WILSON: Wanderlust 2020 tour part three: Revisions, adjustments, certainties

The tour started with a cruise south, through the western half of Indiana. The first day was bookended with stops at waterfalls at the beginning and end (with a whole bunch of cornfields mixed in-between — just for excitement). Daylight was slipping away as I crossed the Ohio River into Henderson, Kentucky, and I decided it was time to find a bed for the night. As you may recall, one of the primary rules during these travels was to stay in non-chain motels that were affordably priced — along the lines of a $50 variety of luxury.

Soon after crossing the river, the open roadway morphed into a congested stretch of Henderson’s outlying commercial district. Clogged with chain hotels, restaurants, convenience stores and fast food joints, it resembled every other business development along the outskirts of nearly every other town in America. I had plenty of choices for lodging along the “strip,” but none of them were of the (very cheap) mom and pop variety — except one.

I won’t tell you the name of the fine establishment I selected. I won’t tell you about the comfort and cleanliness of my room. I, especially, won’t tell you about the questionable clientele that frequented the adjoining rooms. However, I will tell you the room rate for the night was only $40 (including taxes). I will also tell you that my overnight stay in Henderson, Kentucky, brought about a significant rule-revision for any and all future travels — CHEAP was no longer a factor when selecting lodging (I’m too old for that kind of adventure).

Morning came, first light broke, and I did not hesitate to roll out of town. I started traveling south on Highway 41, made famous in the lyrics of the Allman Brothers song “Ramblin’ Man.” It was an apropos way to begin the second day of the tour. However, within a couple of miles, I was presented with my first decision — should I continue on US-41 (and be true to the music), or should I take the right fork and follow the road less traveled — Alternate US-41? There was no need to pull out my decision-making quarter — any “alternate” road held an important, symbolic significance. ALT-41 it must be!

The two-lane road twisted, turned and meandered through lush woodlands and around scenic hills, as it made its way from small country town to even smaller country village. I wandered around for an hour or so before realizing I had inadvertently turned when I should have twisted (or maybe it was the other way around). Somehow, I was headed back north. For a brief moment, I was upset with myself for taking the wrong turn, eating up valuable time and getting lost — then, I was upset with myself for thinking any of that mattered. I had no schedule, no agenda, and “here” was just as good as “there.” Such moments of epiphany must be heeded.

Crossing Kentucky in the north/south direction is not a long distance. If driving on an interstate highway, it only takes a couple of hours to traverse. However, after about four hours, I (somehow) found myself back on ALT-41, again heading south — and still in Kentucky. The highway had grown from a two-lane country road to a multi-lane, divided thoroughfare. I knew traffic (and “civilization”) loomed ahead, and I began the required mental adjustments. Serendipitously, a simple, brown sign appeared to my right, announcing the approaching turn into the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery. Something deep within me took over the controls, and I made the turn.

Serenely sitting on a bench, looking out over the expanse of precisely arranged, gleaming white headstones, one thing struck me — in death, rank is of no importance. Unlike civilian cemeteries — where prestige and status are attempted to be carried off into the afterlife by the size and shape of a tomb marker — in this hallowed ground, whether officer or enlisted, irrespective of man or woman, regardless of race or religion; all are laid to rest, next to each other, with the same honor, dignity and utmost of respect. It is a humbling commentary on the certainties of life.

With my mental, emotional and philosophical universes realigned, I climbed back into my pretty red truck and continued on down the highway — wondering where my wanderlust would take me next.

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