By this point you’re probably familiar with the disappearance, and now confirmed murder, of Gabby Petito. This week, instead of focusing on little-known escapes along the road, I thought I would share some thoughts about what it has felt like as a road tripper to watch this tragic story unfold.
Many of us know the places that have been featured on the news in the last week. The national parks in particular, with your Instagram-ready, sweeping vistas and spectacular rock formations. The forests and the fields. The sacred lands and unspoiled terrains that truly give us pause.
Then there are the little out-of-the-way diners and roadside cafés. Places where you pull up and fill up. Places where you pause and take stock of the journey. We’ve seen so many of them in the last week. We know so many of those places because we’ve been there ourselves. We can feel them. And now, here is this highly publicized story, by no means the only tragic story along the road but, for a variety of reasons, the one that is garnering a lot of attention. All of a sudden, the road doesn’t seem as friendly and welcoming as it usually does.
For me, I start thinking about the details of the road. What do we pay attention to? What do we remember? Incredibly, a legion of fellow travelers has become integral to helping unlock the secrets of this case. On-the-road videos, social media posts and personally generated content have revealed telltale clues that, in one case at least, seem to have helped locate the body of Gabby Petito.
We all know how technology is changing the road. Navigation has never been easier or more interesting. Documenting the experiences of the road has also become a natural and seamless part of the experience. But I don’t think I’ll ever take another road trip without paying closer attention to every mile. A parked car along the side of the road, a nomadic hitchhiker, an over-heated conversation overheard in some small diner. What were once largely forgettable little blips along the path now seem to loom larger in the wake of this unfolding tragedy. People are combing their hard drives in the hope that perhaps they captured some fragment of a second that might help authorities figure things out.
What about you? Do any of these details have the power to affect how you now travel along the road? Are your senses any more heightened in the midst of this? Do you think you’ll become more aware of any anomalies that at one time you would have easily forgotten? I love writing about the road and I love photographing special places that I get to visit. I also love sharing those things both in book and magazine form, on social media, and in columns like this one. But there’s just something about this case that I truly think it’s going to affect how I deal with the miles from this point on.
Would love to know your thoughts.
Read more from Chris Epting here.
Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com.