Hi,

I suppose that any worry I may have had about this series of missives turning into a sort of dull travelogue is ended with the fact that you’ve heard nothing from us as we crossed the high plains, traveled the length of the Colorado Rockies, trudged through the high desert or turned the corner in Western Oregon and Washington States.

Take it from me: so far, it’s been the trip of a lifetime. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to talk with you about it and other things one day.

But now I would rather speak about the selection and proper care and feeding of the Travel Companion. It’s a subject that I’ve come to learn something about during the past 7 or 8 weeks.

My traveling companion on this jaunt, as on other more or less interesting journeys over the past 20 years, is my wife, Denise. I don’t know if either of us accurately recall who selected whom the first time we met, but we’re pretty much agreed that it was a lucky day for us both. I’m pretty sure that the occasion was a happy confluence of current reading material and pheromones. In any event, it has proved a good basis for selecting the traveling companion.

Travel companions, if the journey is interesting or at all challenging, find themselves in situations and places where they must depend on each other. Frequently there is no one else on whom one might depend, even when that might be preferable. Of course, mutual dependency is a learned skill.

For starters, it is helpful to develop a well-founded and abiding trust in the Traveling Companion. This confidence in the behavior of the Traveling Companion is helpful when contending with other persons or when sorting through the vagaries of living in unfamiliar places.

Over time, one learns to trust the Traveling Companion and even to correctly predict many behaviors. The resulting trust in the Travel Companion is particularly useful within the traveling relationship. For example, the day will come when you will fail to recognize the benign motive behind some particularly outlandish bit of behavior on the part of the TC. At this juncture the wise traveler is able to place his faith in the trust established with the other.

As Denise once pointed out to me, the Travel Companion quite likely has your best interest at heart in any given situation, no matter how incomprehensible his or her actions may seem at the moment.

I think we might have been traveling from the kitchen to the living room when that particular insight was first shared, back in the early days of our relationship, traveling and otherwise.

Often, when one travels with a companion, the pair has the opportunity to separate for a morning, or a day, or a week. This is almost always a good idea, as it gives the companions the opportunity to individually pursue some interesting point without subjecting the traveling companion to the needless torture that can be inflicted, for example by the world’s largest ball of paint, or room after room after room of Judy Chicago’s work.

For obvious reasons it’s more difficult to do this when the companions are traveling by automobile, where the attachment is quite close and nearly constant.

In part because of the close confines imposed by automobile travel, the savvy traveler will demonstrate appreciation for the traveling companion frequently and in every way that the traveling companion might find fulfilling. This is simple prudence.

What, for example, is to be gained from pointing out that a particular observation was made by the Traveling Companion at least once in each of the preceding three states through which the traveling pair has passed? Exactly nothing. And if it’s a particularly astute observation it probably bears a little repetition anyway.

Even if the observation in question tends towards the uninteresting wouldn’t you think that hearing it yet again is preferable to 150 miles of silence? I imagine so, too. And if I’m ever faced with that circumstance that’s just how I plan to respond.

Same thing goes for other repetitive behaviors, such as the preparation and presentation of food, or the establishment of the campsite.

Salami, cheese, and onion sandwich for lunch again? Oh joy! The experienced traveler realizes that this is a really GOOD choice and recognizes that it is the thoughtful and generous travel companion who would prepare such a delicious and nutritious meal. A proper complement to this preparation is the thorough cleaning and predictable storing of the kitchen utensils and the prompt noting of any grocery requirements.

As for erecting or dismantling the tent, the companionable traveler recognizes that, even though there are more or less efficient approaches to the task, there is no actually incorrect way to go about it. Bolstered by this realization, the traveler is unlikely to find him- or herself tackling the project single-handed.

We’ve discovered that there is generally little urgency when traveling together by automobile. The considerate traveling companion bears this in mind. For example, it is helpful to recall that when traveling in close quarters comments delayed often mature nicely and both deepen and broaden in meaning and criticisms withheld can yield rewards in the restraining that are more gratifying than the self-satisfaction implicit in the apt retort. The desirable traveling companion can occasionally practice restraint.

In so many ways, traveling over great distances confined in tight quarters for long periods of time can be a wonderful opportunity for quality time with a good friend. Or I suppose it could be a living hell.

Come to think of it, I suppose this characterization can accurately apply to companions of all stripe, traveling as well as otherwise.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that Denise and I are continuing to have a swell time together on this trip. We’re looking forward to making our way back across the northern states, stopping in Wisconsin to visit my mom, and then returning to Maryland for a couple of weeks before once again decamping to the Dominican.

Hope that all is unfolding for you as expected.

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