A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Road Trip

Photo caption: The knight-errant’s charger loaded for travel

And so it begins again: an ancient lone Knight in Kevlar armor astride his old BMW steed goes forth in search of the pulse of his country; seeking in the heat and weather perturbations of climate change to get a glimpse of how the world is being perceived and responded to by the people in the gas stations and family restaurants, camp grounds and Home Depot parking lots across the American Heartland and South.

I recently meet the motorcycle editor for a major ‘man’s’ consumer magazine – in the service area of a BMW dealership; where else!  His brand new bike was in for service on his multi-thousand mile survey of the roads of the mountain west; I was there to get a wheel balanced – they were pretty sure that they did it right, but my bike is so old that the dealership seldom sees wheels like mine.  Anyway, the editor talked about the roads through mountain passes and studies in curves that run for a hundred miles without a single human building.  But my trip is to be something else: Just as one might take a trip to Tanzania or Botswana to see the remains of Africa’s megafauna before it makes its final exit from Africa into the remains of the world’s zoos, I am traveling, alone and unprotected, in rural America to look at the dwindling remains of the cultural seedbed of the spirit that formed the American Mind and that has gone so terribly wrong as it is molded and melded into the new corporate world.

My old bike is ready to go – mostly.  I (meaning my own fingers and toes) mounted new tires, replaced the front wheel bearings, retorqued the heads, set the valve clearances, changed all the oils in engine and running gear, tuned the carburetors (rebuild before my last trip), went over the electricals and tightened up the stuff that tends to get loose; after all that one can only hope that the traveling tool kit is adequate to any future needs.

Equipment lists are made up. Packing plans drawn out and practiced – included this trip is an inflatable kayak.  This is important: a motorcycle can carry only so much; comfort, safety and possibility are all decided sitting at home with a pad of paper and pencil.  And I can’t buy my way out of a failure to plan (there are so many allusions here to bigger issues that I can hardly stand it; and yet, what is bigger to me personally than being stranded 50 miles from anywhere with a broken motorcycle, no food or water, inadequate tent and the wrong clothes – all in a rain storm?).  It is not at all like a car trip where you throw in an extra cooler of sodas and a pillow on the way out the door.

In the next few days I will pack the bike, say goodbye to my kids and the stray acquaintances that I might run into at the coffee shop or library and one morning, very early and with some trepidation, armor up and roll away.  Within the first 20 to 30 miles my mind will still be place-bound, but then there will come that moment when I am on the road.  The colors of the world become new.  The sound of the motor settles into a reassuring hum.  The road becomes my home and the quest becomes my occupation.

I will try, as I can, to post dispatches – especially if experiences are compelling.  And I hope to meet some of the readers of these pages as I travel.  If I know where you are and if I am nearby, I’ll try to arrange a ‘cup of coffee’ meet up as I roll through.  The first leg of the trip is from New Mexico to Florida by any route (avoiding interstate highways) that pleases me; after that we will see!

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