Years ago I read a story in the local paper about two men, where they live and how they felt about their spot in the country. One man lived on the East coast and looked out at the ocean from his property. In his view he felt as if he could see forever and couldn’t imagine not living by the sea. Another man lived in the middle of the country and looked out on open fields of green that went for miles and he too felt as if he could see forever. The two decided to switch places for two weeks to see how the other lived and to, at least for a while, see how they felt in differing habitats. The experiment ended in five days. Both men could see the appeal of how the other lived but felt trapped in their surroundings. The ocean man who was now viewing endless land felt suffocated while the landlocked man felt as if he was about to fall off the end of the earth with the ocean at his fingertips instead of his calming land. Both knew that they were lucky to live in these wonderful places and now began to fully understand that although both had its merits, they felt more comfortable in the one better suited for them. These days I can’t stop thinking about this story.
Today, I saw America. As we channeled the two yutes of My Cousin Vinny fame and tried desperately not to get stuck in the mud in Alabama or have to deal with positraction (‘you know, when one wheel spins and the other does nothin’) we had a truly interesting day. We awoke in Chattanooga, had lunch in Alabama and dinner in Nashville all the while enjoying the wiles of the open road. Road trips are a different animal and allow for a lot of reflection and thought.
As we drove through the open roads of Alabama, in the heart of Dixie, it was peaceful. Although, we couldn’t make it to some of the larger cities known for Civil Rights fame, we were no less in Alabama – Roll Tide! Tractors, open roads and life were all happening as we drove. Stopping to take a photo in Alabama mud and photograph the land, we made our way to the US Space and Rocket Center (in Huntsville) to see bits of NASA up close. There were world-class rockets and lunar modules to see along with stealth CIA aircraft and other NASA technology…unless something changes in life, it’s as close to space as I’m going to get at the moment. After noticing a bit of a flat tire and popping some air in we headed to the Walmart tire and lube center and the fabulous folks patched up the leaking tire for 10$ and a smile. Real people, real kindness, real life! Okay, so we didn’t get stuck in the mud, but we did have some sort of car debacle-movie much?
As we crossed back into Tennessee and grabbed tickets to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium, we felt comfortable in our car and with our new fascination with the open road. After a quick change of clothes we were on our way to the Ryman but first took a wander down the streets of Nashville at night. Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist! Photos with guitars, Elvis’s and anything country that was on display took place regularly. Dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery and a saunter down Broadway led us to the Ryman, home to country music legends, royalty and Grand Ole Opry fame.
Buses upon buses unloaded as people took their seats in the wooden pews designed for the evangelical church tabernacle that is today the home to voices upon voices and known as the church of country music. Looking around, I again felt, this is America-different than where I’m from yet much the same-this is what I love! In this arena, diversity was limited and the average age slightly older than 60 in the audience on this Tuesday night in December. This road trip is so very different to others we’ve taken. Although I’ve driven countless times throughout the Northeast and many times down the coast of California, this is the first time spending so much time away from salty sea air. It’s truly amazing that although we all live in the same country, some of life as we know it is completely different-yet so much of the big picture the same. Living life to the fullest and enjoying family, friends and fun were on for the evening. The crowd at the Opry is different than a crowd at Broadway on a weeknight. The difference was palpable but the feeling of enjoyment, community, togetherness and pride mutual. No matter where we are in the world we notice that similarities are far greater than differences – travel brings so much perspective to the mind.
As is with all things travel, there are experiences and learning that takes place when one least expects it. In the few short days we’ve been on the road, we both already feel like we’ve gained insights. The world is smaller than most people think, life is lived no matter where you are, all spaces have merits, people are mostly good and we are so very lucky to have this opportunity are topics that have popped up daily in our journey on the road. No matter what, I’m thrilled to be in this situation and to have the chance to experience this road trip. Informal learning is some of my favourite and it’s happening at every turn. Here’s to life on the great open road…see you out there!