Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Blue highways of America

We are a product of our many experiences. Even our genetic chemistry has much to do with how we see the world. I've driven myself to drink trying to figure out what makes me tick. What I've learned along the way is that — coupled with a quixotic nature — I am a product of what I have read.

Subsequently, I've read every adventure/travel book written from Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" to Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highway." However, the epitome of all adventure/travel stories has to be the adventures of Odysseus in Homer's "The Odyssey."

Consequently, I hitchhiked the length and breadth of the country, rode freight trains and rafted lazy rivers. Those activities seldom exist anymore. What exists now is a very mechanized, technocratic world in which there are rules and regulations at every stop. The adventure of the open road builds a certain character that you don't get in Little League.

Since 1969 I have had 15 road trips traveling the blue highways of America. For me, wandering re-establishes the original harmony that once existed between the universe and us. Travel is the antithesis to narrow-mindedness. Broad wholesome views of people, places and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in front of a computer or a television. While on the road, one is closer to the wild heart of life; thus, instead of thinking how things may be, we see them as they are.

Wanna know a secret? Don't tell anyone, but Kaitzer has had this eerie compulsion to go to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. I'm as baffled as you are. Why would such a sophisticated, intelligent lady aspire to go to Dollywood? I know what you're thinking: If she's so darn smart, why the heck did she marry you? Good question, grasshopper!

Well, in conjunction with Kaitzer's vision of a day in Dollywood, my brother Fred announced that this year's Decatur Celebration in Decatur, Ill., would be his last. He is the director/producer of the event, and after 30 years he was finally retiring. So Kaitzer and I decided to kill three birds with one stone. We'd visit Dollywood, take in the Decatur Celebration, and take the girls on a road trip across America.

There's no better way to see America than from the road. Thus, I continue to heed the words of Tennessee Williams, "Make voyages! Attempt them…there's nothing else." Remember what Bilbo Baggins used to say, "Travel is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Adventure is a path. Real adventure, self-determined, self-motivated and often risky forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way we imagine it. Adventure will change us. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.

We're on the road heading to Springfield, Ill., by way of North Carolina's Smokey Mountains and all points east and west. Tonight we're holding up in Abilene, Texas.

"On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the black roads blue. In the brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk, the old road returns to the sky some of its color. Then in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue. It is that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a person can lose himself." (William Least Hurt Moon).

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at doctorjoe@ymail.com.

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