close to Yellowstone without actually visiting?" John asked.

"17 miles John," I responded.

Well, not really. I haven't gone that mad.

He did ask the question on the tape before deciding to actually enter the park. He was shortly chased out when Charlie (his dog) decided to try to attack every bear he saw.

I did go within a 17 miles drive of the park, although I didn't go in. I still had another 11 hours of driving ahead of me. I'm pretty sure that Boxer could have taken any wayward bears had it been necessary though.

I stopped for a few minutes and wolfed down a burger, I'd just realized that I hadn't had anything but a can of chili since breakfast 12 hours prior. As I digested, I calmed down and the rest of the trip passed uneventfully.

I'm now in Greeley Colorado and I'll spend another day here, then I move on again. I'm not sure where I'm going tomorrow, I guess I should work that out.

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So tired

Posted on September 10th, 2007 after 4116 miles by Dean Croshere.

While driving through South Dakota, on about my 11th hour, I got a phone call that my host had to run out. I had no place to stay.

it was already 8 pm.

There are 0 Gamma Alumni in South Dakota.

Did I mention I'm in central South Dakota?

God I'm tired.

Motel time.

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Posted on September 11th, 2007 after 4116 miles by Dean Croshere.

Before I left, I feared that I would eventually find myself cold, lost, and alone, in the middle of nowhere, not knowing where I was going, or what I was doing.

Last night, I saw that happening.

I have all of the Gamma Alumni plotted on a map. I only have to click on a name to get an address and, with a little more work, a phone number. If you were to be stranded in the states, you need only to open up the map to find yourself surrounded by alumni, friends -brothers- who would help out a brother with little knowledge other than a couple of greek letters and the ideals of the brotherhood.

Anywhere in the states, save for South Dakota.

After struggling and failing to find nearby alumni, I decided to drink a Red Bull and get some food, then drive as far as I could.

Perhaps a decision would come to me.

I stopped to eat. As soon as I got out of the car, I started to relax, to lose that tenseness that allows me to drive tired. Then, 10 minutes later, I realized that I was eating McDonalds. Disgusted, I decided I was done. The tension that allowed me to drive was gone. I needed to sleep, now. I began to tense up again, my heart rate picked up, a combination of the Red Bull and the realization that I had no plan.

I stopped at a place that promised it was so cheap, imaginary friends could sleep free.

They say smells are one of the more powerful emotional triggers. My emotions were ready to be triggered. The previous inhabitants of the room clearly had ignored the no smoking sign on the door. That wasn’t the worst smell though. I don’t want to describe the worst smell. I want to pretend it wasn’t there, because then I don’t have to figure out what it was. Actually, that’s right, the smoking was the worst smell.

There I was. Lying on the predictably uncomfortable motel bed, exhausted, heart rate through the roof, facing what I had already established to be my greatest fear for the trip.

I did pass out, though not for long. I woke up again in the middle of the night with my heart still racing. I have a fraternity brother that will not speak to me, an issue about a girl. I’d had some dream that I was talking to him. In the dream, our conversation went well enough, though suitably awkward (I have no idea what it was about).

During the whole conversation there was this dragonfly buzzing off to my left, near my ear. I ignored it, the conversation was more important. The buzzing grew louder and louder. It was more and more irritating until I finally decided to do something about the damned thing. Without warning, only after I acknowledged it, it attached itself to my neck with all of its 8 legs and a sucker and a stinger and all kinds of other things dragonflies don’t have.

I woke up. I felt like I had only been asleep for minutes. My heart was beating as it had been when I passed out. I wasn’t going to sleep again any time soon.

I was, simply put, afraid.

All of my greatest fears, being alone mostly, hit me. It was now 3 am central, 1 am home.

I tried to sleep, to put my fears behind me.

It wasn’t going to happen.

I reached for my phone and text messaged a friend. I asked her to tell me I wasn’t alone.

Once she had, I felt silly. Of course I’m not alone.

I mentally went over the multitude of people I could have called who would have talked to me in the middle of the night as long as I needed, to chase away any fears of abandonment. As we continued our mid-night conversation, my heart slowed and I relaxed. I found an episode of X-files on TNT and the world seemed familiar.

I’m not alone in the middle of the night in central South Dakota. Not at all.

I’ve been more alone after work at home in the Grove. Even last night, I didn’t research the Alumni, a brother did. I called on short notice and he didn’t hesitate to do all of my research for me, to find numbers and send me to person after person, as I asked, as I needed.

I have a greater ability to communicate with people now than I know what to do with.

Now that the sun is up, my fears are gone. It is amazing how the light can chase away all of our fears, even those that have nothing to do with darkness.

I’m going to slow down. Apparently there is a gravestone of someone named Tollef Tollefson nearby. I’m going to go find it.

Maybe I’ll spend another night in South Dakota.

I’m behind on updates. I had a wonderful time in Greeley, and lots of comments to make of it, not to mention the first 11 hours of the drive yesterday. There are a few great pictures (including Mount Rushmore, and the experiences there).

I just needed to get this up, to explain my mood from last night.

One of the greatest disadvantages of being the only one in the car is the inability to do anything besides drive. At least, I shouldn’t do anything but drive. I can’t post and drive, and writing carefully takes time. Time spent not going anywhere.

The past few stops have been a long distance apart and I’ve spent far too much time driving as quickly as possible on split interstates. Split interstates are boring. They don’t follow the land. On interstates, you can’t pull off to explore random roads that look interesting; you have to take exits. I find myself calculating the exact minute I’ll get to my destination. Once I count down the minutes until I’m somewhere else, the journey is no longer the destination.

When that isn't the case. When the journey is the destination, and it has been for the vast majority of the trip, I am at peace. A full, overwhelming peace. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Wherever I’m going, I’m there.

So I’m going to go find Tollef Tollefson. The great great great grandfather of a friend.

I’m here, I’m there, I’m not alone.

P.S. I know you’re reading this. Thank you. Thank you to any of you who would have gladly done anything possible to help me in need.

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Heaven on a Bun?

Posted on September 11th, 2007 after 4492 miles by Dean Croshere.

Tourist towns always have the local joint. The one with the rules that all the locals know and the visitors don't. That way, when the tourists come and ask for fries with their burger, the locals can all laugh at them. This episode will give you the "in" on at least one of these joints.

Oh yeah, the cheese is optional.

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Carlsbad, CA
Central Ala- 'Bama
The middle of the state.
Heaven on a Bun?
Next to the CdA lake
Driving in Idaho
Just south of Coeur d' Alene