The long and winding road

Like others have mentioned, many of these readings have brought a flood of road trip memories from childhood back to the forefront of my mind. I remember long rides in the hot car through the desert on the way to southern California to visit my Grandparents. For much of the way, we would drive on what used to be the iconic Route 66. My Dad would tell us why the road was important– how during the Depression people used it to escape the Dust Bowl, how it provided economic opportunities, all things that my siblings and I couldn’t have cared less about at the time. But the road is a theme that we encounter all the time, in movies (Rebel Without a Cause, Forrest Gump, Thelma and Louise), lyrics (country songs are full of them) and literature. Usually they are a symbol of freedom and possibilities.

In chapter 5, I was introduced to “odology,” a term I have never heard before. Although my inner-roadtripping child can’t believe I’m saying this, linking the study of roads and what they mean for American culture is an intriguing topic. Davis, on page 65, says these roads “would reveal that, despite its reputation…the strip was a vibrant social and economic space that fulfilled important civic functions.” I think approaching the study of the landscape from any of the four approaches discussed in chapter eleven would open up a door to understanding the automobile culture, and American culture as a whole. It ties into our¬†everyday lives, entertainment, economy…¬†Our love affair with the open road is an aspect of history that I certainly haven’t thought about, but is clearly a worthwhile subject.

My dad would be proud.

One thought on “The long and winding road”

  1. Ah, yes. . . I remember being held hostage in the back of a 1978 Chevy station wagon on family road trips during every school break. More often than not, the destination was someplace in California–often wineries. Those rural Sonoma and Napa roads have changed a lot in the past 30 years.

    Roads are, of course, a way of highlighting how the landscape is a palimpsest. If we take the long view, we can see how roads first appear, shift or widen when they’re repaved, or are allowed to crumble and pass off the maps. Many towns in Idaho boast of the wagon ruts that marked early “roads” through the state. I think interpretation of these sites has been too shallow and focused on the era in which the ruts were made. How can we better connect these ruts with the present and future of Idaho, especially through some of the techniques Jackson embraces in his odology?

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