“Where is everyone going?” We have pulled over for the eighth or ninth time at another non-descript dirt-road turn-off to let more passengers off. Unlike our family and the backpacker-sophisticates at the front of the bus, these travelers have personally-negotiated entry- and exit-points along the route. They are two- and three-generations together. They carry whole households of goods, bags of eggs, jackfruit and salted fish to cram around their seats and then haul off at unmarked roads like this one. As we made this and so many more stops on our Saturday journey to Kep, I had to remind Ernest that this is like our family’s Christmas trip to East Pittston or State Road—the boondocks of America, where excited grandparents and warm home-cooked food awaits. Watching one woman, daughter and granddaughter de-board and mount a motor-scooter down a dirt road, I thought of the special arrival they are bringing to a one-room house that is lighting up with a whole family brought together this week.
Bus rides make me sing Paul Simon songs, because I think Paul Simon liked riding buses, too. I imagine him hitch-hiking from Saginaw, and counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike with Cathy smoking cigarettes next to him, and together longing for that path into some unknown adventure. I think of his journey to Graceland with his nine-year-old son, and the believing that we poor boys and pilgrims will all be received in Graceland, Graceland… It’s a great way to pass the time while riding 30-miles an hour around oxen and motorbikes.
And again, it gets me wondering about this journey. When they’re not pulling hair or demanding snacks, the kids are all antennae absorbing the scenery. I am shepherding four enthusiastic optimists to go find something along these roads.