Interstate driving in the United States gives you a wonderful feeling of freedom. You rarely meet any significant traffic and it is possible to feel, at once, powerful and dominating in whatever giant vehicle you may be driving, yet small and insignificant against the vast, imposing, landscape. It is a baffling paradox in so many ways.
You may have a sense of independence yet with the appearance of Exon, Starbucks and McDonalds at every rest stop and gas station you realise that that feeling is somewhat superficial.
The feeling of wonderful isolation is juxtaposed against the fact that, since the advent of GPS navigation, it is very difficult to get lost and you don’t need to know how to read a map any more.
At times throughout the journey it feels like we are in a team of travellers. We see the same cars periodically as each of us make stops to fill up with gas, to purchase more bitter, burnt truck stop coffee, then catch up and pass each other further down the road. But we never communicate.
Of course, it is possible to counteract these experiences; to play against the paradox. It is possible to drive just a few minutes from the highway to fill up with gas, to get breakfast from the Mom and Pop diner and by doing so help support local businesses. However the sad fact is that as time goes on it is necessary to drive further and further from the highway to find a small town that is not a ghost town.
You can turn off your phone, open an atlas and physically see the scale of your journey spread across several feet of wire bound printed pages but we are scared to turn off our phones in case we miss a message or an email.
I could lean out of the window and wave to the faces I have come to recognise behind the wheel over the last 200 miles, but I am pretty sure I would not get the response I would like.
Or maybe I would?
Perhaps they are all thinking the same thing as me and if we did ever say hello we would then become friends and meet up at a motel off the highway and all go and eat at that cute diner which has been run by the same family of 50 years.