Having saved fifty bucks from veteran benefits (he’s a veteran?—from what war?) our nameless narrator is ready to head out west and join his friend Remi Boncoeur in San Francisco where they will ship out together on a round-the-world liner. After consulting a bunch of maps (which, given our narrator’s propensity for mythologizing, probably all have blank spaces around the general area of the Great Plains with the words “Here There Be Dragons” inscribed in 10-point Gothic), our modern Dante decides to get to Ely, Nevada the straightest way possible, which is to take Route 6 cross-country from Bear Mountain. Big mistake. He winds up a sodden mess of a man trying to hitchhike in the rain, a man whose dream of zipping across the country in hobo luxury has turned into a nightmare of rideless frustration.
“What the hell am I doing up here?” I cursed, I cried for Chicago. “Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!”
He finally gets a ride, but it’s a ride back into New York, where he blows half his money on a bus ticket to Chicago, berating himself because he wanted to head west and wound up “going up and down like something that can’t get started.” This is the lament of a man who is more interested in the destination than the journey. Will he ever actually enjoy any of his travels? Or will they all be frustrating interludes of motion without movement between where he is now and where somebody else is having a good time without him?