The convertible top folds down and tucks away as the car backs out of the driveway. The wind instantly fills your hair, lifting every strand deliberately off your scalp. Your hand scoops the air in an unplanned rhythm. And you’re off to a destination separated only by land.
Circa 2002 when Britney Spears was at her peak and ventured into the acting arena with Crossroads there was no other way to imagine traveling.
Anyone who has hopped in the car and headed off before or after that wonderfully awful moment in cinematic history knows that experience is far from how road trips go. While it may not be the murder spree of Thelma and Louise, it’s often anything but glamorous.
Early this year, I had to journey from Arizona to the east side of Texas. Though the two states are separated only New Mexico, anyone who has ever driven through Texas knows it is one of the longest, most unpleasant stretches of land in the United States.
There are no mountain ranges to base your progression off of. The opportunities for a bathroom break become few and far between. The limited human encounters that occur are strained by thick accents and impatient small town distractions.
And despite hours-long playlists, there is no way to truly distract from the exhausting stretch of dirt and shrubbery.
Now that you have a relative grasp on my feeling towards Texas travel, I will get to the point. Even though my 40-hour, round trip was a painful journey, few things have ever inspired me more.
I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, walk through the Coliseum, stood on Hawaii’s shores and white-water rafted in Austria, but none of those things peeked my interest quite like a small town on in Texas, near the Arkansas border.
I had fallen in love with a story idea, but had no idea where to set it. I had pictured a Southern-style atmosphere, but my exposure to the area was limited. I knew wherever it was, I needed it to be an older town with a history that overshadowed the present, there had to be cemeteries and it had to be a town people would drive through more often than visit.
Like a gift, Avinger emerged and was better than anything I had attempted to imagine.
The trees that shot up around me shadowed worn out lake houses and the welcome sign estimating a population of 444 beckoned me into the world I had been waiting to find.
The trip was horribly long and the town was something I wouldn’t have thought twice of had it not been our intended destination. The reason we had ended up in this town was shrouded by sadness and anger, but the personal appeal it had to my writing needs was undeniable from the moment I crossed into the barely livable location.
Of all the monuments I had seen and all the wonders my eyes had beheld there was nothing in those ancient architectures that did for me what this road trip had done.
Whether you’re arguing, entertaining or filling the silence, the conversation that occurs within the confines of an extended road trip are some of the most honest you will observe.
Take the time to relish in the inability to escape communication. One of the reasons why dialogue can be so difficult to depict in writing is because too often people find a way to avoid it. Some turn to technology to limit discussion, others simply leave the room, but in a vehicle there is no escape.
If you can’t gain much from your surroundings, indulge in the opportunity to hear people talk. Good, bad or indifferent the submergence in car conversation is a unique opportunity to discover dialogue in its truest form.
Don’t be so quick to pass up on an unappealing getaway. Whether it’s escorting your parent to a great aunt’s funeral or picking up a piece of furniture in a Podunk locale, a bad trip can turn into writing gold if you allow it to occur.
The trip had the potential to be terrible. Our purpose for traveling was in no way for please and the 2,500 miles that was covered in three days is enough to drive anyone to the brink of insanity. What I gained in those miles was worth all of the bad food, scary hotels and road-weary hours spent.
Has a trip ever inspired your fiction writing?