Nowhere was solitude more available than on a long drive, especially at night; and it seems to me that my generation was defined by the open road, and the accompanying hope that a promise lay at the end of it. The almost trance-like experience of driving down the soft tunnel of a dark highway at night was something I relished. At most, there would be the distant red lights of a car far ahead, and always the murmur of the glowing radio, the hiss of the tires and, at a certain speed on narrower roads, the fizzing past of telephone poles with their rhythmic whiplash.
Late at night, in most places I knew, there was almost no traffic and driving, a meditative activity, could cast a spell. Behind the wheel, gliding along, I was keenly aware of being an American in America, on a road that was also metaphorical, making my way through life, unhindered, developing ideas, making decisions, liberated by the flight through this darkness and silence. With less light pollution, the night sky was different, too--starrier, more daunting, more beautiful.
--Paul Theroux, from "America the Overfull"
, in the Op-Ed page of the New York Times
, 31 January 2007.