The Art of Wanderlust

Where the Mississippi and St. Croix split
Photo by Randy Stern

For those of us who love to drive, I salute you.

You are the bravest people on this planet. You take your lives in your own hands, whether it is a short commute to work to an adventurous mountain pass on a road without a marker or a milestone.

Whenever you turn the ignition, a new paragraph begins. Yet, you know how your vehicle works. You know what it is capable of and how much petroleum (or alternative energy source) it uses to get you to your destination. There is something in your mind that motivates you to get "there."

You are beyond human. I salute you for that.

There is an art to driving. We apply that art in the most mundane situations – the grocery store, the commute to work, the school run and so forth.

We often forget how much we love to get away from the mundane. The automobile was made for adventure. Ask Daimler and Benz when they first created their machines 126 years ago if they intended them to be used as grocery getters or child transport?

Our ancestors were completely bonkers by using the next generation of the automobile on roads that were first designed for oxen-pulled wagons and horses. For every Model T or Renault that attempted to cross acres of farmland, forge a river bed or attack the city streets, there was a driver with a dream of being able to do so with ease.

No one envisioned a time when pumping gasoline into a car would challenge a person's budget. Nor did people such as Ford, Daimler, Benz, Durant and Dodge had in mind a marketplace where niches can turn into revenue on a dime. Did Nuvolari, Lancia, Chevrolet or Fangio consider how their efforts on the track would be used to advance the technology of the automobile over time?

As economies ebb and flow, communication gaps become tighter and our social and cultural makeup continue to embrace the "different," what has not changed is the art of wanderlust. The art of driving with no particular place to go is what makes our world smaller and more accessible.

Every summer, we embark on our own adventure. We fret over the details only to experience an unplanned golden moment. We think we know where we are going, but we find ourselves lost at the most opportune time.

Consider this: Art is created not by plan or purpose, but by accident. An art form is discovered in the process of creating the art. For the writer, a word may pop up that fits in the context of an idea. A missed brush stroke on a canvas could create that detail that would transform a gallery into a world of wonder. The missed beat or an odd chord could create resonance in a memorable tune.

Still, we program the navigation system to take us somewhere. We go online to plan our route somewhere only to waste paper in the process. We often not plan on the "oh, look" moment where a child's eyes find magic in a lonely piece of tarmac. Nor do we plan on meeting that special person in an unplanned stop far from home.

The idea of discovery may have a double-edge sword, depending on which side of history you belong. Yet, we employ our want of discovery as we take the wheel. History is thrown away for a moment of curiosity and new sights to be seen. Our memory challenges us to look differently from the glasshouse that surrounds us at a given speed.

Thus, we create our own form of art.

When driving, I am surrounded by art forms. It emanates from the audio system where music and the spoken word elicit the soul. The details on the instrument panel or a shape of a piece of the interior capture the eye. The horizon creates a focal point where beauty lives.

All of this may seem insane, but it illustrates a point. Our love of driving has a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives. The moment you have with your family and/or friends – whether it is a trip to an amusement park or to pay your last respects to a fond relative – integrates the art of driving towards that deeper meaning. It is the journey towards that destination that feeds or pauses the moment ahead – or passed.

Should we simply say "screw it, let’s drive?" Why should we over think the idea that driving is therapeutic recreation that requires some degree of stamina and alertness? It is right to put an existential theory upon the notion of wanderlust?

The answer stems from a 126-year old love affair with the automobile. It is an affair will continue forever – just like art and the want of discovery.

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