BDA: “Chasing Sunsets” and other Short Stories


Everything we do in life starts from an idealized place. “This date’s going to go really well!” we tell ourselves before finding out the other person is a Nazi, or leper. “That guy in front of me will definitely use his turn signal properly!” precedes the accident we get in two minutes later. “It’s okay, I can hold it!” And so on. While the other shoe never really dropped in any way on my trek across America, I was forced pretty early on to reconcile my vision of the trip with its reality-based limitations. Mostly this took the form of abandoned projects:

    • The License Plate Game. Or more specifically, the version where you collect photographic evidence. I had gotten New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut before realizing somewhere outside Santa Fe that I’d missed my chance to snap Delaware, and would probably never see it again. All together now: “Ugghhhhh, Delaware.”

  • “Racing Google.” A naive and impetuous young man at the start of my trip, I aimed each driving leg to beat Google Maps‘ posted travel times. They claim 4hr, 10 min from Haddonfield to Ithaca? WE’LL DO IT IN 3. Fireworks outlets and “live the journey” bumper stickers had me quickly giving up the idea, but I’m confident that if I really went for it, I could have posted Rory McIlroy numbers. Next trip’s a speed run all the way.
  • Vlogging? No, vlogging is stupid.

The idea I’m really upset to have duffed, though, was snapping sunset pictures across the country. So beyond cliche that it actually seemed to circle back around to original, I figured two things: 1) EVERYONE loves a good sunset pic and 2) you’ll need something else to do between love it/hate it ‘This American Life’ podcasts, right? So armed with a good-enough digital camera and the one-handed steering capabilities of J. Walter Weatherman, I set out to chase the setting sun. Here’s the kind of thing I should have got:

Here’s what I came up with instead (and bear in mind, this is the best of the bunch):

Cool shot! The rest are out of focus, or nothing to do with sunsets at all. (I took a lot of pictures of the highway.) It should be noted that the one idea I did follow through on, growing out my road beard, would have required more effort to abandon. But SUCH IS THE POETRY OF LIFE. In any case, actually getting great sunset pics would mean that I couldn’t title this post “Chasing Sunsets” and wax philosophical about dreams deferred. So it all works out in the end.

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