Meg Von Schroeter is a Cool And Thoughtful girl (profile here) whose approach to roadtripping encapsulates the very creativity and intentionality that makes her Cool And Thoughtful. Lucky for us, Meg will be sharing scenes and stories from the open road with us, but first, let's start at the very beginning...
I have always had a fascination with driving through small towns and different types of terrain, seeing new places, and studying maps. It might stem from the twelve hour soporific drives to Canada each year at Christmas time that became tradition in our family, or from hearing stories about how my grandmother hitchhiked with strangers in the seventies. Regardless of where this fascination originated, I love the feeling of stopping in at a roadside diner, of driving through Potato Creek, Illinois, of hiking in Yosemite. The places don’t necessarily have to be scenic or tourist-friendly, as I have found that I am just as interested in the highway junctions, small convenient stores, and local taverns as I am in seeing the stunning national parks and various landmarks.
I had always held that my fascination with doing a cross-country road trip originated during my senior year of high school when, after finishing with college visits, I had decided that as soon as possible I would drive straight across the country. Ironically, I very recently discovered an old note my friends and I had scribbled down at summer camp in Minnesota when we were eleven, planning our road trip to the East Coast. I love looking back at that note now and knowing that this trip is something I’ve wanted to do for most of my life.
In high school, I began to read some of the classic road literature while looking for inspiration for future trips. I wanted to become familiar with different parts on the country on a more intimate level, researching and educating myself about the stories behind the places I would eventually visit. I started with Kerouac’s iconic On the Road, which served as a major influence for the Beat Generation and hippie culture, and similar works like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which chronicles the adventures of Ken Kesey and his band of “Merry Pranksters” as they travel across the country in a colorfully painted bus experimenting with psychedelic drugs. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is another hippie-inspired novel, which follows the sexually curious Sissy Hankshaw, a woman with abnormally large thumbs who uses her genetic mutational “gift” to hitchhike around the country. I also loved Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which offers a more philosophical commentary set in the context of a father-son motorcycle journey throughout the American northwest.
In terms of poetry, Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”, a poem from his 1856 publication titled Leaves of Grass, celebrates the limitless potential of road travel. He writes, “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons//It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” The poem is a call for the reader to take up travel and to explore.
While these works certainly played a role in planning the physical route of our trip, they served more as a resource for understanding what life could be like on the road. I can’t say that taking LSD and driving around in a colorfully painted bus or befriending lesbian cowgirls while hitchhiking are necessarily a part of our plan, but the literature is valuable in the sense that it places you somewhere within a long history of past journeys taken on American roads. It allows me to think about how this trip will interact with past landmarks, and to set our memories within a separate arc of time and space.
In a just a few days, two of my closest friends and I are taking a twenty-one day drive across the country. We are stopping in 15 separate places – a combination of big cities, small towns, national parks, various bodies of water, and famous American roads.
To be continued! x