Auditory illusions and road trips

This entry was posted by on Tuesday, 16 August, 2005 at

I have been sitting here reading a travel journal about a 30 day trip from Central California to Alaska and back. Since I have been reading while at work, it has taken me two days to get through to the end. What I noticed while I was reading, however, is more to the point of the post than what the text was actually saying:

At times in the journal I would stop for one reason or another. Sometimes to deal with a customer, other times to stretch out, and sometimes I was simply interrupted by a co-worker. But what I noticed after the interruptions was that I would settle back in to the site and realize that it was awfully quiet; as if someone had turned the radio off. Problem was, the radio wasn’t on. I soon came to realize that while reading Tim’s travel journal, my mind was making the racket. The words were flowing through it like a sports caster with a lively soundtrack just below the surface. It is quite and odd feeling. Every now and again I catch myself looking around wondering where the silence came from, only to realize that it had always been that quiet and the noise was only in my head. A very strange feeling, that is.

Over the course of the 30 web-pages that comprise his journal, Tim describes the daily events of a ten thousand mile journey on a motorcycle. Bits of it all seem quite familiar, as I suspect they should to anyone who has taken a road trip before. But it wasn’t until he made it to the roads in Alaska that I really felt the tug. He describes the roads into Seward and Anchorage in ways that pull my own nostalgia from the recesses of memory. I recall my own trip to Alaska and the time I spent in both Anchorage and Seward. I remember the chill of the ride out of Seward’s harbour enroute to the Kenai Fjords and watching the whales breach the surface then dive back into the depths. I remember the drive from Seward to Anchorage, through desolate lands whose beauty can not be described sufficiently. More than anything, though, I remember the feeling of pure freedom on that trip, knowing we all had an entire week to travel around the state.

I look back on that vacation now with great fondness and wonder how my eyes would see it now. I was only 17 on that trip. While I had an appreciation for it all, I know I was seeing things through very young eyes. I know I missed a lot of what the state had to offer.

Alaska is the one place I have visited that tugs at me to return. It is the one place I have truly enjoyed as a traveler rather than a visitor. When I was there I was not a tourist, but rather a camp counselor for a week, and then a student with time on his hands for another week. That second week held only a fiber of a plan, and we took things as they came. We had a loose web of a schedule to meet (a necessity for only a week’s time), and within that web we did and saw things that helped to mold me into the person I am today.

It was in Seward where I first experience racial prejudices in person. One of our group was Philippino, and apparently the fishermen in Seward have issues with anyone who looks Asian, as there is fierce rivalry amongst them. It was when we were handed menus in a restaurant that didn’t match the ones everyone else had that we first suspected something wasn’t right… As we left, a few choice slurs were heard when our backs were turned to the patrons. We decided to eat in the church’s kitchen for the rest of our stay in town. I learned that day that racism is alive and well in even the most unsuspecting locations.

In Anchorage I was shot in the leg in a drive-by. Two close friends were also shot at the same time. Luckily for us we were only shot in the legs and the weapon of choice happened to be a pellet or bb gun. But of all the places to be involved in a drive by, Anchorage was the lowest on my personal list of possible cities.

I also remember my blood running cold as I watched a moose traipse through our campground 30 miles outside of the city… we were all paralyzed by fear and awe, knowing at any point the moose could charge us. But it was all balanced out by eating salmon caught the same day and prepared with only butter and a drop of lemon juice and grilled amongst the trees next to the lake. I recall catching a trout in a lake we had flown into only hours before, touching down on the water as the propellers slowed to a halt. The state really IS gorgeous from 2000 feet up.

The sounds of crashing as I watched ice the size of houses fall of the glacier in the Kenai fjords, while startling, was at the same time reassuring and calming. Hearing the sea lions bark as we passed by them lounging on their rocks, and seeing the sea otters cracking open shells on their stomachs had the same effect. Then entire trip was life-affirming. It made everything seem right with the world. I had no worries or deadlines, no bosses or responsibilities, no care in the world.

I miss that place like I have missed no other. I was only there for two weeks, but it seems like I was there for two centuries. I think I need to return. Thanks, Tim, for the reminder….

One Response to “Auditory illusions and road trips”

  1. I feel that way about the Grand Canyon; there is just something about the incredible vista that touches your soul, and recharges it in a way that’s difficult to explain. I never understood the phrase “drinking in beauty” until I saw the Grand Canyon 🙂


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