Fragments from the Road

America, America: Precollapse of Capitalism

Words by Justin Chatwin | Photos by Dean Bradshaw

With quotes from Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines”, 1987


Seems to me that the most challenging thing to take a trip is a reason.  A purpose.   A yearning for something that symbolizes something bigger than our day-to-day lives. A daydream fantasy. Something that, even when you’re hung over and exhausted from nights of no sleep, you still are pulled forward to get to that place, or person, or fantasy.

Once you have that reason, the rest of the trip takes care of itsself. I once delivered a pair of white motorcycle gloves to a girl on the other side of the country. I once went because a friend bought a new motorcycle. I once went because of a pig roast 2,000 miles away. Or an unseen national park. Or a hot spring. Or a dry lake bed. Or an old miner’s camp. Or a job. Or a funeral. Or that girl ...    

Or simply “for no good reason.”  

In this case, it was a combination of all of them.


June 22nd. 5:45pm  

No cell service.  Hot pipe on upper lumbar. 522 miles today. Three states. Four gas stops. Oil floods the cracks on the white lakebed. Alkali-caked fingernails. Corn nuts in my beard. Still no cell service. Raccoon goggle lines. Used underwear flaps from the end of the Tenkara rod. No rivers round here. Homemade airplane runway. I need to drink more water. Chewing tobacco in my right rear molar. Sand-caked eyes are stinging. Heart rate is uncomfortably low. Shoulders won’t go down.  Humming of a Cessna from the high mesa.


Still no cell service.


“Psychiatrists, politicians and tyrants are forever assuring us that the wandering life is an aberrant form of behavior; a neurosis; a form of unfulfilled sexual longing; a sickness which, in the interests of civilisation, must be suppressed. Nazi propagandists claimed that gipsies and Jews ‑ peoples with wandering in their genes ‑ could find no place in a stable Reich. Yet in the East, they still preserve the once universal concept: that wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”  

I could hear the bending groan of aluminum from the wind. My cousin’s airplane. The Airstream. Our motorcycles. And the belly laughter of my strange group of friends echoed. Men from all different corners of the continent. Looking for an escape. To nowhere.  That was soothing. So, I put down my book, closed my eyes, and farted.  

And I finally felt my shoulders drop.


Why must a man with enough money to live on, in happiness in his life, feel drawn to divert himself on long sea voyages. Or to sleep in the dirt? To dwell in another town? To go off in search of a rare goat? Or to go off to war and break skulls? Anarchists were always the gentlemen of the road.  


Gypsies saw themselves as hunters. The world is their hunting ground.

Our nature lies in movement, complete calm is death.  

However, romantic ideas may put you sleeping in a ditch.


America, America. America the great. America the big. America the lost. America the I will not shed a tear nor have regret for our past. Sparkplug America and his broken rodeo. The cracked mirrors. Shiny cars. Crop-top lattes.  And social media ambassadors. We are begging the youth to smash down the current walls. The broken dreams. It was a trap!! It did not work! So let’s rebuild! Rebuild! And ride as far and as fast as you can before the wolf of America catches you. Drinking. Sucking. And Fucking. And licking his pearly chops at your idea of a quick fix into cheap happiness that will rise momentarily then fall into the same hole as the Navajo and the Lakota. All of the cities and wars and selfies and greedy little daydream fantasies that one day I will be OK will not help you sleep better at night.


Bottom of the rucksack. Pebbles. Sand. One switch blade. Origin: Nevada. One Argentinian dollar coin. Origin: Patagonia, 2 years prior. A rosary given to me by a woman in Texas who felt Jesus would come help me one day. An unopened condom.  Origin: my roommate’s toiletries bag.  And a piece of folded rice paper that read:

“Go west young man! Go west! Away from the cities and the government camps. Away from glue, hash, smack, gaol. Out! Back to the desert from which grandfather was hounded” Origin, unknown. 


And last, A little white pin that read

“A journey is a fragment of Hell”

Origin, Hell.

The road is my home.


Read the story in Volume 013