Dec 282011

[T]his journey, this long, enduring journey by car, this ground-level journey that spares you nothing of the tectonics of space and hence of time, allows the traveler to experience a mode of the finite that alone can allow him to come to terms with the finitude of landscapes and faces.

Or rather: by yielding that sense of distance and gravity of places back to the traveler; by adding to that a sense of immensity; by pursuing a frontier that seems to keep hiding, growing ever more distant as he approaches it; by a continuous alternation of deserts, mountains, plains inhabited and deserted, huge cities and makeshift villages, more deserts, Indian reservations, parks; finally by playing remorselessly on this yearning for freedom that, in most modern modes of travel, lingers only as an improbable memory, this kind of journey has the additional merit of offering a reminiscence, a kind of condensation, of the great founding myths of the American nation: land promised and refused, lines of escape, shimmering horizons, the wall of the Pacific, the American dream—the last chance, in this world, to have even a whiff of that rite-of-passage experience that for centuries was the discovery, by each individual, of America.

—Betrand-Henri Lévy in “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville”

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