Chapter 8 - "peeing on the side of the road"

I sort of glazed over something that, to me, is quite significant for a man. The unabashed opportunity to urinate in the wide open plains unrestricted by porcelain bowls and confining splash guards. There is something quite “masculating” about pulling off the road, dropping your drawers right then and there and leaving your mark on the sands of time.

This is obviously only possible because there are stretches in North Dakota where you won’t see any on-coming or forth-going traffic for nearly 20 to 30 minutes at a time. There aren’t bored cops holed up in speed traps ready to pounce on you for the slightest traffic infraction. There aren’t homes with large bay windows overlooking the interstate; in fact, you could spin around in a circle and not see a single house with the naked eye. So, needless to say, peeing on the side of the road is inconsequential at best. "If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? My own rendering of that famous bit of philosophical nonsense based on this story would be, “If a man takes a wiz on the side of the road and no one is around to see it, does it make a puddle?” I think not.

When I think of North Dakota I think of peeing on the side of the road. The two go hand in hand. The reason for this association is simple. No one lives in that state. Ok, maybe a handful of humans here and there, but compared to the sheer mass of land, the ratio of humans to acreage is probably 1 to 100,000. I have no evidence beyond that which my own eyes saw as we traversed the long and lonely highway stretched out across that empty State in our Union. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this fact. I was hoping that land existed out there that remained feral, untamed by the machine of man. And it was so.

It didn’t take much imaginative energy to picture Indians sitting on horses atop mesas or teepees organized into makeshift communities at riverbeds tucked in gorges protected by haggard hills and walls of loose shale. The land looked like something you’d see in a Western movie, only instead of blue screen technology and masterful CG effects emulating authentic, it was the real McCoy, pregnant with pure…a pure that pierces you through arresting your affections and holding them hostage. A pure than makes so many other things in life seem so vile and compromised, adulterated and sullied by society. You can’t see the counterfeit until you encounter the original. And once you’re ruined by the real, it’s hard to be content anymore with cheap affectations.

So when you pull of the highways and byways in places such as this, peeing in the ditch becomes almost holy. You’re leaving a part of yourself behind. You’re marking a territory where you momentarily paused to smell the roses (there were no roses, but there was the distinct smell of thawing earth which is incomparably better in my opinion). And the land soaks it up, absorbing that part of you into itself, nevermore to be the same upon your departure. As you drench the earth in that sacred moment, your eyes gaze across the open range with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights stare that you only see in a men’s public bathroom where guys stand over hospitable urinals ogling at the wall that is two feet in front of them. It’s so much different when you’re surveying the mosaic contours of the North Dakotan prairies instead of gawking at the prosaic panels of tile covered in that musty condensation that can only be found in nasty public restrooms. Trust me; you just have to relieve yourself in the West to know of what I speak. It’s nigh unto heaven.

After what felt like days in North Dakota we crossed into Montana in the middle of the afternoon. We were picking up free hours along the way as we moved West because of the time change. We were robbing Peter to eventually have to pay Paul, but you don’t think of those things at the front end of trips such as this. To me, they were free hours…free hours to enjoy what could quite possible be the most glorious state in America. Free hours to get lost in a land that can only be described as enchanting.

The drive wasn’t even close to over, but somehow being in Montana made it seem so.


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