An open road is a free road which doesn’t end. It is linked in our primal minds like open fields, illicium (Rome’s idea of heaven), or perhaps the inherent adventure offered, like Frodo leaving the shire.
A closed road in contrast is a road that is closed at one end, a dead-end road, or a cul de sac. It may be a temporary closure for repair these frustrate us, because if your desired destination isn’t on that short patch of street you’ll have to turn around (and you know it’s going to be a three-point turn).
Dead End Roads
Dead end roads can be seen in Egypt around 1885 BC with roads ending in a wall and going no further. There is a limited size to cul de sacs as they can be no longer than 500 feet. They are rather claustrophobic according to Christopher Alexander and force interaction with your neighbours.
The freedom of the open road forms part of a quote from Aaron Lauritsen. The quote goes on to point out the lure or seduction of the road as well as the feeling of liberation. He also mentions serendipity, playing by chance.
Today many road trips are planned and there are many reasons for this. What happens if you reach a place which runs out of road, and you have to waste gas retracing your journey? And as you are using serendipity you may not even retrace your journey correctly and become lost? Or what happens if you are trying to catch a plane or get to a certain place on time? In which case serendipity is not the best option. But Aaron Lauritsen doesn’t seem to worry about this. To plan a trip is to some degree, to rob it of openness.
The Call of the Open Road
Tracing the term “the call of open road” seems to be linked to just after the Great Depression. It’s not as if they could go very far, there weren’t that many restaurants or service stations. Still, there was a feeling of adventure and a yearning to see the sights of the USA. Perhaps people had felt hemmed in, without options, during the depression and the idea of changing locations felt like freedom.
People imagine traveling in vintage cars as romantic, whether it is by road or by other byway but these are the very cars which are liable to break down. It’s such a good feeling behind the wheel though when the car behaves itself.
It was only after the Second World War that Americans went a-traveling as an interstate system began to form, and with it a glut of roadside attractions. The pattern was specifically to head West.
It was only when fuel became short in the 70’s that numbers diminished and hotels and restaurants in turn became more nondescript. It was good while it lasted. The good part was at least cars were less liable to act up.
There’s much to be said about the open road. It goes beyond a sales pitch and to somewhere else.