I have been driving a lot—a fact that I think gets glossed over in any large-scale, destination-based road trip. I can muse in this blog about great camps (and there is much musing to do), but in doing so I fundamentally neglect or outright exclude the fact that for every hour I’ve spent visiting a camp, there have been at least two hours of traveling to get there. Understandably so—who would want to read a blog about the monotony of road travel?
‘I drove today on a lot of pavement. Some of the pavement was smooth and didn’t make me think my car was going to take a dip too hard and crack into two pieces. Other parts of the pavement was less smooth and made me think my car was going to take a dip too hard and crack into two pieces. I bought another coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and again proceeded to shove the empty Styrofoam cup under my seat, reminding myself that today would be a good day for trash clean-up.’
All that said, I maintain a certain fondness for long road trips. Aside from the fact that they remind me my body’s ability to create shirt-saturating amounts of sweat by just sitting, road trips around the United States make me remember (a) the vast amount of space within our borders and (b) the power of quietness.
(a) I forget, until I take to America’s pavement, the vast immensity of this country. I cannot seem to fathom that though Vermont is no bigger than my pinky on maps, there are hundreds of dense green miles within it, many of which lack cellphone service and are incredibly good at confusing my general sense of direction. Everything is winding, and every home seems to double as a family farm with fresh eggs and berries. And if those family farms prove everything, it’s that the roads only serve to connect what is the majority of space in America. It is entirely overwhelming.
(b) Also, road trips (especially solo road trips) provide a certain catatonic atmosphere to do some quiet introspection. I will admit that my hours on the road haven’t lead me to any profound conclusions. I’ve mostly thought about how delightfully odd it is that I’ve now forced my path to cross with the directors and staff of so many great camps. I’ve also given some real thought to the best combinations of toppings for a pizza (opinion forthcoming).
The American road trip is thus a space of liminality—of putting one’s mind and body in an unknown place. It is, in essence, the very work that camp sets out to do. Let me be clear that I don’t believe camp is the equivalent to a road trip, but some of the driving forces are the same. The camps I’ve visited thus far have reminded me, in the words of Bill Bryson, “the benign dark power of the words.” They have, in other words, made me re-recognize the importance of campers being pushed into paths uncharted both in their steps and in their minds.
My minivan lost somewhere in the woods of Vermont outside Farm and Wilderness Camps.