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Author Topic: Seeing beyond the road  (Read 34518 times)

kphoger

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Seeing beyond the road
« on: September 15, 2012, 10:42:17 AM »

Do any of you on here sometimes feel like they're missing out on part of life because you're a roadgeek?  Let me try and explain what I mean a little bit.

When walking around a new place as a tourist, I find myself license plate spotting instead of looking at the sights.  ...  I've been leading mission trips to México, and spend more time planning the drive than thinking about, praying about, and planning the actual work.  ...  Sometimes, I would rather surf on Google Maps than spend time interacting with people.

Every so often, the idea creeps up in my mind that I'm just a little bit off the mark, that life isn't quite supposed to be this way.  Of course, I'm not saying I think it's crazy to have a hobby, or that everybody should look at life the same way.  But has anyone here ever had the feeling that roadgeekery has actually given you a blurry/slanted/unhealthy view of the world, and that you're somehow missing out on something more fundamental about life—even just a little bit?

Maybe the answer is no, and you think I'm a heretic.  But, if the answer is yes, have you tried any refocusing?  If so, then how?
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J N Winkler

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2012, 12:19:25 PM »

I have had this feeling from time to time.  I don't have it very often in relation to roadgeeking in general, but I spend most of my time on a very narrow segment of the hobby--extracting and collating pattern-accurate sign design sheets--which tends to encourage goal-oriented behavior and a sense of dissatisfaction when the goals are not reached.  In a typical month I can easily extract more than 1000 of these sheets, all from construction plans sets for highways, while working with multiple state DOTs:  "Must finish WSDOT today.  Must finish TxDOT tomorrow.  Must finish MnDOT the day after," that sort of thing.



Since the feeling of being locked onto a single track precludes a sense of contentment, this is what I try to do:

*  I pursue a broad range of interests.  I got into roadgeeking (as the activity is understood by the community at large, not my narrow segment of it) originally when I day-tripped to art museums, so I try to ensure that I take advantage of free Saturday admission at the Wichita Art Museum at least once a month, and I try to visit whatever major art museums are on offer in any major city I happen to be in.  For instance, when I am in Kansas City I always try to visit the Nelson-Atkins.  Sometime this autumn I would like to take a weekend trip to Bentonville to see the Crystal Bridges museum.

*  Set aside time to read for enjoyment.

*  Ensure that you set aside time every day to pursue activities that are both physical and breed a sense of contentment.  There is a theory (loosely derived from evolutionary biology) which holds that activities that come closest to what we have been evolved to do over the past million or so years are the most likely to make us feel contented.  That includes walking under trees and using tools to prepare your own food.  Wichita does not have natural woodland, so I try to approximate forest strolls by walking in parts of the neighborhood that have mature landscaping, and dinner--which I usually try to fix from scratch--is normally my responsibility.

*  Combine variations in your routine with opportunities for creative expression.  Within the narrow context of roadgeeking, sometimes I ignore the sign design sheet chase for a while and spend some time drawing my own signs in CorelDRAW, or go through old photos.  I also try to write in a diary from time to time.

*  Seek human contact:  stay in touch with friends, don't pass up an opportunity to hug a loved one, etc.
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vdeane

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2012, 03:54:09 PM »

Sometimes.  I often wish that I had time to do stuff while I'm busy clinching stuff.  Actually did when I recently visited Whiteface Mountain during a road trip, and I'm planning on use Railroads on Parade to justify another.  I might make visiting local destinations a part of road trips for now on, though probably for the ones further from home mainly.  Doing this would also give me more opportunities to clinch roads in Canada, since I'd have the normal tourist reasons for visiting to give customs.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2012, 04:27:45 PM »

I concentrate on what interests me and ignore what bores me.  I don't waste my time thinking about what I'm not interested in.  I don't try to force myself to fit into boxes and pay attention to what I'm "supposed" to.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2012, 06:35:55 PM »

I try to fit it into my day sometimes, like taking a different route home than normal if I want to see if a sign is still there. Being a car guy, I also do the occasional "well, I want to see how the car handles in this situation, and I want to check this sight out", so that gives me two goals in one trip.
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hbelkins

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 09:51:00 PM »

This gives me another opportunity to speak ill of the dead.  :-D

One of my travel hobbies is county collecting. After the Poughkeepsie meet a few years ago, my plan was to spend the night in Nyack, NY. I saw an opportunity to clinch all five counties that make up New York City. I posted, in the usual places, questions about the best routes to use to accomplish this and asked what kind of traffic one could expect along those routes on a typical fall Saturday evening.

A certain well-known now-deceased racist responded with wisecracks about me not wanting to stay and visit any museums in the city, go to any of the tourist attractions, etc.

I had, and have, no desire to visit New York City. My only purpose in traveling through the city was to collect the counties. Otherwise I'd have been content to check into my motel room in Nyack and relax for the evening.

When I'm traveling, I will often pass by noteworthy tourist attractions because to me, the trip is its own purpose.
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US71

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2012, 09:56:34 PM »

I spent 2 days in Florida back in March. I went to the beach, but missed a few other sights. Partially because I was playing it by ear, partially because I was exploring the roads. Ideally, I'd love to find a balance: spend some time seeing the sights and some time just driving around.

I've been know to go out of my way for certain sights, but also to drive certain roads.
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corco

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2012, 10:13:00 PM »

Mine mainly comes from me feeling like I'm moving to quickly on the road- if I take a whirlwind trip through a bunch of states, I enjoy it but I see all these other things I would have liked to have seen.

I do make clinching interstates my lowest priority because of that- I typically only use them for early morning/late night treks to get to somewhere I've never been via somewhere I've been, and then I avoid driving in new places during darkness but a lot of the time I still feel like I'm missing out. I try to avoid eating at chains, or at least restaurants that I can eat at at home for the same reason.

Like HB, I'd have no desire to see New York City- I typically bypass cities whenever possible (or just jump on the interstate through them unless I'm clinching a certain route). My desires are typically more scenery related- I'd love to have time to get out and hike and get off the road and see some stuff, breathe the air, that sort of thing. I don't really care about people, unless I'm out to see somebody specific. At some point, if I ever had the time and were in good enough shape, I'd love to bike across the country, but I don't foresee that ever actually happening. I'll probably be too old to do that by the time I have a couple months to burn.

hbelkins

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2012, 10:24:17 PM »

There are times that I will pass something -- a scenic overlook or something else that looks interesting -- and I will begrudgingly have to pass it by because I'm on a tight schedule and I want to be somewhere by a certain time.
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kphoger

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2012, 10:28:00 PM »

The general response seems to be 'I try to fit a little bit of normal life in along with my roadgeeking'.  Is anyone considering switching the dominance?  I may not be doing a good job of explaining a nebulous thought....   Maybe, at the end of your life, you might say to yourself, 'Well, I amassed quite a number of road signs, and clinched a lot of highway mileage, but where did my life go?'.

I think to myself every so often, To most people, a road is just a road; maybe there's something to that.

Oh, well, whatever, burn me at the stake (and thank you for not, by the way).
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corco

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2012, 10:36:11 PM »

I like to think that roadgeeking is a subset of the rest of my life- I work fifty hours a week and go to school full time, and when I do have time off I like to get out of town, because I can go months without leaving Tucson/Phoenix.

Roadgeeking is definitely a major part of my life, but I wouldn't say it defines it. Everybody has hobbies- somebody who fixates on skiing or fishing or video-gaming or something misses out on a lot of things that aren't skiing or fishing or video-gaming. I don't think you'll ever find a perfectly well-rounded individual that enjoys everything equally. If amassing a number of road signs and clinching highway mileage makes you happy, then do it. This hobby is unconventional, but it's just that, a hobby. Everybody's passions are weird in a certain light and probably lend to a distorted view of reality. This is a tough one, because it's tough to go into a bar and tell a girl about your passion for road signs- but if you parlay that into a general love for travel and leave out the "yeah, I've driven every mile of state highway in Arizona and love road signs" part at first, finding something that you and a non-roadgeek can enjoy to discuss the same thing, that works.

And then socially you just have to let there be a balance- I've cancelled/rescheduled road trips on numerous occasions so that I could do fun, entirely non-road related things with friends. I don't think that's something unique with this hobby though; I think that's something that would apply with any interest. There's times when I'd rather be on the road, and then I go on the road if I can. And then there's times I'd rather do something fun with people with a roadtrip as a backup, and then I do that instead.

And honestly, if I die and say "I amassed quite a number of road signs, and clinched a lot of highway mileage," that's pretty cool in its own light. How many people can say they've done that? I would like to get married and settle down and maybe have kids at some point, hopefully incorporating my road enthusiasm into that life as much as possible, but beyond that I think I'd be perfectly content having died with the knowledge that I had a good time driving highways.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2012, 10:47:31 PM by corco »
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J N Winkler

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2012, 11:31:12 PM »

Maybe, at the end of your life, you might say to yourself, 'Well, I amassed quite a number of road signs, and clinched a lot of highway mileage, but where did my life go?'

The real point of that question and related observations (such as, "Nobody dies wishing they had spent more time at the office") is not that there is a collection of activities which in and of themselves justify a life as well spent.  Rather, it is an attempt to communicate (in Socratic form) the nature of mortality itself.  When you die, that is that:  you don't get any extensions and you don't get any do-overs.  So is this (whatever this is) what you want to be looking back at when you are lying on your deathbed?  This is a question which every individual has to answer for himself or herself.  Although it is possible to say that certain activities, considered from this vantage point, are more likely to give satisfaction than others, it is fundamentally a judgment call.

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I think to myself every so often, To most people, a road is just a road; maybe there's something to that.

Oh, well, whatever, burn me at the stake (and thank you for not, by the way).

Personally I am kind of disappointed that most of this thread seems to have slipped into the frame of "to clinch or not to clinch."  Why make a big point of never seeing New York City, for example?  (To me it almost sounds like H.B. can't forgive New York because Randy Hersh lived in the metropolitan area and liked it.)  The underlying question is much broader than that.  Personally, I never felt roadgeeking made much sense as a competitive sport, which is effectively what it evolves into when the custom of comparing your travels with others' (especially in quantitative terms--highways clinched, counties collected, etc.) becomes entrenched.  Interpersonal comparisons of utility are fraught but, even so, it is highly suspect to equate box-ticking with satisfaction.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2012, 12:16:24 AM »

I am not generally interested in what counties or even states I have visited, though I love travels on the road for the sake of the road, and I have driven most of I-95, including its terminii in Miami and Houlton, Maine. 

But for seeing beyond the road, nothing is better for that than the rural parkways (and I have not driven all of them), such as the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive combination, the Colonial Parkway, and even the George Washington Memorial Parkway (largely suburban in nature).

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive were designed to allow easy stopping as often as desired, and the posted speed limit is a fairly slow 45 MPH.
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hbelkins

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2012, 01:23:00 AM »

(To me it almost sounds like H.B. can't forgive New York because Randy Hersh lived in the metropolitan area and liked it.)

Nothing that personal. I also would not want to spend any appreciable amount of time in the downtowns of Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or any other large town. I just spent three nights in downtown Louisville and hated it. I spent five nights at the Renaissance in DC about nine years ago at a conference and felt like I was a prisoner in the hotel because it wasn't feasible for me to jump in my truck and drive somewhere anytime I wanted to eat or kill an evening.

In general, I don't like cities because I like rural areas and open roads. Give me rural Kentucky (or Kansas or Virginia or anywhere else) over a metro area. And I hate the beach. I'd go to the mountains before I went to the beach anytime of year.

I don't like crowds, and I don't like traffic jams. To me, whatever is going on is not worth the hassle of getting there. I've turned down numerous opportunities to attend ballgames, concerts, NASCAR races, etc. -- things I enjoy watching on TV -- because I can't be transported Star Trek-style into a private box away from the crowd, and then transported out when the event's over. Had I attended last year's Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, I would probably either be dead from suicide or in prison for murder because of the traffic jams. I don't have fears or phobias about crowds. I just don't like the aggravation inherent in being in one.

I don't need to see the Statue of Liberty in person. (Although my wife may be attending a book signing in NYC next month and she wants to do some sightseeing while she's there including Lady Liberty.) I've seen photos. That's plenty good enough for me. In my youth I saw a number of historic sites such as Appomattox, Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, and went to places like the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, etc.

I don't view clinching highways or visiting counties as being competitive, even though I do keep score on mob-rule.com of the counties I visit. I'm not out to top the number of counties that Jeff K. or Doug K. or Froggie visit. It's just something I enjoy doing.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 01:57:37 AM »

H.B.--thank you for your reply.

It is certainly true that tastes differ, and also that nobody arrives at a cosmopolitan outlook as a result of a hard sell.

In regard to the competitive aspect of clinching, I don't actually think it is being able to compare oneself to Froggie, Doug Kerr or whoever that is really the problem (although some of the relevant sites, like Mob-rule.com, push out the comparative data to the user, making them more readily accessible than might otherwise be the case).  I think it is the process of keeping score itself that triggers a drive to accumulate that can easily take away from a sense of satisfaction.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2012, 03:06:48 AM »

90% of what I enjoy is roads. It's what brings me on vacations all over the country. I also enjoy seeing: natural scenery, local history or unique museums, beautiful architecture, and other kitsch/Americana (like the World's Largest Umpire in Iowa). I will try to weave these sights in between roads. Except for museums, I tend to just drive by everything. I never liked taking house tours. I took 10 minutes to photograph everything I wanted at Niagara Falls, while most people allow an hour or two minimum. I'd rather fill my time with roads, but I'll take time to see the things I want in addition. I don't think it's at all a problem. To each his own, and my own is roads.

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2012, 10:45:00 AM »

I have exactly the opposite mindset of H.B. with regards to urban versus rural. I tend to think that there is nothing of interest out in the country other than roads and scenery, and if I am going to spend time exploring in more detail or stopping to check out something not road-related, it's going to be in a city.

In response to the original question, I'd say roadgeeking is a hobby to me, and while I love it, there is a lot more to me and my life beyond it. So I don't need an intervention. :P
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kphoger

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2012, 02:27:42 PM »

My original thought wasn't so much that the hobby of roadgeeking can be a hobby that takes up too much of your time and energy—nor that it's a poor hobby of choice.  Rather, it's that it can take over your participation in "normal" life.  When you see an ad on TV, you notice the incorrect highway shield but ignore everything else about it.  When you take a scenic drive, the concrete expansion joints and U-channel sign posts become the scenery, not the natural beauty or impressive architecture around you.  When you notice a glaring error in signage or striping that a DOT has made, it upsets you more than nearly anything else in life.  Sometimes, don't you wonder if your mind is somehow missing the mark? if there's a part of being human that you're missing out on?

As I said:  to most people, a road is just a road.

Thank you all for your responses thus far.  I was curious to see if anyone else's roadgeeking silver lining also had a cloud.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2012, 03:19:29 PM »

Maybe the "normals" are the ones missing out on roads, signs, bridges, etc.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #19 on: September 17, 2012, 07:44:09 PM »

While I do put some effort into planning my travels so as to be able to add to my CHM .list file and color in more mob-rule.com counties, I feel like my trips have just the right balance (for me) of the clinching with other things to do and see.  I can't count the number of interesting things I've gotten to see and do because I took a new route to include unclinched counties and highways along the way.  And the roads themselves are interesting to me as well.  So no regrets there! 

If anything, I sometimes feel a little bad about the cumulative time I've spent organizing my road signs image collection.  It takes some time to put together a 2.3 MB raw HTML file that's 76,000+ lines long, but that's over many years now.  And it's not even a nice web page - just a bunch of links and captions in tables.  But even with that, I enjoy working on it when time permits, and it never takes priority over any of the truly important things in my life.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #20 on: September 17, 2012, 10:26:28 PM »

Rather, it's that it can take over your participation in "normal" life.  When you see an ad on TV, you notice the incorrect highway shield but ignore everything else about it.

If it weren't that, it would be "why did they blank out the make and model logos of that car?" or "come now, no sane person parks their classic car in an airport parking lot" or "that crap only happens in the movies"...some other pre-occupation might take the place of another one.

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As I said:  to most people, a road is just a road.

To which I say: Yes, and the road takes us to places, whether individually or personally. It allows me to dream, pretend, work, earn, discover, hunt, gather, smile, enjoy, express myself, or be just another fish in the sea. And yet, I also take an interest in the nuts and bolts (the process, history, and definition) of the why the road is a road. It's just another interest, I like to know how things work, and I enjoy balancing that with the artistic aspect of photographing it, too.

I enjoy my time with others, but I like my time alone, too. I'm as comfortable in the big cities as I am in the most rural areas...but some people and co-workers I enjoy spending off-clock time with, and others who'd rather just talk about work after work...well, I'd rather hit the road and listen to music and see the sights.

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #21 on: September 17, 2012, 11:01:09 PM »

I have a mobrule account, but I don't count counties.  I keep the account so I can see where I've been on a map.  I have "froggied" counties only once or twice in my life.  I am a fanatic state collector (I'm only up to 28, but they're all medium sized or large states) but I really don't care about counting counties.
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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2012, 12:56:57 AM »

Yes, I admit to feeling a certain inadequacy in some of my travels as far as properly interacting with the land and people I'm seeing. And it's not in terms of some perceived expectation of the "right" way to travel: when I read something like Blue Highways, I do genuinely wish that I could bring myself to have that kind of intimate and comprehensive experience in my journeys. But sometimes, even when I'm on the back roads, I selfishly find myself racking up more miles, more towns, more different routes at the expense of the landscape they contain. Still, practical realities often preclude spending enough time for a real Blue Highways experience; maybe at another age I'll find a way to slow my pace to that level!

I have been fortunate to travel extensively in my work, spending days, a week, even a month or two, in places all over the U.S. In so doing, I have relished the experience of living within the fabric of these places as a visitor, but not a tourist. Some of the places are destinations in their own right, but a great many are much more mundane places, ones most people would never think to make a point of visiting, and that's given me a valuable appreciation for the wide range of communities that are found right in my own country. Since I'm not in charge of my own itinerary, my time is more focused on just living in the situation I find myself in, and that's been a thrill.

As for the idea of H.B. never caring to see NYC, which comes up every now and then when we evaluate our own interests in travel, I admit to having a predictable gut reaction to the idea. I can't personally conceive of having such a remarkable destination as NYC available to me without feeling a strong imperative to see it personally. And I feel the same about rural or natural sights like the Grand Canyon, Alaska, or the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as run-of-the-mill locales like Tulsa or Texarkana; I do genuinely feel that any place I haven't been is worth seeing.

But on further reflection I have come to accept a couple of things regarding this. One, of course, is that H.B. and I have pretty much opposite preferences on just about everything, beyond our shared interest in roads and all that. I mention that not to pick on him, but rather as an example of the way our travels bring us into contact with a wide range of people—types of folks who, if we limit our experience too much, can seem to inhabit only some far-away fiction that doesn't apply to our own life. But from our travels, we learn that people everywhere make up different dimensions of our society, and we gain a better understanding of what that society really is, instead of just what we perceive it to be.

The second realization is that I myself actually have a similar opinion about a number of places, mostly outside the U.S., as foreign travel in general has a lesser appeal to me than domestic. A great example is China, which I had the opportunity to visit and was grateful for the chance. But I'm also grateful that I got to see it the way I did: by ship, spending a day or an overnight in each of a few different ports, returning to the ship for meals and lodging, then moving on to the next stop without having to deal excessively with the daunting differences in language, culture and so forth. I saw the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Shanghai skyscrapers, and Hong Kong, rode the bullet train and ate at a Chinese McDonald's, but by no means did I deeply penetrate the experience of that country in any serious way. Still, I'm glad to have seen the place, and I feel more than fulfilled at having done so the way I did, with absolutely no personal need to see any more of it than I have.

So in summary, I do indeed take the point about "seeing beyond the road": I do feel that there are some who practice roadgeeking in a way that seems less than fulfilling by my own personal standards, but I also feel there is more I could gain from my own travels, in terms both of goals I'd like to achieve, and those that really hold no great calling for me. I guess that makes me a pretty average traveller along the great roadtrip of life.
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bugo

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2012, 01:35:04 AM »

HB hates anything that he perceives as Democratic.  Even though Bloomberg rules New York with an iron fist.

The whole US 66 hype focuses on the attractions on the side of the road and not the road itself.  That's part of the reason I think of US 66 as just another US route, even though I can see it from my front door.

And Tulsa is way nicer than Texarkana.  The culture is much better here.  In a little over a week, a single venue, Cain's Ballroom, is hosting Down and the Smashing Pumpkins, two quality shows in a short amount of time.  When was the last time that happened in Texarkana?
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NYYPhil777

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Re: Seeing beyond the road
« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2012, 03:45:09 AM »

I'll explain myself like this- either I'm at work, the bowling alley, at home, or on the road.
My advice is- do whatever makes you happy. For me, roadgeeking is one of those things I've done for a long time. If I never had fun with that, I never would have even lurked at this fine forum for two years before joining! But I am having fun, and I hope you all too are having fun with what you do!
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(from Blazing Saddles)
Jim: Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special? I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.

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