As we enter our third week of adventure, the mood has changed. We, no longer captivated by the novelty of traveling, are looking for the meat behind the flimsy plastic packaging of "Americana." We don't want to seek out the tourists spots. AAA guidebooks are thrown out the window. If everything is planned, nothing is new.
Texas, perhaps the most interesting state in our union, continually defies complete explanation. City to city, town to town, person to person, the moment I conceive of an overarching narrative of the Texan people, it is defied by my next experience. Leaving its aura of jingoism, I can finally glimpse into the sources of the state's extreme patriotism (even going so far as to call The Alamo the "Shrine of Texas Liberty"). It would be foolish not to be, for Texas is bordered by a ragtag group of mediocre states. Like a new brick in a foreclosed house. Texas's dismal surroundings, not the presence of extraordinary contents, are the basis of its exceptionalism.
Like Texas, and its adoration of the Alamo, I am finally comprehending the scope, the daring magnitude of this journey. 4000 miles in a 11 year old car, with two inexperienced drivers – scratch that – we're just inexperienced people in general. That's just plain stupid.
I am surprised by the amount of things that we have gotten right. We packed enough clothing (although some more socks would be nice). We have enough food (although 3 bags of rice was a stupidly large amount). Our car only broke down once so far (to be fair it didn't really even break down ... if you're wondering it was a bad oxygen sensor.) Maybe we didn't get everything right, but we got the important stuff. Camping for three weeks, I can appreciate the knowledge and skills that Boy Scouts taught me over the years. Just knowing a simple taut line hitch can be the different between a soaked tent and a dry one – Knowing how to put up a tent quickly is a skill in itself.
Speaking of camping, before this trip, I never wholly realized the grandeur of the state parks of America. Yes, National Parks on a whole are nicer, and more historical, but state parks win through sheer numbers. Anywhere you go in America, there is sure to be a state park within an hour or two of you. They are one of America's best kept secrets. Sure, as a tent camper you will definitely feel uncomfortable in the pounding downpours that apparently happen during 1 out of every 2 state park camping days. You will harbor resentment for the multitude of recreational vehicles that fill up the park. Most of them have weird and disconcerting names like: "The Prowler." You start to wonder "who buys an RV named 'The Prowler' anyways?"
You start to freak out. Maybe they are prowlers. Maybe they prey on 18 year old boys on road trips. Just as you are almost taken over by a delirious state, a young, seven year old boy exits The Prowler, gets on his bike, and starts to ride aimlessly around the camp. You make a mental note to check your neurotiscism and start cooking dinner; It's rice.
After you stop contemplating off-putting RV names, jealousy takes over. When they hook up their electricity, water, and sewage, and then start watching TV, you wonder: "why aren't they just living in a house?" In fact, after days upon days of people watching, I have concluded that most RV "campers" never actually leave the confines of their air-conditioned private bus.
Just as the recreational vehicle inspired envy dissipates, you, the lonely Eagle Scout in a sea of diesel-chugging vehicles that you are, realize that RVs symbolize everything that is wrong with America. Camping is all about minimalism, testing one's own boundaries and perseverance. Yet recreational vehicles, these monstrosities, are towable mobile homes that just happen to park in campsites.
In my opinion, camping should be somewhat miserable, and RVs just don't allow this natural function of the outdoors to occur. Mother Nature must be allowed to claim its overall superiority over those who dare to venture outside of civilized society. Recreational vehicles have angered the old mama nature by thwarting her attempts to drench campers with her torrents of wind-driven rain. Eventually, she will reign. Trust me. She will find a way. Like the Mutually Assured Destruction of the Cold War. This is an arms race – humanity will be the loser.
Perhaps Mother Nature, herself, will not rain hell-fire down upon air-conditioned camping compounds. But we, as 21st century citizens will feel the results of the death of real camping in America. It's readily apparent in our decreasing attention spans and growing waistbands.
But that's not the point. Forget those RV-driving hedonists. You can still enjoy the outdoors, even if no one else is. Plus, we all know that the Taurus is a better road trip vehicle than any other. It's spacious trunk and back seats have allowed us to pack exactly what we need (except for the salt, we didn't salt for the first two weeks of the trip).
That's exactly what we did. We forgot the RVs, the screaming children, the not-quite-all-the-way-there old man drinking Pabst Blue ribbon on the gate of his rusted out Toyota HiLux. A lot of wood was burnt and many conversations were shared, but, as critical as I am, I never lost sight of the good in America.