i have always been obsessed with driving and roads. my first cross-country road trip was in 1975, Massachusetts to Bremerton Washington. my most recent road trip was probably a month ago. all lower-48 states except (somehow?) North Dakota. every secondary highway in Nevada south of highway 50 and many above, nearly all the state highways in Arizona, New Mexico, most Southern California desert and mountain highways.
all of my favorite driving is done in cars i've made (from junk cars and parts) or highly modified (almost the same thing). i like my driving relatively unmediated by distraction. my roadster is open, no roof, no doors; road and me and machine. my new car has doors and wind-up windows, but manual everything, bench seat, column shift.
it's this convergence of road and made machine that enables the experience i crave. if i didn't make it then i don't know it and when on the road (literally and metaphorically both) knowing makes it one experience.
most interesting driving is on rural roads, the openness of deserts and mountain roads. i have no fantasy of 'back to nature'; there is no place that is both interesting and un-meddled with (never mind the obvious road to/through it). debris and abandonment contains it's own adventure, every ruin is a world to visit.
there's a mini-industry of books for driving tours/sightseeing. the places they visit are beautiful, but beside the point. to me the point is the road itself, driven.
roads are situations, not mere places or things. driving on roads is precisely wabi tek sabi. driving a machine on a road is not a screen onto the world, it is the world.
the map is not the territory. but i like maps and terrain, and land and
driving. why should i have to choose?
Interstate 40, west from Fenner, CA, 70 mph.
driving is experiental, and all i have to show for it is a bunch of photos and a few stories.
i've got a fairly specific way of thinking about my relationship to the
road, driving, maps, navigation, and taking
image, video and sound records. works for me.
Google Earth is one of the most amazing software projects ever made. it achieves a peculiar end that i don't think it's fully appreciated (probably even by Google): it is a 3-D data viewer that actually corellates the visual with bodily experience. this is doubly unusual, as most software models today emphasize disembodied cerebral "experience". this leads me to think that this aspect of Google Earth is an accident.
Google Earth not a "map" in any way. data and images extracted mostly from orbiting satellites are abstracted into vectors, mixed with images, and interoperates with "Street View" data about as close to seamlessly as i could imagine. the amazing part -- besides the obvious monumental technical achievement -- is that the end result is to "see" something that you could actually, physically do with your body: "fly" over "the earth". OK few of us could practically afford the helicopter or small plane necessary to do this, but your body would see pretty much what Google Earth renders for you and so it makes sense when you see it on a screen. i have personally and multiple times "pre-toured" routes through desert mountain roads and when i later drove those roads, "remembered" ala deja vous terrain and shapes. wonderfully disturbing.
but it's equally amazing when it utterly fails.
then there's the classic which way to Millinocket?, old 1930's radio show. my horrible grandmother had this on a 78 record which is how i heard it as a kid. (shift gears) much later, Laurie Anderson spent some time in upper New England; i recall from some radio interview her describing how the residents of whatever small town she was in would sit in their parked cars around the town square with an old-timey band playing in the gazebo, and how odd it was... so she arranged a performance where people parked their cars around the square, 'played' some arrangement on the car horns for an audience of locals she managed to get into the gazebo. everyone was puzzled. (memory is inherently biased and i can't find the reference...)
but i soon realized that whatever her time spent in New England was, it must have influenced these words from BIG SCIENCE (1982):
... Hey Pal! How do I get to town from here? And he said: Well just take a right where they're going to build that new shopping mall, go straight past where they're going to put in the freeway, take a left at what's going to be the new sports center, and keep going until you hit the place where they're thinking of building that drive-in bank. You can't miss it. And I said: This must be the place.
this map, painted along the face of what was once a cafe, shows all the major routes at time (who knows; 1930's?) with distances given. barely legible when i took the photograph(s). i did not record and don't recall where this ruin is; i'm fairly sure it's in the vicinity of Arizona highway 89 from Prescott down to highway 93. i do recall that the photo was tken with my Canon Elph (loved that camera, i think i still have it) taken as two wide/panorama shots, cut with razor blade to stitch then scanned. (if you're looking at this on a small screen, click the image for full size.)
smaller versions of this kind of map, or sometimes just distances to the next or major towns, were commonly painted on the side of buildings "before the current era", i recall a few from the dim dark past, so for whatever reason the practice was dropped probably before my time and what i saw were remnants.
long ago my brother Frankie befriended some then-elderly women who as reckless youths drove cross-country, from Massachusetts to Long Beach California, in 1930. some 8600+ miles, nearly all of it dirt (the national obsession with paved roads having just begun). these women had the foresight to write letters home, take photographs and preserve ephemera from their trip, and the luck (for us) to have been interviewed by my brother in the late 1990's.
the A-to-P Gypsy Trip was originally
a self-published book, 120 or so printed sheets, spiral bound. i doubt many
copies were made.
what is driving without maps?
you should know about Center for Land Use Interpretation. this is just a microscopic sample that i had pulled out for past projects or research at one time.
lovely photo essay on the southern-most stub of Highway 99 that straddles the Grapevine.
pretty fault fold near Palmdale.
i've done some art work related to the land. actually a lot of my work has been about the land in one way or another. this stuff is old, and by today's standards poorly documented. large images were so daunting, once! lol
brief video documentation of some of the above.
in 2000 i did this cable TV show (yes, i was one of those cranks on late night cable) about men blowing up the earth with big bomb toys.
rough list of roads probably worth driving.