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Driving Without a Map

Words by Richard Kratz

I was eighteen

Didn't have a care

Working for peanuts

Not a dime to spare

But I was lean and

Solid everywhere

Like a rock



Twenty years now

Where'd they go?

Twenty years

I don't know

Sit and I wonder sometimes

Where they've gone


- Bob Seger, Like a Rock


I have had an unusual amount of time to listen to music this winter. I had a rather major surgery in December, 2017, and the recovery is a long process. No worries, it went very well and I’ll be way healthier and stronger when I’m healed than I’ve been in a long time. But I had a lot of time with nothing to do but rest and recover. For Christmas, my son’s gift to me was to replace my high-end ear buds that he managed to lose right into thin air last year when we went to see the total eclipse of the sun in Idaho. So, I broke them in with some white and pink noise and set about listening to some of my high bit rate albums on the trusty old iPod.


“Like a Rock,” seems fitting for me right now. Although a lot more than twenty years are gone since I was eighteen. Still, my daughter is out of the house and onto college, my son is a senior in high school (and thus hardly ever home), and my wife and I are relearning what to do with Friday and Saturday nights by ourselves. Get dressed up (which in California means I put on my cargo pants instead of my cargo shorts) and go to dinner. Enjoy our home theater (better than going to the multiplex, if you ever saw my theater room you’d know why). Play cards. Enjoy each other’s company. Wow, those twenty years of being parents with kids in the house flew by.


“I was eighteen, didn’t have a care…” Way back in the 1970’s if you wanted to know how to get from here to there, you unfolded a paper roadmap. If you were in a hurry you’d follow the Interstate. Or, you could take the scenic ‘blue highways.’ But by far my favorite days were when I just picked a compass heading and drove out “that away.” Whether it was by motorcycle, muscle car, or even my 1942 Willy’s MB Jeep, I liked heading out without a map or a destination and just seeing what the journey brought my way.


When you don’t have a destination you can’t be in a hurry. When you’re not in a hurry you’re open to things the road, life and the universe have for you to choose from. Wait, where’s THAT road go? Whoa, the sign says, “World’s Best Waffles.” Really? The best in the whole wide world? Gotta check that out.


In 1975 I started out on foot from a bus stop to a ranch in the Uinta Mountains area of Utah, near Flaming Gorge. The proprietor of the bus stop/gas pump/post office/general store told me that my destination was “about a mile” up the dirt road behind the store. So I hoisted my surplus duffle bag onto my shoulder and headed out. 27 miles later, I came to the gate of the ranch for which I was looking.


If you’ve never been way, way off the highway in that neck of the woods, you have no idea how amazing and beautiful northeast Utah is. Every time the road climbed a hill I’d reach the top and look around, saying, wow, under my breath. In 27 miles I saw one truck (who offered me a ride shortly after I left the store—I declined because I thought a mile long walk would feel good after being on a bus for 24 hours). Occasionally I’d hear the distant sound of a tractor, but only for a short while. My ears filled with the sounds of the wind, animals, and insects and my boots kicking up dust from the road. It was a warm, lazy day in early summer, the kind of day just meant for wandering without a map.


Now, I’d be lying if said that somewhere around, oh, maybe mile ten of the hike I wasn’t feeling a little peevish. Clearly the store owner’s idea of “about a mile” and my idea of it were very different. But, this was new country to me, and I loved exploring new country. And as Bob Seger sang, “I was lean and solid everywhere,” back then.


After about six hours, when I got were I was going, I knew the land to the south of the ranch a lot better than if I’d taken that truck up on the offer of a ride. I wonder, if I’d had a map and knew how far “a mile” was and took that truck ride, what would I have missed? The only thing I know for sure is that I’d have missed one of the great memories of my youth.


Flashing back forward to two score past eighteen and with time to contemplate the world around me, it feels like the march of history itself is off the map with no idea of where it’s going. Driverless cars? Or is that idea going to go to the same place as flying cars went? The idea of robots replacing millions of workers seems to have moved from far-out science fiction to closer than we’re comfortable with. Retail stores are dying, even Sears is thought to have no future. Sears, the store that was delivering in the late 1800s to ranches in the area of Utah I walked way back then, may soon cease to exist—replaced by Amazon and a million of other eCommerce sites. And the drivers who deliver the orders to you from Amazon may themselves be replaced by flying drones. Cryptocurrency, space tourism, electric cars and trucks, cyberwarfare, dark web, growing climate disasters, Siri, Alexa…whoosh.


I’m not a Luddite. I shop on Amazon as much as anyone and more than a lot of folks I think. A long career in information technology prepared me for some of the things happening today, but no one can see the future. And that future is coming at us at a logarithmically increasing pace. And I don’t think anyone, anyone at all, has a roadmap of that future, despite what the talking heads on TV tell you.


It all makes me long for a warm, lazy summer day, when I was lean and solid everywhere, and had the time to enjoy an unexpected six hour hike through new country. Maybe we should all turn off the nav system now and then, point our Mopars “that away” and see what new discoveries we can make before the sun sets.


 - Rest in Peace, Tim Marshall, 1947-2018   

MoparMax covers all automotive things Mopar. A new issue of MoparMax.com is published on or around the 15th of each month and is updated throughout the month.



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