We have now been on the road in three segments for a total of almost nine months, and there is one thought that keeps me company as we drive through America.
I wonder a lot about the very roads we have traveled.
Why are they where they are? How long have they been there, and who first put them there?
I’m not referring to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system, wonderful though it may be. It’s about every other road that goes a certain way for reasons that may be lost in time. It’s about villages and towns that are in a certain place for a specific reason, which may or may not have been revealed to us. It’s about people who, millennia ago, knew the very best way to get from point A to point B – and knew why point A and point B were worth the trip. And now, we follow in their path.
There are always reasons why so many things we take for granted are the way they are. When we have had a chance to explore some history, we have learned things that lifted a veil we often didn’t even realize was there.
There is just so much to understand about this land and our history. How lucky we have been to scratch the surface and see some patterns that explain more about what drove the people who first inhabited this land, and those who later raced West to consume it. But the journey has been more revealing than that.
It would be easy to simply tsk at the nasty bits, glorify the heroic and just be thankful we now have indoor plumbing. No, we keep learning that those of us living today have nothing special to congratulate ourselves for, as if we were more evolved than our early ancestors. They were just as smart, but with less technology, and you don’t need technology to engage with your fellow man. The nature of humanity hasn’t changed a bit, and some of us behave very badly, given the chance. But, not all of us.
So when I drive down a winding road that needs to curve and wander a bit before it gets me to my destination, I try to understand it as a path built very purposefully a long time ago by people who knew exactly why it needed to move that way. We may have made it wider, driven horses and wagons over it, and eventually blacktopped it. But maybe we can’t take credit for that road, or the fact that it connects two now-important places where we live and work.
Many of the roads we have followed are ripe with history – carrying a story of human curiosity, need, imagination, learning and hardship, in many cases. The stories are all there. You just need to stop and understand the road you may be traveling.