Barreling out of New York on the Pinellas Parkway at seventy five miles an hour, swooping over hills and between trees in a rented blue Sebring convertible, my blue shades on, blaring Motorhead’s Ace of Spades with my wife at my side, it occurred to me that the dawn of GPS navigation might forever change the landscape around us. An odd thought for the occasion, but the charming little box with the British accent guiding our route home compelled me to these ruminations. In this brave new world of digitally-determined, on-the-fly OSPF navigation, the tried and true routes from point A to point B that your father would have sent you on become less traveled and new, unexpected paths open up. These routes are based not on human preconception but on the cold, hard facts gleaned from digital maps and algorithms aimed at finding the shortest, directest path to your destination.
I wondered at what changes these newly well-traveled avenues might see. I wondered what the locals in the suddenly well-known small towns might think of the every day parade of cars. I pondered how transportation had always shaped economies, how the Internet had for a moment seemed to obviate the need for travel, and how technology was now turning it’s attention to changing our means of transportation on its own. Passing a “scenic overview” road stop on Rt. 17, whose nominally scenic view had recently been replaced by the chain maille glimmer of SUVs in mega-store parking lots, I sensed the shape of a new marketing strategy or three that those cunning Madison Avenue types might soon exploit. Albany-New York corridors sponsored by Viagra, guided tours on your Nokia phone and scenic views of the Catskills brought to you courtesy of Gander Mountain. As Kurt Vonnegut might say, “So it goes.”
But change is good and change is also bad. Mostly, as the Chinese soothsaying tomb the I Ching tells us, change simply is. Indeed, it is the only inalterable, imperishable thing that is, was and ever will be. And it was just past the threshold of what now simply is – a threshold beyond which lay pain, loss and confusion, but also hope, love and all that ever will be in our life’s journey – that Sarah and I suddenly decided we needed a temporary change of scenery.
So we booked a car, found a hotel and in the early spring Saturday morning hours, cloaked by a foggy sunrise in which all the world smelled of worms and the Earth wriggled with this new year’s renaissance, we made our way towards New York City.