Author Paul Theroux said that the best travel writing is “not a hilarious romp but a painful journey of discovery.” As this year comes to an end for Ruth & me with only 2 trips to go, I’m looking for real pain that we suffered while traveling in the past year. We only experienced genuine trauma twice and survived both. Most of the pain we witnessed was other people’s.
For example, we arrived in Santa Fe about 2 o’clock in the afternoon this past summer. Our hotel was at the south end of Cerrillos Road, perhaps this town’s main thoroughfare. Most of Cerrillos was closed to traffic due to an escaped prisoner. Raymond Ramirez, an inmate in the New Mexico Penitentiary, was on work detail at a state building on Cerrillos when at 1 pm he removed his uniform and simply walked away. This was especially sad, in my opinion, since Raymond was a trusted prisoner scheduled to be released next May. I don’t know why he did it, but it took 8 hours for the police to find him hiding in a house on the north side of Santa Fe. In the meantime, we pulled into a gas station across from the scene of his disappearance and asked the guy behind the counter if he had any ideas. He suggested that we leave our car somewhere in the crisis zone and walk to the hotel, which was a couple of miles away. A customer took pity on us and told us about some back streets that would probably take us to the end of the closed-off area. However, everybody else in Santa Fe had the same idea, so it took about 2 hours longer than we expected to get back on Cerrillos. Raymond, on the other hand, probably lost more than 2 hours. His pain, not mine.
In Garden City at lunch time, Ruth started talking to a lady in McDonald’s. It was incredibly busy, so the 2 women had long waits for their orders. The lady had arrived in Garden City this summer from Mexico with her 4 children. She said she feared for their safety there and was in the process of relocating in Kansas. She was, that day, enrolling her kids in school for the fall. I didn’t learn about her legal status, her financial situation, etc. All I know is that she had enough money to treat her family to McDonald’s and, at one point, she showed genuine anxiety when she told us that she hoped they’d be allowed to remain in the United States. Her pain, not mine.
Personally painful and the opposite of a hilarious romp were my late-afternoon collision with a young deer far from home on a dark highway near Ukiah, California, and my potentially disastrous decision to take a gravel route late in the evening during hard rain in Iceland. As the road became worse, the temperature was dropping until it hovered just above freezing. Ruth and I survived both the collision and the life-threatening wrong turn to travel on.
p.s. We just got our MAC back from the shop, a journey of discovery that will lead to a new one and the reason why I haven’t posted for about a week.