Freedom’s Road

Route 66 is freedom’s road. And we are truly free out here, cruising down America’s highway through a country as vast as infinity. We are unplugged and untracked and unlocated. No one can “follow us” as we stopped “updating” when we left Chicago. The only tweets now are coming from the song-birds.

For six weeks we are really “off-grid” and it feels liberating. (Funny how before departure, I was so concerned about wifi and internet access and “would my phone get a signal in such and such a place?” Now that we are rolling, it all seems so irrelevant!)

The lack of connections frees the mind, making mental space to focus on the “here and now.” Living for the day we are in, without too much thought for tomorrow, we can appreciate each moment of discovery. We are not looking for the “big” sites, not really looking for “sites” at all. Rather we are making a mental collage of imagery and impressions. Maximizing the pleasure of each mile. Forming our own ideas about “America.”

ROBERT FRANK, JACK KEROUAC AND “US”…?

This trip is kind of like a trip through time. But not exactly… We are not as interested in the “historical” places as we are in the “spirit” of an era.

The United States in the post-WWII years was a nation full of dreams and people who believed they could realize them. Route 66 was their road. We wanted to “feel” something of that experience, as evoked with words in “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac and reflected in Robert Frank’s photographic masterpiece “The Americans.” Somehow these two creative works represented an idea of America’s hopes and fear and that amazing “can-do-anything-be-anything” energy that cannot be explained. It can only be felt.

Robert Frank created his portrait of America in the 1950s, criss crossing the U.S. on a road trip in 1955-56. His imagery, which was criticized when the book was released in 1959, showed the country as it was — a patchwork of hope and despair and dreams for a better future. A masterpiece of street photography, it came to define the style, hauntingly depicting the reality of racial tension, poverty and wealth, glamour and beauty, and American car culture of the day. (For more on Robert Frank, see “Americans: The Book That Changed Photography,” on NPR)

Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to Frank’s book. In fitting fashion, it was decided when the photographer showed the writer his work while they were sitting on a sidewalk outside of a party one night. Kerouac had just published “On the Road” in 1957 and the novel based on his spontaneous road trips across mid-century America was already considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation. Inspired by jazz music and poetry (not too mention drugs), the book was written in three weeks, typed onto a continuous scroll (a 120-foot roll of teletype paper), created as the physical embodiment of a burst of artistic energy. (For more on Jack Kerouac, see “Kerouac’s On the Road,” on NPR)

Times have changed, but hope and despair still define the limits of the American Dream, and this is the America we are trying to discover out here…

2 Responses to “Freedom’s Road”

  1. CactusKiller says:

    … que de nostalgie … ca me donne envie de recommencer !

  2. Blue Coyote says:

    Well i’m ready to hit the road again whenever you are… we just need to find a time frame….

    and seriously, i am definitely going to go back and spend a bit more time on different segments of the trip… just kind of do those sections a bit “deeper”… because our 2010 trip was really only an “appetizer”… (ironic, because when we were planning it, it was like “the trip of a lifetime”… “the trip to end all trips”… “the jewel in the crown”… etc… and once we did it, we realized it was just an introduction!!!!!)

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