As someone who traveled the interstate coast to coast in the 1970s before the era of offramp cities, I was bemused by the April 24 cover feature on the RV travels of two young alumni in search of themselves, apparently, rather than America. Not only is their experience no wonder, considering how many youthful geriatrics are doing the same thing, but it’s hardly a novelty: My grandparents were among countless “tin canners” plying the Lincoln Highway in the 1940s.
But what I found troubling about the adventurers and their high-profile incarnation in PAW is the lack of interest the couple seem to have in the land their travel is polluting with fumes and noise. There seems to be no expressed awareness of the physical environment they are traversing and the threats to its — and our — survival posed by, among countless human activities, such cavalier transports. The worry, for example, over an 80-gallon gas tank getting 6 mpg appears to be about cost in money to the travelers, not cost in damage to the Earth. There is no free air, though the travelers seem to think so.
I’m surprised that PAW would promote such a seemingly clueless and self-centered enterprise; I’m surprised that Princeton graduates would display themselves in this way. As a corrective, I recommend William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, written in the old days when highway maps still existed.