Play It Loud
When driving on the open road, my soundtrack carries me over each hill and along the lengthy straightaways (see The Soundtrack from December 2012) as my constant companion and closest emotional guidepost. And on the ideal occasions, when the tepid temperature cannot be kept from me by a single pane of glass, and the sporadic cars cannot be considered traffic, and the music seemingly leads the car forward, I roll down the windows, turn up the volume and sing terribly relishing in these most perfect moments of life. When a song touches me this way and the world around me urges me to envelope myself in its melody and lyrics, I know not to resist. Traveling solo happily lends to such behavior.
And as I entered New Jersey, number forty-eight in the quest of Project Fifty, through its northernmost tip, my intentions never included seeing the bulk of the state. I would just graze the mountainous regions along the Pennsylvania/New York tri-state border, skipping the cities, the seashores, and the famed Garden State Parkway. And one line from one song echoed in my head, and within moments, blasted from the windows of my rented car, “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.”
More Than A Number
With only a few Jersey miles behind me, an obelisk in the rolling hills distracts me, darting in and out from behind the trees. As the road twists and turns, I crane to see the structure and attempt to devise a route closer to its base despite the intentions of the pavement. A monument here seems odd and out of place, but even more unusual that I failed to notice it on my atlas. Even with my short slice through the state, how did I miss the focal point of High Point State Park on my map? I continue to approach, and it appears to grow in stature as I wind my way to its ground floor.
The monument to New Jersey’s veterans reaches more than two hundred feet into the brilliantly azure autumn sky, and I decide to conquer its two hundred ninety-one steps. With a number of stops along the climb, I ascend to its peak and observe the distant mountains, the neighboring states, and the brushes of autumn painting brilliant colors on the forest of trees beneath me. When I finally decide to return from my perch, I stop and strike a triumphant pose, and resume the blaring levels of Simon and Garfunkel. But rather than count the cars, or the steps, or the states, I bask in my random discovery tucked in the corner of New Jersey. And then off I go.