By: Jen Dragon
Sometimes we say yes without knowing why. There is a vague feeling that an unknown will be a positive adventure and that to say yes to things-and not know why- means to say yes to life. That was my mindset last April when my artist friend Mary Anne Erickson asked me to go with her down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. The journey wa essentially from coast to coast because we would have to travel first from our respective homes in New York to Chicago. My friend has long made campy vintage advertising the focus of her photorealistic paintings (http://vanishingroadside.com). Mary Anne’s artwork is filled with rusted neon signs and strange roadside attractions. She loves the comfort of days gone by and the nostalgia of childhood roadtrips. However, being a solid Eastern seaboard girl, I have always been wary of the “interior” -that part of the US I have had little contact with except for weather reports or political results. The endless strip malls that seem to dominate secondary roads appall me and I believed much of Route 66 had succumbed to this scourge. I certainly never have had a passion to travel across the US in a car, eat bad food and witness fist hand the economic wasteland that is the rust belt. Between the time from when I first said yes to this project and our eventual departure, there were plenty of opportunities to bail. The most pivotal time was when in July when I suddenly opened an art gallery – another “yes” opportunity that came at me out of the blue. That would have been a good time to back out because any funds I had I needed to open the space and launch the new venture. But three things kept me on track: 1) Commitment- I made a promise to my girlfriend and if I backed out, her dream of traveling the entirety of Route 66 would most likely not happen 2) Opportunity- it seemed that fate was making it easy for this journey to happen. We were offered a car, I found some unexpected funds and I enlisted three remarkable gallery helpers to entrust my fledgling business to while I was away and 3) Metaphor- I knew that this journey was an opportunity at some kind of self-discovery. I am at a critical crossroads in my life. I am poised to divorce my husband of 30 years and I have recently divested myself of my home and most of my possessions. My parenting years are winding down as my only child enters his senior year in High School. I am in my early 50s and seriously need to strategize the rest of my life. The idea of a roadtrip at this transitional point in time just seems right.
So I hit the road September 5, 2014 and found the highway into the heart of America.