I’ve become a bit afraid of this blog. Blogs have become places for a writer make her mark, places to gain a following. Places where your unselfconscious account of your adventures in coupon-clipping as a broke-ass rehab-graduate gains you a fan base that you never, in your wildest Pollyanna dreams, could have imagined.
I forgot why I started this thing in the first place. First, to break the spell of the blank page: a short blog post is the equivalent of a running push to a VW van with a dead battery. A kick in the pants that leads you to god-knows-where. Second, travel. Just that. Third, the joy of writing like no one is reading (my version of the old “dance like no one’s watching” maxim – ’cause I sure as hell don’t dance).
So. I am broke (1.4 years to debt-free!), and cannot travel. Instead, I dream. And plan. And remember.
First, the dreaming. I want to drive to Alaska. More about that in a future post, I’m sure. Second, the planning. More realistic travels: once I’m debt-free, I have researched and discovered that it will cost me $2.2K to fly to Boston, rent a car, drive up the coast on the cheap and camp throughout the glorious Acadia National Park, eventually finding my way to Prince Edward Island, where my sisters will be waiting, having flown in the night before. (This is gonna happen, man.)
Finally, the remembering. For a young(ish) person, I have some hella good trips to remember. Tonight, I was remembering Kentucky. I think.
On my Road Trip (always in caps), when I was 24, I had a long list of sights to see. I’d been building that list for years, culled from the burgeoning internet and RoadsideAmerica.com, and recommendations from far-flung friends, and amazing magazines like Weird New Jersey. My supreme college roommate Katy gave me a parting gift of a perfectly organized pendaflex with AAA maps of every state, and I turned my list into highlighted towns and cramped notes along the margins.
This worked exceedingly well. I was guided to the most amazing surprises. Since the lag time between planning and traveling was 1-5 years, sometimes I had completely forgotten why I wrote “White Squirrel Mecca” next to a town’s name, or what the source for that little tidbit was. It made for an infinitely surprising and awesome road trip.
Of course, it also made for a few lost places. I didn’t take the most comprehensive notes in my journal, and sometimes, all I have left are a handful of photos (like that of Little Guy‘s grave) and a hideously faulty memory.
Like this place. From the photos that surrounded it in my borrowed Kodak Advantix camera, I discovered it during my speedy (or speedy for me, which still meant back roads all the way) trip from Minnesota to Atlanta in December of 2003, where an airline ticket awaited me to take me home for Christmas. I have a vague memory of dogwoods, and the Blue Ridge Parkway… I think it might have been Kentucky. I’m pretty sure. Alfred somebody-or-other’s statues – an outsider artist who created these strange, life-size, concrete persons. From the remnants of paint on the faces, they may have once been bright and colorful. When I found them, they were gray and missing limbs, the greenery just barely being kept back from engulfing them.
They were fantastic. I had followed a strange trail there, not knowing what to expect, and the creepy, abandoned, kudzu-encroaching feeling of the place had not disappointed. As I wandered among them, snapping photos, I heard a howl. From out of nowhere, a wolf appeared. (Well, probably more of a husky-mix, but still. And he was actually ridiculously friendly – we tossed my mascot, Stripes, back and forth for ages, and he postured like a puppy.)
I have not the foggiest idea of how to find this spot again. For all I know, the kudzu has won the battle and the statues have been absorbed by the forest. Or my memory is just truly terrible, and it was actually Florida and the artist was named Jeanine Smith. Who knows.
But it doesn’t really matter. Yes, reality is a good basis for travel memories. But it’s how those memories impacted me, the bit that I took away from the trip, that really matters. (To me, anyway – I’m remarkable self-centered and don’t care much for the travel dollars that a blog with a following of 4 people could have poured into that small Kentucky/Florida hamlet.) And there was a longing about that place, a sense that time had either already forgotten, or would very soon forget, the spot, a sense that would have been ruined by my being able to locate it on a map and return.
Or so I tell myself. Because I really, really want to try and find it again.