If you read last week's MMWUC (Monday Morning Wake-Up Call), you know that I drove from Raleigh, NC to Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah in three days last week to deliver a car to my niece so that my newest grand-niece (#10) can be styling when driven by her parental chauffeurs. If you didn't know, you do now. After arriving, my niece asked, "How was the trip?" I replied, "Uneventful." "I'm sorry," she said. "Don't be," I answered. "Uneventful is good for a long drive." Now, however, I think I've been ripped off of writerly inspirational material. What would Jack Kerouac do?
My trip was 2,201 miles. I saw not a single accident or the remains of an accident or perceived a hint of danger that I might end up in an accident. Not that I want to get in an accident or wish ill-will to others, but that's a long way without mayhem. Other than an unsuccessful suicidal prairie dog, dodging cars going 65 mph, no buffalo stampeded, no deer or antelope roamed, no buzzards circled overhead, looking longingly for my considerable carcass, no wolves, coyotes, wild dogs howled into the night, sending shivers up my spine. A stretch of I-74 in Illinois, however, looked like America's killing fields with about 25 dead deer in a 30 mile stretch...and then...none thereafter. Do the deer in Illinois march in herds relentlessly to six lane highways like hordes of lemmings to the sea in the Arctic? The only creature of note was a bunny in Peoria. I parked for a night's rest after 824 miles. When I opened the car door, the bunny was sitting on its hind feet chewing whatever bunny's chew. He/she/it seemed to smile. Did it want some food? Did it want to play? Did it want to hitchhike to SLC? I left a handful of cashews on the ground, and then went inside for a date with Mr. Sandman. The cashews were gone in the morning. I hope he liked the nuts.
I did have lunch with fellow writer Carol Kean in Iowa City, Iowa, the second day. (Did they run out of creative names at some point in Iowa?) It was nice meeting her and her family. And then the drive was on in earnest. Groves of trees became groupings became stately iconic reminders of forests became bent to the wind, bowed against time, scrubby trunks with few branches became no more. Lush grass and happy, colorful cows gave way to grumpy, dark-skinned cows. Then came vast expanses where cows came in ones and twos, still uninterested in my 75 mph passing "moo" until only lonely windmills lined ridges in Wyoming and the occasional cow peaked from behind rocks in eroded and parched ravines. The feeling of never being so incredibly exposed to everything and so private in the isolation enveloped me several times. Starkness has a beauty all to itself.
My Laramie, Wyoming Chuck Wagon waitress was young (20s), bouncy (I thought she was wearing pogo sticks) with orangey/red hair (but I'm color-blind). I looked into her eyes. "Do you sometimes want to flee and look for adventure on the open road? Or do all the weary travelers convince you there's no place like home?" She looked at the aging regulars with worn canes and runaway walkers, stared at the mom and dad road warriors with the chubby eight-year-old demanding McDonald's fries for lunch in a sit-down restaurant with real tablecloths, and then she sneaked a look at the surrounding mountains still frosted with snow and green from run-off. Her mega-watt smile said it all. "I like it here just fine." I ordered steak and eggs. My tip was generous.
Well, I'm thinking of flip-flopping on you. Maybe I haven't been ripped off of story inspiration on my adventure. I think I have the nucleus for several stories right here. It's all the matter of what you do with what you have. I wonder what adventure awaits the waitress at the "Chuck Wagon" in Laramie when a cow wanders up to the drive-in window one night just before closing. "Moo," it announces itself, and she's forced to tie him to the bumper of her rusty Chevy pickup to take home for the night, only to find out that the cow is a stolen prized sperm donor, and the guy who stole it had a heart attack. He's dead. She panics and flees to some hunky guy's cabin in the Medicine Bow National Forest. And now everyone is after my orangey/red haired waitress and her new cow, Carli Joy. I may have to go back and save her.
Did you ever find inspiration on the road? Let us know about it.