Al Batt: I’ve been to about half of everywhere, man

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Al Batt

The water hit like thousands of tiny bricks being flung at me with incredible accuracy. I was being pelted with drops of water. It wasn’t a hard rain falling. It was hot water from a forceful shower. I’d intentionally set the showerhead to a superhero power. It was the “hurt me without doing any permanent damage” setting.

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Exiting the shower, I encountered the number one cause of dry skin — towels. They run the gamut from sandpaper to puffy clouds.

One of the best things about a hotel is that the water pressure is better than that in our rural home. That said, I’ve known showers in my travels that were nothing more than a mere dribble and other showers that couldn’t find hot water. I can’t complain. The majority of the people who have ever lived never enjoyed a hot shower. I’ve stayed in campgrounds and bunkhouses where an outside shower offered ice cubes. I’ve lived in tents where no shower existed, so I flopped around in a river like an exuberant trout.

I remember being a boy watching the geese fly overhead in the spring and again in the fall. I wanted to go where they went and see what they saw.

I wanted to travel, to fly with the geese. I’ve flown, but there hasn’t been a single goose in any of the airplane seats unless I counted the down in a human coat. I’ve felt the great pleasure of the weary traveler booking a round-trip flight listed as $699 while knowing I had a million frequent flier miles saved up, and when those were applied, the price dropped to $688. The geese would have been proud of me.

My father was happy being where he’d already been. His wanderlust was satisfied by joining the Earth on its 1.6-million-mile daily journey around the sun. My parents never dragged a single bag onto an airplane. Hotel stays were rarities.

I heard a song by Johnny Cash before I went on the radio to share some blatherskite. He sang a troubadour’s tale, “I’ve been everywhere, man. Crossed the deserts bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere.”

Australian songwriter Geoff Mack wrote the song in 1959 using Australian place names. Hank Snow converted the song to North and South American place names in 1962 and made it a hit in this country. Asleep at the Wheel did a version in 1973 and Johnny Cash’s rendition, accompanied by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, hit the airwaves in 1996.

Where did Johnny Cash travel to in the song? Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma, Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo, Tocopilla, Barranquilla and Padilla. Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey, Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devil’s Lake and Crater Lake. Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika, Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica, Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport, Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport, Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina, Pasadena and Catalina. Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado, Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado, Larimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chatanika, Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika, Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Sioux City, Cedar City and Dodge City.


I doubt Johnny Cash ever used the word “uffda” in any of his songs, but I can’t be sure.

I read somewhere that Cash’s trip to those 92 places would have covered 112,515 miles.

I’ve been to about half the places mentioned in the song and experienced flat tires, engine trouble, congested traffic, endless road construction and bad weather — lots of bad weather. I ran over a deer antler. I didn’t hit a deer, but blew a tire on a tine. My fuel light has come on more times than I’m willing to tell my wife. I’ve had a multitude of exceptional adventures and met countless good people. I’ve been there, man.

The years skid past quickly like a bowling ball on ice. I still look at the geese flying overhead. I thank them for inspiring me. I love to travel and appreciate the opportunities to do so.

Travel’s greatest benefit is the coming home part.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.