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
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
So much for folk songs about the
heroic mystique of the world traveller.
A tough place to live
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
|For more pictures of North Dakota, click here.