Gone to Parts Unknown

I love to travel but I’ve never really been able to do it the way that I would most like. That is to say that I would prefer to just randomly choose a direction and then follow it without too many preconceived plans or any type of time table. The ultimate experience would be just to one day stock my trailer with clothing and provisions and take off like explorers of old. Mike and I would be modern day incarnations of Lewis and Clark, discovering both the majestic and the mundane as we drive down the road. The great thing about having no schedule is that it would allow us to tarry in places that drew our interest and to follow those prosaic roads less traveled. Our trailer would be akin to covered wagons of old. 

The only problem with such gypsy like travel is that we would no doubt often find ourselves having to park overnight at a Walmart or rest area because campgrounds tend to fill up with more rational individuals who reserve spaces far in advance. Serendipity can leave one stranded in the modern world but boon docking without electricity isn’t necessarily all that bad in a pinch. There is something quite alluring about simply following the wind and never knowing exactly where we will be from one day to the next. In fact, Mike and I have found some of the most awesome and memorable places when we were doing little more than driving aimlessly around. 

One time while journeying toward Montana we saw a tiny sign announcing that we were only a few miles away from “The Ruts.” Of course our curiosity got the best of us and we left the main road in search of this mysterious sounding place. Our route ended at what had once been an old trail followed by pioneers moving west. The constant traffic from wagon trains had left the imprint of wheels permanently etched in the stones. The site was literally in the middle of nowhere and the silence, save for the whistling of the wind, was haunting. An historical marker indicated that the intrepid people who came along this route often had to pull their wagons themselves because the “roadway” was too treacherous for the horses. As I stood there I literally felt the spirit of those individuals who had little idea of where they were going or how their new lives would be. I understood the sheer effort and courage that they must have mustered to be willing to continue moving ahead. I wondered what form of desperation had led them to this desolate place. Seeing those ruts was one of the most interesting experiences that I have ever had and if we had simply stuck to our original travel plans I would never have even known that they existed. To really know a place is to explore its unfamiliar and hidden treasures. 

I’ve been watching The Big Blue on PBS this week and wanting to kick myself on the backside. A few years back Mike and I brought our grandson, Jack, to this part of the world on a trip designed to focus on San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite it was on an almost ignored trail that we had our most wonderful hike. In the San Francisco area it was along the Pacific coast that we found the truest sense of discovery. On one particular day we randomly chose to travel to Monterrey Bay which was about one hundred miles from our hotel. We knew little about the place and were ill prepared for our journey but what we found when we got there was majestic. The only real trouble with our visit was that it was far too short. We should have spent several days really getting to know and understand what we were seeing. After watching the PBS special this week I realize just how much we missed. Questions that we had were explained on the program. Now I find myself wanting to return, only this time I will tarry a while and slowly digest the wonders of this extraordinary place.

I can name so many random adventures that we have enjoyed that turned out to be far better than our original plans. A trip to Chatham on Cape Cod was so delightful that we set aside our schedule to spend an extra day so that we might get to know the essence of the tiny town. Driving along the old mining road from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek proved to be a journey that none of us have ever forgotten. Renting a Jeep and going up a treacherous mountainside in Ouray, Colorado was breathtaking. Jostling on washboard roads to reach Chaco Canyon was worth breathing in all of the dust. Grocery shopping in the real Forks, Washington was enchanting. Walking along the Civil War battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia was moving beyond description. Each of these treks came from last minute decisions and yet they were more fun than many of the destinations that we had placed on our original timetables. 

Mike is ready to become a road warrior. He has set up all of our monthly expenses so that they may be paid for online. He has equipped our trailer with extra battery power and sewage capabilities. He often speaks of wanting to follow the path that Lewis and Clark took in their incredible journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. I would like to follow the Oregon Trail or go from one end of Interstate 10 to another. Grandson, William wants us to take him to San Diego and then head north in a journey through California. I’d like to travel the length of the Atlantic coast or visit the northeast in the fall. 

I tell myself that there are so many places and so little time and yet now that Mike and I are retired I wonder what else we have to do. One of my former principals is perpetually on the road. He visits one exotic place after another and only returns to refuel and check on his home. Another friend plans to live in her RV for the coming months, traveling to parts unknown. 

I remember watching a strange movie with Harrison Ford in which he and his family simply left their home in the middle of dinner so that they might search for adventure. They didn’t do the dishes or put away the leftover food. They just got up and went away. Of course, I can’t imagine going to that kind of extreme but I think that it would be fun to get up one morning, hitch the trailer to the truck and just choose a direction and go. 

This morning when I was reading the BBC news online I learned about an interesting place in Georgia known as “The Georgia Guidestones.” It seems that way back in 1979, a stranger came to Elbert County with a proposal for a structure that he and an unnamed group of businessmen wanted to erect at the top of a mountain. He called himself R.C. Christian and he secured all of the necessary permits and financing to erect a strange edifice composed of five granite slabs topped by a granite capstone. A center post is surrounded by four monoliths that are celestially aligned. A slit in the capstone marks the phases of the moon and the solstices. On the front and the back of each of the four stones are suggestions for living. The instructions are written in eight different languages including English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Swahili, Hindi, Chinese, and Hebrew. The strange message is as follows:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Nobody has ever unlocked the mystery of who was responsible for the structure or what its message is intended to convey but it has become an attraction for tourists from around the world. I think that I would like to go see the place just for the fun of it. Who knows what else I might discover along the way?

The world is filled with so many wonders and many of them are right here in our own backyard. Don’t be surprised if one day you pass by my home and see a sign attached to the front door that announces, “Gone to parts unknown!”