The first morning was a reminder that the hardest part of any journey is often leaving the house. After pre-packing most of the night before, we had hoped to be on the road by 9 a.m.; We were willing to settle for 11. It was after 11:30 when we were loaded and ready to go, and 12:40 before we headed east past the next town over and into the unknown beyond.
Most of this delay was due to the “logistics of density,” trying to get five medium-to-large people and their gear into a minivan for a month-long road trip. While I managed to downsize the cooking equipment and minimize the food and clothing brought on board, the camping gear took up all the space available for it. Add some books, maps, books-on-tape, and the smaller of our two coolers, and packing became a multi-dimensional puzzle.
Once underway, I realized that at some point we were going to reach the border of our bio-region , and later on cross other regional borders. How would I recognize these boundaries? There are no big signs like those for cities and states. I would have to keep my eyes open: watching the odometer for miles traveled; studying the landscape for changes in topography, flora, and fauna; checking package labels in stores for different regional headquarters and company hometowns; and seeing what was growing, and what was for sale, by the side of the road. I could also watch out for changes in store and restaurant names. There are so many local and regional chains tied to a manageable radius of 300 to 500 miles that one would have to be asleep in the back seat not to notice at least some of them.
Of course, I had to do all this while driving. My Dear Wife was occupied with the duties of navigator, photographer, car-game emcee, and snack-procurer; in a way, I had the easier task load. Yet driving is not an activity that lends itself to multi-tasking, and many of my observations were made on-the-fly and may not have been perfectly preserved. Nevertheless, I will report what was able to observe, and we’ll go from there.