Both Sides Now of the Road not Taken

How do I go from meeting with people to talk about how my daughters can have the most successful educational experiences possible to a meeting with people to talk about the future of journalism? The easy answer is head south on I-81, throw the Paul Theroux tape in the cassette player and start driving. Yet that only addresses the logistics. As I drove down I-81 listening to stories about Mongolia, I looked out the window and saw cattle standing by the side of the highway with snow covered mountains in the distance. We haven’t had any snow on the ground up in Connecticut, and here I was in Virginia seeing snow in the distance. There was a disconnect between what I was seeing, what I was hearing and what I was thinking.
My mind went back to discussions about meditation and being grounded, of our dreams and the choices we make to realize these dreams. The National Conference on Media Reform is a destination for me and for many, but what could I, what could we, learn along the way. I decided to turn off the interstate and head over to the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive down the snow covered peaks. I paused for a moment to wonder if this would be a mistake. Would the Parkway be closed because of the snow? Would it be too dangerous? I thought back to the discussions I had been having about my daughters. Skipping high school and heading straight to college is also a big risk. Would they miss important things in high school? Would it be too difficult? Where would it all lead to? I thought back to my work in risk analytics and the recognition that if you took to few risks, your return would be substandard. You need to find the right amount of risk.

The mountains were beautiful with the snow. Initially, I just drove. I had a destination to reach, after all. Yet slowly, the thoughts about meditation started to sink it. I started stopping at overpasses and taking some pictures. I sat beside a waterfall and listened to its soothing effect. I stopped at a visitor center to find it closed. I read the map outside and planned for my future.

The old saying, better to travel hopefully than to arrive popped into my head. I was excited about the journey. Yet soon after the closed visitor station, I came to a sign announcing that the next section of parkway was closed. There were no signs on how to get back to the interstate. The only road off the mountains put me on the other side, away from I-81. I drove, heading in what I considered to be the proper general direction. There was less hope in my travels now. It was simply trying to find my way. I wanted to arrive. The farmland rolled on without opportunities to find a map or directions. Eventually, I found a place where I could get back on the parkway. It required a little backtracking and I wasn’t sure if I had gone far enough to pass the blocked off section of the parkway.

It was approaching supper time as I got back on the parkway. I passed what looked like a very nice bed and breakfast. I probably should have stopped to spend the night, but I wanted to get a little further before I called it a day. The parkway passed over roads heading to Roanoke. I saw the headlights of people heading home from work and I continued my journey. A deer leapt out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and swerved. It was the closest I’d ever gotten to hitting a deer. Both the deer and I escaped unscathed.

Further down the parkway, I came to another section of road that was closed. I headed back down the mountain, again on the side I didn’t want to be on, and I followed the roads in the proper general direction. My mind started focusing on the more immediate and practical tasks; finding my way, finding food, and finding a place to sleep. I still hoped to find a magical place to stay, but as I got further along, I found the roads had taken me much further east than I had wanted to go. I had ended up in North Carolina, close to Chapel Hill, but not close enough. Perhaps this was an omen.

Soon, I was back on the interstate, trying to make up for the time spent on my adventure. I called Kim and she searched for the most practical place for me to stay, and I ended up in one of the many corporate hotels that all seem the same.

I have a longer drive today than I had been hoping for or planning on. My side trip on the parkway didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted. I had to travel further, backtrack, avoid dangers, and stop at a place that wasn’t my ideal. Some of this may have been because I didn’t make the best choices of routes or when to stop. Some of it was the result of things not under my control, like sections of road closed off because of the weather. Yet it was a valuable side trip that I am glad I took.

I guess this applies to the journeys that my daughters will take. I will ask them to read this, and I hope it will encourage them and give them strength. I will carry this with me into Memphis as I continue my journey for my own life and as others struggle with the future of journalism. We can all romanticize Robert Frost’s road not taken, but when we take the time to explore those roads we find the difficulties along side the beauties.

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Beautiful post, Honey.