Whenever I travel by road, especially on the Interstate Highways, I find my mind wandering into the landscape that passes by the windows. You’ve seen those long empty stretches, no exits, no towns or cities nearby, just endless thickets of trees or acres of rolling fields. I often wonder what it would be like to just pull the car over and go exploring, tramping through the undergrowth or the tall grass. Would I find some lost relics? Maybe an old Native-American campsite? Pirate treasure?
It makes me wonder how long it’s been since someone walked through that wilderness. Was it ever explored? Did anyone ever live there? Die there? When there is no sign of civilization it makes me believe that I could be the first one to walk those woods or fields, the first to leave footprints, the first to discover something hidden there.
I have similar thoughts when I spot what appears to be a long unused dirt road or path snaking its way through the woods. Who built that road? What was it used for? Where does it lead? Of course, I pass by so quickly that I can’t get a good look at it, but it’s enough to stimulate my imagination. If I were to pull off at the next exit, would I be able to find that dirt path again? Probably not, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking that it might lead to some old, rundown house full of forgotten antiques, or perhaps an abandoned cemetery with toppled headstones.
I encounter the same thing when I travel back roads. I spot those crumbling wooden buildings, the empty farms, the overgrown dirt road leading off into nowhere, and my mind can’t help but speculate. What happened to the people who lived there? Did they just pack up one day and move? Did they die off mysteriously? Someone obviously spent time and effort to clear the land, build the structures, so I find it curious that all that would be left behind to return to the earth.
And yeah, I often wish I could blow off my destination and go exploring instead.
I tried to write a story once, many years back, about two guys who follow one of these unused dirt tracks and find themselves in a dilapidated town full of vampires. The story sucked, but it gave me the opportunity to explore one of the many highway daydreams I’d had over the years.
And while it been almost a year since I’ve traveled any great distance, I still have other stories packed away in my subconscious, all centering around the forgotten paths, empty woods, and abandoned buildings I’ve glimpsed while speeding down the Interstate or back roads. They will always be there, beckoning me to come explore and have an adventure.