I am back on the road. And I love it. After successful heart surgery and three lonely and boring months parked in a back alley in my new home Vancouver, I am finally rolling on the long American highways again. “The purity of the road. The white line in the middle of the highway unrolled and hugged our left front tire as if glued to our groove.” That’s how I am feeling. Grooving the asphalt, holding the white middle line in a tight embrace, a dance with a steady rhythm that takes me on and on and on, into the never-ending horizon of the road ahead of me. “We’d dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go – right?”
So, so, so. I am very sorry for my long silence. But now, finally, I feel well enough to write again.
I have been very sick at heart. And I still am. But there is hope for betterment. They finally found a new transplant heart for me. Because my old one is dead. Or at least damaged beyond reasonable repair. My old heart overheated so much that the plastic of a tube of the cooling water circuit actually melted. My mechanics said they had never seen something like this. No one can really explain what happened or what caused my deadly injury. Just 60 km outside of Calgary, after I had just crossed 300,000 km and boasted that I could do another 200,000, my temperature suddenly rose beyond healthy limits. And after my drivers stopped because they saw that my temperature wouldn’t go down anymore, my heart basically exploded, it evaporated. My engine went up in a cloud of steam. But at this point it was already too late. My folks didn’t know it yet; they still optimistically clung to the hope that it was simply a small coolant leak. But I already knew that this was much more serious.
This is, I think, the closest to nature I have ever come. We had to test my outdoor skills a little to get here. But now I am standing happily next to a gigantic boulder, just around the corner from Sylvan Lake, in the middle of a green meadow, surrounded by a light birch forest. The tall grass is gently swaying all around me, a tiny and agile chipmunk is jumping from branch to branch and from bush to bush, nibbling on small red berries on the way. On my left a pair of what probably are Lark Buntings are calling to each other & eating the same berries as the chipmunk. But their flight from branch to branch looks much more awkward than the chipmunk’s. And when they take off to fly to the next tree you wonder whether they will make it there with their desperately flapping small wings that appear too small for their rather heavy bodies. On my right, instead, there is a couple of (Downy?) woodpeckers. Tiny creatures who nonetheless can make a lot of noise while extracting insects from the tall, dead & apparently very hollow tree standing in the middle of the clearing.
I again feel out of place amongst all these small creatures with their warm bodies and beating hearts. In my next life I want to be reborn as a bird. A bird who can take off, who is not bound to any roads & who can still go wherever he wants.
Corn. As far as the eye can see. Minnesota is corn. With some soybean in between. Does your society live of nothing else than corn?
Wait, did I just say corn fields ‘as far as the eye can see’? In Minnesota there are at least some farmhouses surrounded by wood lots that brake up the monotony of the landscape. In South Dakota there are only fields. Fields of corn, wheat, some soy, pastures & hay fields. Literally as far as the eye can see. And as there are no hills or mountains to obscure the view, this means probably close to 100km in every direction. But where do the people live who farm these lands? There are almost no farmhouses or villages to be seen anywhere. Just gigantic tractors driving through gigantic wheat fields with gigantic clouds of wheat dust in their wake. The most entertaining part of the landscape are the huge billboards lining the highway, luring you to visit Wall Drug (“a national treasure”) or telling you that “For everything that is wrong, Jesus is right”.
But wait. We are crossing the Missouri river. Did I just really just say ‘as far as the eye can see’? I have to be careful with my words, otherwise none will be left to describe the really grand things. The boring farming country is suddenly replaced by something entirely different. This landscape takes the breath out of you. It is difficult to describe the effect, as the individual elements by themselves do not appear that special. Just dry grassland. Everywhere. But the combination of grasslands and nothing but grasslands stretching until the horizon creates a similar feeling as standing on top of a mountain. Not that I ever stood on a mountain myself but I have stood on mountain passes & I’ve heard my passengers tell about this experience that, from what I understand & imagine, is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. You feel your own insignificance & smallness. And you can only marvel at this big & wonderful world. It is epic & majestic. Standing in the middle of these grasslands, where the hot wind makes the grasses dance & where the sky appears like just a slightly different continuation of the earth, the horizon a subtle line dividing two different phases of the same solution.
Navy Pier in Chicago. Somehow, through dense Saturday afternoon traffic, without map & without any clue about the layout of this city, somehow we end up at Navy Pier. In the most expensive car park I have ever been. Navy Pier is full of people. Hundreds of people who go out for some Saturday afternoon entertainment to the Ferris Wheel or to watch the circus performance, to take a boat tour on the lake, and especially, it seems, to eat fast food. Navy Pier is full of overweight people. Seeing all these young boys & girls with big soda cans, fries & burgers in hands makes me sad. I would not want to feed any of the food available here to my child if I was a human.
I have also seen my fellow cars become fatter. Some of the big trucks that are on the streets today can easily be called obese. Obese & addicted to gasoline, needing ever larger amounts of this liquid fuel.
We just drove through the Freeborn County. Why do you free people let the hunger of your bodies & of your cars be dictated by fast food & oil companies? Why do you let yourselves be jerked around by these corporations who only want to create a market for their products? For me real freedom is to be self-determined & as independent as possible. The less you need, the freer you are.
Day 2 – km 629: Volker is happy. I think I could stay here forever. I am standing next to an old red barn, there’s a voluptuous amount & diversity of vegetables growing right next to me, pigs & goats are oinking & baaing behind me. There’s children running around me, playing with mud & water, screaming of joy, laughing & giggling. A cat walks over me, leaving tiny marks on my white metal with her dirty paws. A black dog lies curled up on the warm ground in front of me, guarding me from any danger. A light warm breeze comes down the rolling wooded hills into the valley, a slightly cooler one reaches me from the big deep pond a couple of hundred meters away from me. There’s no noise except for the whizz of the swallows flying in and out of the barn, passerine birds singing their varied songs, flies buzzing, quiet chitter-chatter of the humans playing & working along in the vegetable garden.
I am feeling slightly out-of-place in this most basic & idyllic of images of a human society. A farm with livestock & children, with fertile soils, water & growing plants. There’s not really a place or a need for me here. But I am still happy standing here, being part of it & observing the things going on around me. This is the closest to a society without technology I can probably get. And I must say it feels pretty good.