The (New) Great American Road Trip
In my anticipation to get out of town everything seems to take a little longer. A woman snags the last open pump at the gas station. An empty bucket of roofing tar in the middle of the road that probably fell off someone's truck slows traffic. The red lights take a little bit longer. Everyone drives a little more poorly. I keep thinking some piece of bad luck is going to jump up and grab me if I'm not careful and I'll never get out of this town.
But get out I do. It's a hot clear day as I turn onto I-70 West, 95 degrees, just a few streaming clouds in a baby blue sky. One last red light – the longest of them all - and I'm on the highway. I watch the Kansas City skyline recede in my rear view mirror as I gun the engine to a roar and I begin my journey. I murmur an adios to my hometown. I don't know when I'll be back.
Years ago I took a similar trip as an adventurous 19-year-old with an equally adventurous Swiss girlfriend. Christina wanted to see the vast expanses of the western United States and I had a 1974 Karmann Ghia convertible that remarkably seemed up to the task. We spent three months driving the back roads of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and Colorado, camping as we went. Christina was both organized and stylish in a manner I can only describe as "Swiss" and every night our tent was a model of economy and comfort. I still have no idea how we packed all that stuff into my Ghia but we never wanted for anything and I still often think of the strange and beautiful sights we saw, all the more impressive seeing them through European eyes. It was romantic, thrilling and wonderful. It was a different time.
Perhaps the most notable difference was the lack of cell phones. Back then, the only people who had phones in their cars were the types who stopped to ask if you had Grey Poupon in the back of your Rolls and a portable phone was one of those suitcase jobs found at Army surplus stores. I distinctly remember camping at a site where the only phone, a payphone, was out of service. Calling mom and dad would have to wait until the next town. And if your car broke down you could wait for hours before the next person who could help you came along that dusty back road.
I'm wired now - I have my laptop that allows me to work from the road as long as I can find a signal, so I never really have to lose contact with relatives and friends unless I choose to go off the grid. I can work as I travel. I’m writing this from my friend Dirk's house in Denver as he very kindly is letting me stay in the spare bedroom for a few days.
I have a small audio recorder to record interviews and notate my thoughts, though this requires listening to my own voice to transcribe them, something no one really enjoys.
I also have a digital camera, a far cry from the small camera that Christina and I had, and I won't have to drop off 30 rolls of film at Walgreens when I get home. The camera shoots video as well so I can document interesting places and people I meet along the way.
Of course, the digital revolution has a downside - shortly after I arrived in Denver my camera's brand new card crapped out on me, erasing the photos and video I took as I meandered across Kansas. Hopefully, the digital technicians I found here in Denver can retrieve them and I look forward to writing the one-star product review on Amazon.
Tent, sleeping bag, clothes, books, gold panning gear, fishing pole, a tool box full of toiletries, pictures of my mom and dad, all packed into a 97 Honda Accord that hopefully will handle the 5000 or so miles I intend to put on it. No beautiful Swiss girlfriend to keep me organized this time but nothing's perfect.
I spent a night in Russell, Kansas, and had a nice early morning chat with my hotel neighbor, an amiable fellow named Steve who was also heading towards Colorado on an odyssey of his own. Fifty-ish, divorced, and looking for greener pastures, he too had decided to head west. And like any modern Kerouac he had outfitted his truck with cameras to record the journey - one mounted on the passenger door facing him and another over his shoulder to capture the open road.
He didn't have a Swiss girlfriend either but we both had half the country in front of us and a means to share it with people.
And that's pretty good.
Photo: Sheila Scarborough/Creative Commons/Flickr
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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