Born To Run Or, Whither Goest Thou, America, In Thy Shiny Car in the Night?

When I was eighteen, I conjured up this dream and it’s been rattling away in the recesses of my mind ever since.

You grow up listening to Springsteen and it messes you up. Especially if you’ve got wild horses thrashing around in your blood.

Those ponies make it tough for a girl to sit still and stay in one place for too long.

My dream is simple – I want to climb into an old pick-up truck (faded red, answers to the name ‘Charlie’), drive across the country and document a musical history of the United States.

I would stop in all 48 mainland states, take pictures, talk to people, visit landmarks, eat the food and write about all the music enriching the soil of this great land of ours.

In Mississippi, I go down to the Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil and I’d spend the night in some smoky bar listening to grizzled old bluesmen leaving bloodstains on their fretboards.

I’d visit Lake Bird Lake in Austin and leave some real fat Ernie Ball strings and a pack of Fender picks for Stevie Ray – the entire excursion fueled by dirty, gritty blues, Tex-Mex food and big-ass margaritas on the rocks.

I fell in love with New York City the first time I visited and part of my heart will always belong to the place where punk and hip hop crash and rumble like runaway subway trains.

I’d spend a couple of weeks in Memphis just wandering around trying to inhale as much as I could because my God, this is the holy land. The Damascus of music where both the blues and rock ‘n roll were born. The home of Sun Studios and Stax Records and Graceland and the Gibson guitar factory. Oh and I would eat the hell out of some barbecue. Sorry, Mom but I can’t be in Memphis writing about music and not house some barbecue – sweet, spicy, sticky fingers, a cold beer and a warm biscuit to mop it all up.

It’s kinda cliched, right? Any teenager who’s read On The Road by Jack Kerouac longs to feel like a million dollars and go adventuring into that crazy American night.

Only, I’ve never read On The Road.

I just got into my car one day and discovered I’d rather be driving in the sunshine than doing anything else.

Logically, it is a terrible idea.

I have an awful sense of direction, I’m entirely too trusting and I know nothing about car maintenance.

For example, last weekend I went to get an oil change. I noticed they were running a special for a fuel injection cleaning, so I inquired about it:

Me: I don’t know if I need an fuel injection cleaning.
Lady at Counter: When was the last time you had one?
Me: I don’t know.
Lady at Counter: How old’s your car?
Me: A 2004? A 2005?
Lady at Counter: Honey, do you know what a fuel injector is?
Me: No…
Lady at Counter (thinking): Dear God, where is your adult? Why are you here unsupervised? Where is the grown-up responsible for you, you idiotic little halfling baby child?
Me (thinking): I might not know what a fuel injector is but I know what a split goddamn infinitive is, so how about you cut me some slack, lady? Just make the Maintenance Required light go away!

Obviously, I am the last girl that should go on a solo cross-country road trip.

But every now and then, I’ll be driving down a straight and lonely road on a warm day – breeze tangling my hair, music turned up entirely loud – and I think how it would be so easy to just keep going.

I even outlined a plan for it:

Reason #4677 it’s a terrible idea for me to embark on this endeavor – who develops a plan with magic markers, photographs from Rolling Stone and glitter? What, kid? You’ve never heard of a map? You can get them for free!

Prince and The Replacements in Minnesota, Stevie Ray and ZZ Top in Texas, Elvis and BB King in Memphis, Motown and Iggy in Detroit, Bruce in Jersey — Anywhere the music I loved happened, I would go…and I love a lot of music so this is going to be a long trip.

I haven’t done it yet (obviously) but I’m always tracing around the periphery of this dream. Every time I get into my car, there’s this tiny splinter of hope. This barely perceptible shiver of a sliver that maybe today is the day I get in, turn up the music, roll down the windows and just keep going.

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road

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