I’m on my way:
0. Just the other day, I reset my “Trip B” odometer. It will keep a running tab on my trek around the country, and by the time I’m “done” — whatever that means, and whenever that happens — I estimate that I will have logged at least 10,000 miles in a matter of months.
288. Miles on my first mini-leg, from Austin to Orange, TX, where I am picking up my truck camper, which I’ve been keeping at a trailer park (more on the trailer park in a later post). My first fill-up after I reset my trip odometer.
60. Dollars I spent for half a tank of diesel, for those 288 miles. Yes, I knew this little adventure wouldn’t be cheap, but every time I squeeze the trigger on a fuel pump, I cringe. And the price will only get higher as I move out of the south, so I have budgeted for an average of $4 per gallon. By the time this is done, I will have spent at least $4,000 for fuel. I’m guessing Kerouac never had to deal with relatively high petroleum prices while he was On the Road. Fuck him.
10. Miles per gallon, conservative average. Without the camper, I get about 15. Carbon footprint justification? No house. No grid electricity consumption (except an occasional 30-amp plugin). No public water supply consumption (except an occasional 35-gallon fill-up). No rent. No apartment-space consumption. No jet fuel consumption for travel. I’ll stop there. But I will say that nothing about this truck is cheap. Everything is big, heavy, and expensive.
27. Cost, in cents, per mile.
1,000. Dollars for new tires. Damn, rubber is expensive. But as petroleum costs have risen, so has everything else. Flights. Railway tickets. Rent. Hotels.
600. Dollars for frame-mounted tie-downs for the camper. Equal to one-fourth the cost of my camper.
95. Degrees, average, while I was working outside in a trailer park to save up cash to help pay for this shit. Oh, and about 98% humidity.
A lot. Amount of territory to cover…
It’s one thing to envision traveling around the country. It’s another to open a map and actually look closely at the scale of the proposed undertaking. It’s one thing to estimate all the numbers involved and arrive at a few sums. It’s another to fully grasp — to experience with a flush of panic — what those numbers really mean. All the energy that goes into those numbers. The food I eat, the calories I intake to produce the body fuel needed to work to save up enough cash for petroleum costs and food costs and all the other costs. The hours spent working on truck and camper to prepare for the trip. The equipment needed. The research to learn how to fix shit that breaks. How to maintain a diesel engine. How to operate a propane-powered refrigerator. How to dispose of personal sewage. And so many other details.
One has to really want to do something like this to continue with the process.
Even now, at this first shove-off point, I don’t quite know why I’m doing this. I just made a decision to give it a try, and that started a process that became a self-powered snowball. It already has given me insight into some deep, existential things: Why do we explore? What is it that gives us determination? How do automatic animal instincts show up in our daily lives? How do we weigh exertion versus benefit? Why do we survive?
I plan to write on some of these questions later. But I wanted to bring up here the simple reminder that when we make a decision, any decision, it has very real implications. We all know that. But sometimes it’s profoundly interesting to feel the awareness, the fear, the excitement, the pain, the drive, everything that comes with the power to decide for ourselves. To be in charge of our own life.
With every turn of the wheels that have driven us forward, from the first stone wheels, to the wagon wheels, to today, there is a shared internal energy within us all that has made this progress happen. I want to get ever closer to that energy. To feel every molecule of it. And at the heart of it, that’s why the numbers — however irrational they may seem — make sense to me.