A reading from the good book of the open road.
I chose to spend the waning days of 2015 in the passenger seat of a rented Chevy Impala with two of my closest friends. We had set out to ring in the new year in Sunrise, Florida at a Billy Joel Concert, about 1500 miles away from our homes in Boston. We made the decision to drive; possibly as a result of an existential cabin fever. Or maybe just because we could.
By car, a trip to Florida from Massachusetts is roughly a twenty four hour excursion. Explaining that it takes “one day” is about as misleading a statement one could make about that drive. You inch across state lines by way of hundreds of nondescript highway miles. It is somewhere between a slog and a grind. It is hard to know if you exert more physical or mental energy. You find yourself laughing maniacally at DJs from fuzzy local radio stations while covered in electric orange dust from a very rare, very valuable breed of Dorito.
Somewhere along the way — presumably on the Virginia and Maryland line — we found our way into a fog so thick that you start to question everything you’ve ever known. Should we have flown? Am I coherent enough to drive? Did I take the chocolate milk from that New Jersey rest stop out of the cup holder?
Around 2:30 am, it made sense to pull off the road and refuel. If you hold a pee long enough, you start seeing ghosts. The first off-ramp gave way to an abandoned strip mall and standalone gas stations. We were eager to stop the car and stretch. Slicing through the fog like we were on safari, we made our way into the rest stop.
There are certain things that shouldn’t be prominent at 2:30 in the morning. Gas station rotisserie hot dogs are one. Broadly speaking, no humanity should be up and about at that hour either. We found ourselves acutely aware of our surroundings — the people, the accents, the alien food stuffs. Ten minute detours felt like miniature eternities. That’s how the entire drive felt: interminable stretches of indistinguishable asphalt, punctuated by brief but intense realizations of being in a brand new place.
We made it to Florida, and we made it back home to Boston. Nearly sixty hours in the car can get you places. It has been over a year since we made that trek, and we are still not sure what we learned by ringing in a new year in such a fashion (2016 wasn’t exactly a parade of roses, despite the amount of drunken midnight toasting).
When we meet up today, we never talk about the endless miles on American interstates. We talk about the side streets. That was where we met the characters of our adventure, and revealed character of our own. It’s in those backwoods towns and dirt roads where you learn something. Or, maybe, where you find something you didn’t know you were looking for.
When all’s said and done, it is not about the main drag. For us, and we hope for you too, it is about the side streets.
Starting a publication in 2017 cannot be done without trepidation. Everyone has an opinion. Most people have a platform to share that opinion. Many of those opinions are infuriating. We’re still working on that. At the heart of this project, we hope to have a place for connection and new perspectives. For a couple writers reincarnated into 9-to-5ers, it will be a nice return to a more comfortable pursuit. It may pick up steam and more writers may come on board. It may fizzle out. That’s what is so exciting about it. We’re taking a shot. We are hopping in the car and driving three thousand miles.
Hopefully, we can learn something from this little detour from our daily routines. We’re taking the side streets for a little while.
Let us know if you need to pee. We can pull off at the next exit.