On long drives, I talk to myself in the car and play terrible and not-terrible music with equal gusto. Only people who love me would ever go on a long drive with me on purpose.
During one particular trip–Laramie to Ucross for the first time (and then back during a night time storm)–I recorded some of my internal monologue as voice memos on my phone. I don’t usually talk like a voice memo, usually just in a string of disconnected exclamations. But I tried to say what I was thinking as I thought it.
This sort of thing that is important for fostering humility. I mean, even Kerouac didn’t sound like Kerouac when he was actually on the road, I bet. I’m sure he had more than a few double-rainbow moments which ended up scratched out in the margins of his mind.
Anyway, maybe this is against the culture of curated thoughts that are edited and styled into tweets and status updates. This is my mouth falling open. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not cool.
This was last August. It’s a five hour drive each way. Here are nearly all of the memos transcribed.
1. (Liz Phair singing “And when I asked for a separate room”) Oh my god. So. A white-gray horse, laying down on its side not moving, near the fence, by the side of the road. Chestnut and black horse, both standing over it (“But if I’d have known how that would sound to you…”) not looking down, not looking at each other, just, like sentinels. Which is the second horse that I’ve seen on the side of the road. The first one was giving birth, saw the colt take its first step. On the way back from Arizona. That’s all.
2. Red-tailed hawk. Uh. Lots of pronghorns. Um, rolling rolling rolling. Snow fences. (slide guitar) Not having to take my foot off the fucking brake for miles and miles. About to hit some sort of little town. (Langhorne Slim singing “Whether I’m right, whether I’m wrong”) The hawk was sunning on a piece of sandstone. It’s pretty amazing. So far so good. … It’s Rock River, with the Longhorn motel and restaurant and uh… a really nice park? Holiday park, in fact. Annnd, now we’re done.
3. Giant wind turbines and the landscape in the background goes from green sage to slate to medium blue to pale blue like torn paper layers. On the other side, the snow fences are golden in the sunrise. Uh. Sloping up to gray rocky cliffs—brown gray, lots of shrubs. Um. It’s been a very dry, dry summer, so everything is, everything is yellow-gold. And so many pronghorn! Lots and lots of beautiful antlers. And little harems.
4. Flock of magpies, eating a fucking dead rabbit. (Bon Jovi “SHOT THROUGH THE HEART”) The last two didn’t fly away until a second before I would’ve rode… driven right over them. Also, like, a rusty orange dock-looking weed on the side of the road? Tall, flame-like, and lots of tall sunflowers, possibly Jerusalem artichokes? I’ll have to look it up, later. Looks like I’m coming to a town—all of a sudden there are are cliffs and rocks in the distance (“You promised me heaven but put me through hell”) they’re all very pale.
5. Look up what kind of hawk it is with a white base at the tail. Um. All the rest dark. [Note: probably a Rough-legged hawk]
6. [REDACTED] (Modest Mouse in the background)
7. The trees are in stark contrast. It seems that I’m driving into weather, but I don’t know if that’s true. The sky is slate gray and the greens are bright (“Alright don’t worry we’ll all float on, alright don’t worry”). But it’s getting darker, while it’s also getting lighter behind me, so maybe they’ll be some rain soon. Keep seeing magpies on the side of the road, eating the ground squirrels that dash across recklessly. Spotted yellow… maybe tansy? Surprising dearth of raptors, though. The magpies seem to be doing all the clean-up work. No vultures. Just three hawks or eagles? That last one might have been an eagle. The houses are few and far between. The cows are black or red or creamy white. (“Alright don’t worry we’ll all float on okay”) Very few horses. A lot more sage grass-sage brush, with uh, yellow grass, short, between range, between shortly cropped rangeland. And I just saw a giant red… jutting rock formation that may be Chugwater? I’m not sure. Um. And uh. A beautiful small black and white bird just flew across the road (“Everything that keeps us together is falling apart”) I don’t know what it was. Lots of slate gray and white. Maybe a warbler? Seemed big. (“Going out to find blindspots and he’ll do it.”)
8. Look up “Sand Creek Massacre Trail” because I have been following it the whole damn time.
9. Just saw a flock of wild turkeys in somebody’s front yard. Uh driving from Buffalo to Ucross now and it’s just lovely. Trees and scrub and uh with mountains, ha, uh all around. I’m kind of excited.
10. Totally driving into a lightning storm. It appears to be over Casper perhaps? And there was just a bolt of lightning that didn’t reach the ground? Or there are clouds between me and it… and I cannot see. But. It flashed in the middle of the sky, a little abbreviated line. And now for some fucking Motley Crüe. (Dr. Feelgood starts up)
11. It’s a fucking mountain! It’s a ridge! A giant mountain ridge that’s between me and the storm—that’s why I couldn’t see the whole bolt! But it’s perfectly hidden in the blue haze of all this fucking smoke! The closer I get, it’s now starting to loom up, uh. A slightly darker blue, with pale blue below it… Maybe fog? Or clouds? I’m not sure. Uh but it’s pretty amazing. That’s all.