Travel notesIssue 23 | November 2015

Going Places

by Rachel Miller-Howard

We drove south along Route 285, through an obstacle course of tumbleweeds and dust devils, and by cafes with hand-painted signs boasting green chile hot enough to keep Satan in Hell. My friend Paolo reached into the back seat of the Subaru and pulled out Jim Harrison’s Just Before Dark as I turned left at the sign for Texas. I glanced over at the book in his lap; there was a soiled Goodwill sticker pasted down its frayed spine. Paolo lifted the front cover, and the volume flopped open to the essay, “Going Places.”

Late dusk obscured the endless desert, so he clicked on a flashlight to read aloud then Paolo paused as we drove into the inky shadow of a freight train, and allowed its mechanical groan to cut through the quiet darkness. We were twenty-two, so the future was hopeful yet hazy. I felt the impulse to go places, but wanted there to be meaning in my itinerancy.

Two years later, I set out on another road trip with a different friend. I tossed Just Before Dark on the dashboard, and Angie and I rolled down the gravel driveway. I read “Going Places” aloud as she drove west toward a drooping sun and its orange glow. Remember that habit is a form of gravity that strangulates, Harrison reassured us.

Indeed, Harrison’s rules for living accompanied me across 4,000 miles of America, as if the author himself rode along in the back seat. Angie and I wound our way across the flat desert of Arizona, along the empty roads of Nevada, up the craggy coast of Northern California, and through national parks full of meandering millennials and baby boomers on the RV circuit. And every night, I brought the increasingly tattered volume into the tent and read aloud. During the day, I flipped to a new essay as we ate lunch on the hood of the car, stretched out on the chipped silver paint of my Civic. Angie and I congratulated ourselves on matching Harrison’s relentless respect for food (particularly in professional quantities), as we guzzled Capri Suns and unloaded coolers full of snacks. Harrison’s reverence for eating and awe for remote places added depth and definition to our journey.

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About the author

Rachel hails from the great state of Michigan. She left the Mitten to attend Wesleyan University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Since then, she’s lived in New Mexico, Antarctica, and Alaska. She is passionate about gluten and fried foods. Her favorite form of travel is a good old fashioned road trip, filled with static radio, gas station snacks, and jumping into mysterious bodies of water.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok