And so it went, roughly four hundred miles at a time through Utah and Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa. Stopping only for gas, bathroom breaks, food, and the nightly motel, Cody and the old Opel moved steadily across the country. Night two was spent in Green River, Wyoming, and then night three in Ogallala, Nebraska. Cody watched in awe as he passed through the loneliest landscape he could imagine through Wyoming. Remembering passages of old Western stories he read, or songs that Big Francis sang, that mentioned towns like Laramie and Cheyenne, Cody felt a connection to the territory that he sped through. He almost expected a shift in consciousness as he crossed the Great Divide, and sang an old song by The Band.
Across the Great Divide, just grab your hat, and take that ride
Get yourself a bride, and bring your children down to the riverside*
He wanted to pause and feel the earth and breathe the air, but his sense of purpose would not allow for any unnecessary stops.
After landing in Ogallala, he found another cheap motel to rest his aching body. The old Opel was moving along well, but it was not a smooth ride. The car rattled after reaching speeds over fifty miles per hour, and then smoothed out again once it got over seventy-five. Getting more comfortable behind the wheel, Cody still did not dare push his luck by forcing the old Opel beyond his own degree of comfort. That meant driving in the “rattle zone.” After taking a few hits off of his pipe, and then lighting a filtered Camel, Cody took out his guitar and played a few tunes.
Before collapsing in exhaustion, he looked at the map and planned his next day’s ride. At a pace of roughly eight hours of driving each day, he thought that he could make it to Des Moines, Iowa by the end of his journey tomorrow.
That’s over 1,700 miles in four days; 1,700 miles from Big Francis. More than half-way to New York!
Each day got easier as he put more miles between his old life and his new.
The road felt like home now. He would play his favorite cassettes on the boom box, and cruise the freeway with one hand on the wheel, the other out the window, and a filtered Camel jostling about in the ashtray. He belted out the songs as he drove along, and began to associate certain songs with certain landscapes. In the deserts and plains, he liked the Grateful Dead, with their bouncy beats, exploratory jams, and almost spiritual lyrics. Climbing the mountains, he would play more progressive music like Genesis or Yes, which made him think of epic quests and pilgrimages. He always started the mornings with the Rolling Stones; loud, driving beats to wake the body and motivate the soul.
This journey brought out many conflicted emotions in Cody. He was lonely, but he enjoyed the peace of being alone. He missed his friends, especially Huey, but he also hated them a little for not coming along. Cody always knew that this was his own journey, but he now saw it as something he could only do alone. He never thought about phoning his friends to check-in, nor did he even think to make a friend along the way. His was a place of solitude. Interstate 80 was his territory; his domain.
As he continued through Nebraska and into Iowa, he realized that he thought less and less about Big Francis, his mom, and Sister Sara. He even thought less about Huey, Randall, Jamil, and Allan. Passing through North Platte and Lexington, Lincoln and Omaha, and crossing the Missouri River, his thoughts focused on the future and what his life in New York City would look like. He envisioned a world in which he had regular gigs in coffeehouses around the big city. He saw new friends, fans, and even girls. He did not see himself with a band in this new future; rather, he would be a solo performer. Alone. Unaccompanied. Like his journey East.
Reaching Des Moines just after 6:00 pm on August 4th, Cody almost lamented the eventual end to this journey. The road was a haven for him. If he did not have a specific place to be, he would just keep driving, circling the whole United States. He even entertained the idea of touring with the Grateful Dead; playing music for tips in the parking lots of shows, and traveling forever.
But that was not a loner’s game. He would need a group of others to help sustain him when the Dead weren’t touring and Cody did not want to be beholden to anyone. He set out alone, and he meant to succeed alone. He was already succeeding. Alone.