A bit over a year ago, I went out for what would be my last road trip for a long time. It was the beginning of lockdown and the end of the Before Times. Some of the trip was morbid curiosity; I wanted to see what the world looked like without traffic and people everywhere. It was, as expected, disconcerting and more than a little apocalyptic. A lot of it though was, honestly, to say good-bye. I didn’t know when I’d be back on the road again, if ever. I didn’t know what the world would look like if I was able to be out there again, but I knew that whatever it was, it would never be the same. Something was dying, and I needed to be there to witness and honor its passing.
It’s strange to be getting back out onto the roads again. The last time I was off the road for this long was when I broke down in the Bridge God’s courtyard, and that was a long time ago, now. My body has forgotten how to be behind the wheel for very long, and finding that almost Zen-like state where the truck becomes an extension of me is harder than it used to be. I know it will return soon enough, but in the meantime, it’s hard not to wonder if this is the time that I just can’t get it back, that too much time has passed and I’ll never remember how to hear the Road sing again.
The world is different now, as well. Places that I used to pass by all the time are gone now, doors and windows shuttered. Others are still there, but changed. Some places the changes are obvious; restaurants and coffee shops with outside tables on extended sidewalks or sections of parking lots, that sort of thing, while others are changed more in feeling. They feel almost haunted, as if some intangible part of them died, and while they’re still going through the motions of being Places, there’s something that’s gone.
Still, there are other places that are…cozier…than they were before. Like over the recent months the place drew closer to itself, remembered what it was, and found a kind of strength from the remembering. Places like this were where I passed the world’s Most Adorable (and socially distanced) Town Fair and a small farm that had decided to set up a stand with a sign for Free Food, because they knew how much people are struggling and this was what they could do to help. I cried a little at that one, because it’s good to see people caring for, and taking care of, each other.
Of course, there are the places that haven’t changed and there’s a comfort in knowing that the area around the Quabbin is still Very Clearly Riddled With Terrible Fae Traps like the “Detour” sign directing people off the highway and down a narrow, tree-choked dirt road, or a “Help Wanted” sign at the end of another dirt road leading off into the woods, with nothing indicating the presence of an actual business of any kind… (Sadly I was on a time schedule on the way home at that point, or I’d have gleefully turned the truck down either or both of them to investigate, because that’s just the kind of dumbass I am. Maybe next time.)
Overall, it was a good drive and good way to start scraping the rust off. Now that the seal has been broken, Wednesdays are officially designated weekly Road Days. Even pulled together a nice collection of dishes and utensils specifically for eating Real Food while I’m out and about, instead of scarfing down a protein bar or having to stop at a fast food place. My goal is to eventually get a small trailer with a bathroom/shower hookup, or an rv, so I can go on longer trips, but that’s a ways in the future yet. For now, this is a good restart while I figure out the new protocols and get back in the swing of things.
Let’s see what’s down those little side roads, shall we?