Not everyone loves a road trip, and especially not a road trip alone. I love them, though. I loaded my phone with all 12 episodes, plus the extra notes, of Season One of the Up and Vanished podcast for my drive home from Georgia today. My girlfriends talked about their new obsession with true crime podcasts (and their subsequent questioning over the weekend, “Is this cabin creepy to anyone else?”), and the first season of the least-creepy show was the same length as my drive.
I pulled away from our cabin under a sky that was clear blue with steely grey clouds, the kind that makes you wonder if snow is coming. Trees rattled in the wind as I put the car in first gear to climb a steep rise out, and then swooped around S curves and switchbacks on my way off the mountain.
For hours, road passed under my wheels, first tight-turned and narrow, a tunnel through the forest, then comfortable and curvy through farmland accented with gnarled trees, then wide open interstate filled with trucks and fast cars.
I listened while the land and sky changed around me. They didn’t change a lot — I was in the Appalachians the whole time — but sometimes I was in deciduous forests of scratchy bare branches, and others in a green glade of white pines. The blue disappeared from the sky in Tennessee, replaced by a grey blanket of winter clouds. Small snowflakes hung in the air, swirling in the eddies of passing cars.
I love watching the world go by from the windows of a car. In planes you’re removed from the landscape; you look down from above. In a car you get to see the shape of the land change around you. By crossing space in a short amount of time, you get to see the geology of a region, the history of the earth. You get to see the open sky, pass under it, and witness more weather over more space than if you stayed in one place. And you get to see the vegetation change in the heights and types of trees, and their color, and their bareness or evergreen fullness.
And while the world changed gradually before my eyes, with this podcast I downloaded, I got to binge read a compelling story with my ears. I was as entertained by my solo drive as if I had a long cozy day alone, curled up with a good movie.