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Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
You are on this page
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Mastering your master
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Yet another gift of the road

Teddy Roosevelt used to brag that his North Dakota ranch was a dozen miles from his nearest neighbor. That's a day's ride to borrow a cup of sugar. He also spoke of how hospitality was a rule among those ranchers, how a passerby was expected to sit a spell on the porch, drinking and telling tales. One of the lessons of the road is the motivation behind all this, our human propensity to grow lonely.

The cities reveal our built-in herd instincts, but our need goes much deeper. I've had the great fortune to meet marvelous, friendly people on this trip, so eager to throw a smile my way, but ever present is the knowledge that we are ships passing in the night. A few times, that forces an intimacy, a drive to share what is deep in our souls, because we know how little time we have to do so. But most of the time, we become acquaintances and I'm rolling along before we become friends. This is what builds the yearning and the vulnerability.

A sea of happy, kind faces, many stopping the Ansel Adams imposter with his raccoon-dog to exchange pleasantries, and behind my grins squirms this child sobbing for the affection that I alone obstruct. The chatter often drifts to how they would love to live my life, without me ever leveling with them about the endemic solitude.

And yes, I've often surprised such yearning folks with, "I've got a spare bed. Jump in." They're so eager until they realize that I'm serious, and then I see the weight of their lives glaze over their eyes. For the year I've been on the road, not one has said, "Oh what the hell, let's do it."

Maybe one day they will, though I suspect it is often added to the dreams taken to the grave. But for those who make the leap, here is your warning. You will become an island -- horny, lonely, and vulnerable to passing intimacy that leaves you more miserable than before.

So much for folk songs about the heroic mystique of the world traveller.

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A tough place to live

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Cannonball Formations

For more pictures of North Dakota, click here.

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