Traveling out of the ‘comfort zone’
Down on Main Street
Approximately a year ago, I began packing the most practical things I owned into my aptly named Honda Fit.
I was due to start this AmeriCorps position here in Rifle at the end of July, but was still residing in Maryland.
There were literally 1,800 miles between myself and my future. A road trip was in order, and I was excited.
I would like to take this opportunity now and blame my parents for my enthusiasm toward road trips.
A decade before my move to Rifle, my aunt in Washington (the state) got married. Being big believers in education outside of school, my parents always made the most of a presented opportunity, and that summer was no exception.
My folks, who I have trouble classifying as “normal,” decided that we would drive to Washington for the wedding. They packed my younger siblings and me into a van, and we set out across the country, camping along the way.
This was a brand-new, shiny experience for me. As a kid, I spent a lot of my free time with my nose in a book. Some of my favorite stories, movies and songs were about road trips.
The western expansion and migration of settlers was my favorite subject in U.S. history. With this decision, my parents had laid open the opportunity to fulfill a dream and live a story. I was not disappointed.
People always talk about what they want to see on a road trip, but that’s only one part of the narrative. A road trip is about learning and experiencing new things on a daily basis — it’s about broadening horizons in a figurative and literal sense.
During both my childhood adventure and last year’s road trip, my parents and I made an effort to do just that. The end destination is only part of the point of traveling.
A big part of getting out of a comfort zone is getting out of the car. What can I experience in traveling 1,800 miles across the country if I only stop for bathroom breaks and hotels? This also is accurate on a local level too. Rifle is a fantastic place to live, but if I spend my time between my work and my home, with the occasional trips to the store, how would I know that?
It’s great to step back and be a tourist in your own town. Think about all we have to offer: Rifle Mountain Park, Harvey Gap, Rifle Gap, Hubbard Mesa, Rifle Falls and fish hatchery, the Flat Tops, Rifle Arch, the New Ute Events Center, awesome and regular events, and a plethora of local businesses.
People who treat Rifle as a rest stop may never see that, and others who see Rifle as simply the location of their house might also miss out.
Traveling and exploring is in our culture. In my opinion it’s distinctly American; just Google “books about road trips” and you can see that the majority of them are set in the United States. Perhaps that is because a road trip is a very real metaphor and manifestation for the journey an individual needs to take to grow, and America lends itself beautifully to this type of journey with its diversity in landscape, cultures and people.
The destination is never the point, because by the time you’ve reached it, you are a different person than the one who began the trip. It could be argued that America is not a geographical location, but a state of mind.
To quote Neil Gaiman in “American Gods,” “nobody ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique.” But it is natural for us to talk about discovering America, and it doesn’t have to be in a cross-country road trip.
I like to do this through food. I go to local restaurants I haven’t been to or I’ll go with the waitress’s suggestion or simply order something randomly. I’ve gone to Rifle Falls in the winter and the summer for the chance to see the difference. I’ve attended performances at the Ute even if I’ve never heard of the band. Rifle is full of such diversity and opportunity that I often forget that it’s all one city. We are lucky to live here.
Discovering the country is a lifelong undertaking; this land is vast and varied, and it takes time to do it justice. However, fewer things stop us from experiencing local America.
Rifle is unique and easily offers itself up to the daily explorer. How lucky it is that if we only step out of the car, we are to be able to find the heart of America right under our feet?
Cathleen Anthony is a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America branch and the assistant for the Greater Rifle Improvement Team. She can be reached at 970-665-6496 and email@example.com.