A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

Ahh, the motherboard’s replaced, the hard drive reformatted and reloaded, several other strangely concurrent electronic breakdowns around the house are fixed, over two weeks’ hassle closed down, the bills paid. I’m free at last from the clutches of utterly incompetent electronic craftsmanship by both E-Machines’ chipset manufacturer and the maker of my air conditioner’s former compressor unit, neither of whose brand names I can recall. [What else but manufacturing incompetence can explain either a well fanned motherboard or well maintained AC compressor each dying after 2.5 years?]

Yes, many have it much worse, and I cannot forget growing up without either AC or a computer. I’m fortunate to have either. Still, newfound liberty from aggravation is a good thing. In celebration, Winamp’s cranked up really loud, the best damn salsa ever made (Xochitl hot chipotle, from Dallas of course) rides yellow corn tortilla chips into my throat before a thunderous cascade of Dublin Dr Pepper to rival Niagara Falls washes it down; and all is well for the moment.

Dwight Yoakam’s timeless, guitar pickin’ masterpiece, “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” — a solid top-5 favorite song of mine — harkens back to a solitary drive in the Western high desert one warm March afternoon in 1998, when I heard and first really appreciated it. And I’m telling you, a life that hasn’t included that song on a wide open road isn’t yet complete.

US 305 roams NW out of Reno, across the California border, sweeping along for miles and miles across the wide open desert plains. For most of that distance it rolls along a gradual slope of grassy desert gravel that ramps down from the abrupt wall of the Sierra Nevada to the west, and into the broad, shallow, alkaline expanse of Honey Lake to the east. Only a very few houses or trailers, and one little post office, dot an otherwise wondrously stark landscape, surroundings that bring to mind what the Colorado Front Range corridor must have looked like, minus the lake and before much human settlement.

The day was calm, warm and bright, the air crystal clear, the sky huge and deep blue and decorated with a few wisps of cirrus, noontime sunlight mirroring off the lake images of distant little mountain ranges in Nevada. Deep caps of snow blanketed the crags and crests of the mountains above me to the left. I was cruising north, windows down, radio on, that song starting to play. It was a weekday, with absolutely nobody else on that glass-smooth two lane highway for what seemed like forever. Troubled thoughts of a troubled marriage fell aside and I began to immerse in the moment, warmly as the sunshine. It felt like a thousand miles from nowhere, and time didn’t matter to me. When the song ended I just turned off the radio and let it replay in my head, the breeze of the cruise being the only other sound. For 20 miles and 20 minutes, I was free as can be from everything but the open road and that enormous western sky.

Eight and a half years and a new and infinitely better marriage later, I still think back to that amazing third of an hour. Sometimes I’ve come close to the moment again, catching that tune on some distant station while rolling on the blue highways of the Great Plains, whether in the Nebraska Sandhills, the northern Texas Panhandle, Thunder Basin National Grassland, or somewhere between Wray and St. Francis. It’s more than the music or the place, but the very state of being out there, free as can be on some roadway stretching off into the distance and over the horizon, crossing a land as vast and wide open as the sky above. Do this, whatever the music, or even with none at all but that of the western meadowlark. Get out there. Go.


3 Responses to “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere”

  1. Dave Chapman on October 3rd, 2005 4:08 pm

    Thanks for the poignant explanation of the appeal of wandering quiet highways on the Plains, a hint at a major motivational factor of the annual springtime pilgrimage by urban dwellers in search of severe storms. Or as Walt Whitman put it:

    “Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
    Healthy, free, the world before me,
    The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

    Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
    Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
    Strong and content, I travel the open road.”

  2. Aaron Kennedy on October 6th, 2005 12:31 am

    Glad to know I’m not the only one that loves to just cruise the rural highways and byways! Taking the less beaten path is a definite plus to storm chasing as Dave pointed out.

    As of late, gas prices have put a damper on some of my random trips, but I’ll get out there again one of these days…

  3. melanie on December 17th, 2005 7:23 am

    “All kings is mostly Rapscallions” Mark Twain, and our goverment overflows with Royalties. “Allons thus is the efflux of the soul”Whitman.

    Must I provoke or inspire? Allow you to seek the truths of your earth call me such names: nomad, vagabond, bard, Jester, tinker traveler, hobo, bum, dead head? I make your skin crawl and you say it is the bugs who find my hair to be a fine place to live. Walk on to the bus stop hail a cab gaze out your picture window. What do you see in the waves that strive to devistate your millions of dollors a home. I Sea I am the road the mountains trees notice me bending to shade me from a scorching sun. Rivers through mountains pass a meal of crawfish and salmon enough that i might share with your lot and still leave with a meal in my pouch and my pooch. The bugs do not make your skin crawl. your skin begs to be let loose from the confining poisoned shrouds ludicrous even on such a fine citizen as you proclaim to be. What makes you fine? have you a meal to share a lesson to teach a soul to bare a tale to tell? How much an imposition must I suffer in order to beg your pardon. What medicine do you offer in your bitter condescending speech. I thank you and I walk on for you can not desire me more boldly without ranting raving and condemning me to society. Thank you and I hope to meet you again farther down the road under a different name so that I always remember how a gypsy such as myself will never fit into your fine world. Written by Melanie Rothery dec.16th 2005 I was inspired by the Song of the open road to express myself I hope to soon be moving more swiftly down said road not sure where I’m to end up heading towards Wolf Creek Ski Pass cuz I’ve never been and I had a dream about a place I’ve never been in 1996 traveled elsewhere then, just now realising my dreams beginning Fare Thee Well My Own Sweet Friends (please dont spell check me I’m ok with this rough original)

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