Thoughts from a Freeway Nowhere

the blur of a freeway guard rail


Virginia hasn’t caught on that it’s summertime just yet as the evening air is chilling my arms into breezy stand up straight fields of black hairs. A bench in front of an overpriced Comfort Inn off of I-81 plays office for the moment as I tap these words out on my phone. It’s been 80 mph almost non-stop these past few days, our usual travel plans of slow days spent on two lanes and stopping wherever might seem fitting interrupted by a need to be specific places at particular times for weddings, birthdays and airplane terminals. 

I forget why I loathe freeways so much, until I’m on them, the barreling urgency of every loose cannon rig driver and hot shot minivan weekend amateur vying for the foot or two they can squeeze out between one another on their fast lane to becoming the next highway casualty, all while the guard rails can’t be bothered to let in any scenery short of what billboards touting the next fast food chain hotel exit awaits. Interstate is a euphemism for a dying America, where the dream of freedom, exploration and making is constantly being replaced by ownership, security and consumption. I vow to, after this last stint, never take the freeway again. Like I’ve always done before, like I’ll do again the next time I forget to leave earlier or spread plans further apart. 

Some teenage girls are playing “up all night” in the stairwell, the slam of the door as they giggle in and out of the hallway nearly waking my sleeping family in this mauve replica of every other hotel room just off any given exit. 

I saw signs for US 60 today, the only divisible-by-ten US Highway I’ve yet to explore. A quick glance at the map tells me I could follow it all the way to Arizona, or to the Pacific if it were forty years ago. US 11 signage looked promising, and an exit touting access to the Blue Ridge Parkway reminded me that if we’d only taken one extra day we could have been wheels deep in gorgeous mountain expanses all this way. Instead, we’ll likely find ourselves drinking McDonalds coffee and pumping the breaks all day tomorrow to avoid permanently joining our front bumper with one of several road ragers who think that by squeezing into the four seconds between me and the guy ahead, who’s also just waiting for the next guy, and so on, they’ll somehow slip by the tractor trailer and Kia that are doing 55 neck and neck from here through Maryland. 

The girls in the hallway slam the door again. The hotel has no bar. I fall asleep dreaming of a convertible in some 1950s version of the open road.