Life on the Road

Long white dashes unfold before me, a familiar friend now as the road goes ever on. The hours and the miles slip by; sometimes quietly, sometimes in the chaos of gridlock. Trees, signs, and the beckoning neon glow of rest stops become a blur; my mind wandering while those long white dashes stretch out into the distance.

Off in the inky blackness beyond the reach of my headlights, faint hues of dull orange begin to highlight the mountain's edge in the quiet pre-dawn hours. I take another gulp of coffee. Only three hours of sleep last night, and then on the road again. I love and hate this time of the morning–just as the sky begins to lighten into a new day. I'd rather be sleeping, but there's a strange comfort in the silence and the isolation of a dark highway at 5 a.m. 

Down in the valley, city lights glimmer through a fog settling in. Do sodium vapor lights really glimmer? My mind wanders again, caught between fatigue and the caffeine desperately trying to catch up. Thoughts about school, home, photo projects, this assignment, Iraq, friends…snippets of everything and nothing bouncing around inside my head while I live this life on the road. I pass through a toll booth, quietly zipping through the EZ Pass lane while a booth worker looks on from the cash lane. God, that must be a lonelier job than being a photographer. 

Two more hours until my assignment starts, and I'm hoping I make it there on time. The sun is now peaking through the treetops and around hillsides, burning through a thick fog hanging heavily in the cool morning air. It reminds me of a road in British Columbia, many miles and seemingly a lifetime ago. The weekend-long assignment comes and goes, and I find myself back in the car for the long drive home. This time, without deadlines, I trade pounding the interstate for back roads, happily meandering my way through the country without GPS or a real plan, in no hurry to get home.

Home is a strange concept…there goes my brain again, off into the weeds. Syracuse is the longest I've stayed in one place in the last five years, and lately, it seems that the road is my home. I've been running for years, racing here and there for work and play, but also running away from my fears and doubts as if all those lonely miles could put distance between me and my own uncertainties about this life I chose as a photographer. In less than two years since I came home from Iraq, I've logged nearly 50,000 miles and countless hours in my little car, thinking and working out how I can be so simple yet so complicated at the same time.

Out of all the wandering and wondering in my travels comes a little bit of order as the odometer steadily ticks away. I said goodbye to the Army a few thousand miles ago. I've got a few thousand more to go with grad school, and many thousands more working, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm running toward something instead of away. I pull into the lot at my apartment, four days and 1100 miles after leaving. Goodnight, white dashes, I'll see you again soon.