On the Road
There's a certain nostalgia which floods you from the inside out as you peer over the endless plains. Farmlands stretching out to the horizon dotted only with the occasional barn and cyclo. Though you may have never been there before, you know this place. This scene, this setting bathed in the gold of sunrise. It is all familiar. There's an upwelling of patriotism, this is America.
I couldn't shake this recurring feeling as I raced across the Midwest driving cross country. New England and New York were either already too well known by me as a native son or truly are distinctly unique but the Midwest brings you face to face with the mythology of Americana. I think in large part it's because the history of New England and New York is mostly an inherited culture from the old world brought over by the first Europeans to settle in the Americas. These were colonists of foreign countries. The idea of America or even Americans was not even a consideration.
What the Midwest represents is a land developed and colonized by the citizens of a new country and culture. These were not predominantly French or British colonizers. For the first time, these were Americans. Now how they went about it is incredibly unjust, disgusting and appalling but at the microeconomic level, these were families seeking a better life for themselves and their family in this newly formed land of democracy. There's a hope in the simplicity of it. A foundation of our national identity laid out across these expansive farmlands. It's a hope which follows you with every new westward mile.
This antiquated concept of Manifest Destiny finds itself entwined in the DNA of every soul who's stared across a vista and begged the horizon to learn its secrets. The promise of the unknown, the majesty of the frontier and the poetry of the wild calls on our innate curiosity and desire to explore. There's a reason the modern road trip is an American invention. Whether it be the canvas covered Oregon Trail or a beat up old van on the Mother Road, Route 66, westward expansion remains a fulfillment of the uniquely American pursuit of happiness.
I found this all captured in the swan song of a sunset peeking through the slats of an old wooden windmill in West Texas. Turning as the wind changed, the sun sinking to the west with a strong wind driving us forward, the world calling us further down the highway. A day on the road beginning with the familiar scene of a barn on a ridge closed in the purple light emanating from the desert twilight before us. A new day to come, a new adventure, just beyond that horizon.
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