Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

What’s the Question?

Posted By on September 9, 2009

stellanashvilleIn less than two weeks, I will hop in my trusty Toyota, trundle down the rutted driveway of my Hudson Valley (New York) home, and drive to California. Driving three thousand miles across the country is fairly common for me, as long-time Roadfoodie readers know—this will be my tenth drive in five years. Driving solo—with only the black-and-white dog for company—is not as common; only once have I made the whole drive alone. This blog was the result of the boredom that ensued (I bought the domain name and began posting from a motel in Pennsylvania on the second day out). My life-partner has been a frequent but not constant co-traveler; sometimes, he flies out of the drive (to teach, act, or direct) from one state and flies back in, a few days later, to another one.

Since the purpose of the annual migration is to escape the Northeast winter, we usually leave when the leaves have left the trees. This year I’ll be setting off when the trees are still lush (not to say rain-forest-like), because I want to try to get to know my mother, whose health has begun to fail. I’m leaving sooner rather than later because, on a project so fraught, there’s really no time like the present. On the plus side, this means I’ll be able to take a northerly route for the first time, and can breathe in the zeitgeist of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado—states that Roadfoodie’s tires have never before touched—instead of the usual: Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

There’s another way this tenth drive will differ: normally, my sole goal and entertainment along the road is good, honest, non-chain-restaurant food, a glass or two of wine in the local watering hole, and edifying conversation of the kind rarely found on either coast. I’ve always found plenty of all of those, plus an eye-opening perspective on my erstwhile but imperfect country. On this trip, however, I’m searching for something entirely different: I want answers to a really big and important question.DSCN0877

Trouble is, I’m not sure what it is.

I could ask why it’s taken me forty years to want to fall truly-madly-deeply in love with my mother. I could ask why I can’t seem to settle down somewhere and call it a permanent home. I could ask what I should do with the rest of my life. But, sadly, these are not questions that can be answered by anyone but me.

Instead, I want to ask the people I meet along the way a trick question, that seems to apply to them and them alone, but will reveal truths of profound depth and clarity to me, the asker. In this trying time, I am not the only one examining her inner landscape, contemplating the road less traveled, allowing herself glimpses of a future that might once have belonged to someone else. We, as a people, are learning to think outside of the box.

Please, readers, help me find the question. This will not be easy, because it must resonate equally in Erie, Des Moines, and Santa Fe. When we figure out what it is, I’ll post the answers I receive as my drive progresses. Plus, of course, record the tastes, sights, and sounds of this entirely new route, one that weather has never allowed me to explore before.
If anyone has recommendations for farms, snacks (especially meat), or convivial cocktails along the way, please share them here (must be within 5 miles of the route below, ‘cause I’m in a hurry).

Roadfoodie’s Route West, 2009:
Catskill, NY to Erie, PA to Chicago, IL to Des Moines, IO to Kearney, NE to Denver, CO to Santa Fe, NM to Sedona, AZ to Palm Springs, CA.
Check out the actual route at
Catskill to Palms Springs 9/09 in a larger map

UPDATE 9/20: Suggestions for The Question

* When bad things happen, are you able to see a good side?  If so, how?  Examples?
– Josh Lipsman, Athens and New York City

* Do you equate your self-worth with your net-worth?
– Owen Lipstein, Athens,

* The Questions That Now Plague Me:
Why am I here?
Where is my croissant?
Who took my foie gras?
Why is the wine so expensive here?
Why can’t I get rillette at my local greenmarket?
Why am I here? (Wait…I asked that already…)
– Michael Flamini, West Stockbridge and New York City (recently returned from a trip to Paris for a Big Birthday)

* What does it actually take to get people to REALLY become more caring and empathetic? This question occupies my mind a lot, because it seems an absolute prerequisite for an end to suffering/war/hunger in the world.
– Ilana Stone, South Africa

* What gives you joy?
– Melinda Handy, Portland OR


3 Responses to “What’s the Question?”

  1. Mindy says:

    Brigit this gives me goosebumps, I tell you, GOOSEBUMPS.
    One of my favorite questions is “What brings you joy?” I’m not sure if that is the big question for you but it could be, I think, one that would apply from Kalamazoo to SLO. Hugs to you on this journey. I’m so glad you’re doing it.

  2. Matt says:

    If you are around Cleveland…you should stop at Michael Symon’s Lola or Lolita. He’s a pork lover, and it’s all good.

  3. Jared Aswegan says:

    Is what you are looking for better than what you have?
    Why is the grass in your back yard not as green as your neighbors? Is it really not as green?
    Fame and fortune aside, no striving to achieve, no seeking recognition, co competition, just you alone in the mirror, what is it that your heart tells you to do? Is it really all that hard to do it?
    Set aside the sought after place in the word and find your place in the world. ( and I’m not talking about location…)

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