People of the Road Trip by Richard Feldman

People of the Road Trip

Part of my education from living with a creative person has been learning about the two-way interaction between one’s creative activities and his or her other activities.  I think that Miriam is somewhat representative in the way she makes slots for doing her writing (or revising) by setting aside certain times of the day or week, or going off to a writer’s residency for a week or two, or just driving an hour and checking into a motel for a night.  However, the activities in her life that aren’t directly about writing are also a source of creative material.  Travel in particular can work both as a way to create a structure for writing and as a source of material.

Personal travel is a common source of material and inspiration for artists or creators of all types.  People differ in their styles of going away.  For some, it serves primarily as a chance to rest and recover from the wear of regular daily life.  For others of us, it’s a chance to be stimulated and indulge interests that we aren’t able to fit into our regular lives.

The road trip tends to fall into the category of stimulating as opposed to restful.  I love road trips to a degree that, for almost any destination I’m visiting recreationally, I notice myself trying to turn the vacation into a road trip.  This behavior has extended even to visits to Hawaii’s islands and Juneau, Alaska, not places that are generally thought of as prime road trip territory.  (I think of road trips as being able to be conducted either in one’s own vehicle or by hitchhiking).

Although Miriam would be perfectly happy to spend her vacation on a beach, reading, I have won her over to the road trip as a recreational travel style by assembling itineraries that are built around her interests, and it’s become one of our favorite shared activities.  The experiences of travel tend to have a freshness that’s much less common in the daily activities of one’s regular life.  For many years now, Miriam has mined our travels for material for poems and essays; with the creation of the blog, she uses them as a source of material for that.

I can usually gauge quickly whether other people are fellow road trip enthusiasts.  When some people hear that we recently went on a road trip to Cloudcroft or Tucson, they look blank; others look envious and sigh and comment that we’re always going somewhere and they wish that they could fit a road trip into their schedules some day.  However, the fellow devotees will nod knowledgeably and comment on the prettiness of some part of the drive, or ask if we took such and such road.  They’ll then report in turn on their latest trip.

Of course, road trip narratives are a popular sub-genre of travel writing in general.  Books such as Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Kerouac’s On the Road and Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways are considered classics, and all have their fans, although each of these three titles left me somewhat disappointed.  (I’d be interested in finding out other road trip narrative recommendations).

I now look forward to our road trips both for the experiences themselves and out of curiosity as to what parts of them will find their way onto the physical or virtual page.  I hope to reflect some more on road trips, including how they’ve been affected by the growth of online social networking, in an upcoming post.

9 thoughts on “People of the Road Trip by Richard Feldman

  1. Hi Miriam and Rich, I’ve been collecting “road trip” books from before 1930, when vacation road trips were so unusual that many there was a whole genre of personal accounts. I collect ones that include travels through New Mexico. These books have many common elements, such as stops to see Zuni snake dance, Santa Fe, and sleepy little Taos, but each has its unique anecdotes of strange people met on the road and unexpected side trips. My favorite is Winifred Dixon’s “Westward Hoboes.” You can read it in full-text online in Google Book Search at http://books.google.com/books?id=N-BCAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:winifred+inauthor:dixon&lr=lang_en&as_drrb_is=b&as_minm_is=1&as_miny_is=1870&as_maxm_is=1&as_maxy_is=1940&as_brr=3&ei=6EDlS8aDMInezAS1-vzOCQ&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false
    Happy Trails!

  2. Back in the days when Mir and I did road trips, umpty years ago, I always had the sensation that she had gotten what she wanted from a trip before we left; the poem written, events already befallen minor characters in places we had not yet seen.

  3. Hey Rich,

    I really liked The Places In Between by Rory Stewart and The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. I don’t know if Stewart’s trip counts as a road trip though, since he was walking. And The Songlines is more philosophical musing than anything, but I know that Chatwin has other work which is similar in its sort of fantastic/fakey/travel theme. The first book should be in the house, although I stole mom’s copy of the latter.

  4. I suppose my first road trip book would have to be “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame. Oh, the delicious, although happily vicarious, pleasure of setting out in that incredible roadster with Toad of Toad Hall at the wheel! Such an exciting, wide-eyed ride was set in jolting, bumpy contrast to Ratty and Mole gently drifting in a rowing boat on the river. If, perchance, you are thinking of re-reading this tea and scones book do look for a copy with illustrations by either Arthur Rackham (slightly spooky) or E H Shepard (sweetly dignified and probably approved by the author).
    As I get ready, pack and take off on a trip I feel the way Toad does; then later I always settle into the relaxing mode of Ratty and Mole. Packing for a road trip is another topic altogether… as is the clotted cream one serves with the scones.
    Note: my very most unfavorite road trip book is that one by Jack Kerouac, although maybe the movie that is coming out soon will be better.

  5. I look forward to seeing some of these. I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that Wind in the Willows had a road trip in it.

    I became curious if it was possible to search a library catalog (in this case Santa Fe’s) by subject for books about road trips. The subject headings for “Blue Highways” and “Travels with Charley” get no closer to “Road trip” than “United States — Description and travel,” and the ones for “On the Road” don’t mention travel at all. Question for Mir B. and Elizabeth: Does the SFPL catalog have some kind of user/librarian tagging system that I’m not aware of? If not, would the catalog software support it?

    If you pull up, say “Blue Highways” on amazon.com, you find that 15 people have given it the tag “road trip,” making that the second most popular of the 21 tags that readers have applied. Turns out that you can then search by tag, but I couldn’t figure out immediately how to see which items were the most popular road trip items.

    However, on LibraryThing, searching for “road trip” (http://www.librarything.com/tag/road+trip) gets you the following (the numbers show the number of people whose personal collections are cataloged on LibraryThing who’ve used the tag or an “alias”:

    Most often tagged road trip
    * On the Road by Jack Kerouac (140)
    * An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (123)
    * Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (76)
    * Paper Towns by John Green (73)
    * American Gods by Neil Gaiman (53)
    * Going Bovine by Libba Bray (41)
    * Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (40)
    * Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon (28)
    * Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck (26)

    and so on.

    RF

  6. Pingback: Internet Resources for Finding Offbeat Roadside Attractions | Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

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