After spending the last three years on the great open road of America, randomness, I have learned, is the inherent beauty of vagabonding. Forget the map, turn off the GPS and just be. What I found was bit of Keourec, a dash of Kuralt with just the right pinch of Least Heat-Moon; a dream road trip for the lover of backroad America and the true aficionado of what is unique Americana.
Here is a small sample of my wandering encounters:
I discussed the meaning of life with a young man dying of colon cancer, engaging in an intense four-hour dialogue with an amazing human being who had taken the worse news anyone can receive and turned it into a personal crusade to live life to the fullest, while exploring his own mortality; a display of personal courage and faith that shook my own belief system to its core. Like most I met on the open road, he was with me for a few hours, then gone forever. Later, to fulfill a promise, I visited his Kentucky grave site.
I shared several beers with a former small town high school football star that had lost his path in life, desperately searching for the fleeting fame that he had known one special Autumn now years gone by.
I spent a brutally hot South Texas September Sunday afternoon in the company of an 80-year-old desert rat with the charm of a rattlesnake and the wisdom of a cloistered monk, reliving the sometime gloried past of a now near ghost town he had all of his life called home.
I broke bread in the home of a third generation North Dakota extended farm family who were struggling to find their niche in a fast spinning world-wide agricultural economy they did not understand.
I settled into an economy class seat on a red eye flight out of Minneapolis, next to a spiritually unfulfilled but financially ultra-successful and wealthy business executive; lamenting the perfect curve ball that had evaded him as a school boy.
I discussed the state of American politics with an aging stripper (I met her in an all-night diner, so perish the salacious thoughts) who was losing her personal battle with the demons of addiction.
I fell into a time warp in the San Juan Mountains of south central Wyoming, experiencing the hard scrabble life of an 19th century snow bound high country rancher.
I heard the heart-warming but melancholy saga of a small town loser, still suspended Peter Pan style in the perpetual end zone of his youth, clinging to the only success he had ever known in life, the celebratory memory of an obscure high school football touchdown of 40 years gone by.
I debated with a friendly elderly but fanatical couple of Tea Partiers in a timeless café on the banks of the Texas Hill Country South Fork of the Brazos River, the role of government and the future of America over a piece of the best cherry pie I have ever tasted.
I was humbled by a “marvelous” night desk clerk with a gold front tooth, laboring in a seedy Gulf of Mexico port side motel; the history teacher taught a history lesson.
Over a late night high mountain camp fire, I shared with an aging hippy - a renaissance man with a charming addiction to wandering the land but an acrimonious distaste for work - a pot of hot coffee while a Rocky Mountain blizzard bore down upon us.
Characters and caricatures, like the endless byways I traveled, on and on the stories rolled.