The Pilgrimage Issue: True Tales from the Road

Photograph of backroads between Los Banos and Gustine, Calif. by Alexia Aubault.

We could have called this "The Travel Issue," but mere travel is not what we were after. We wanted to go beyond the two-dimensional, picture-postcard experience of tourism to something deeper — a voyage out in space and back in time. A place where origins and destinations meet. A journey where the meaning isn't set until the visitor is there to set it. A pilgrimage.

Such an endeavor is more than just a road trip. As Phil Cousineau explains in The Art of the Pilgrimage, "it was what the wandering pilgrim-poet Basho called 'a glimpse of the under-glimmer,' an experience of the deeply real that lurks everywhere beneath centuries of stereotypes and false images that prevent us from truly seeing other people, other places, other times."

For this Pilgrimage Issue, then, we went in search of the under-glimmer around California. Anna Roth went looking for one artist of the road and found another. Joe Eskenazi found fellowship with a culture that embraced danger, and then danger tried to embrace him. Erin Sherbert went to the end of civilization, where decay is the only thing worth preserving, while Ian S. Port went to civilization's beginning, and discovered that when you visit a special place, you sometimes contribute to its change into something else.

What better place to consider these kinds of journeys than San Francisco, a city where pilgrims and tourists stand shoulder to shoulder, visiting the same things for very different reasons. Which is why there are other stories in this issue in which the city is the destination, and someone's "deeply real" may be a part of your everyday. Foreign roads, after all, are familiar to someone.

American Ruins: A Town Where Decay Itself Is Preserved
By Erin Sherbert

The Land of Giants: An Artist's Roadside Attractions Call Attention to History
By Anna Roth

Roots of Civilization: Confronting the Wine Snob Within
By Ian S. Port

Horns Aplenty: Living it Up with the Suicide Squad
By Joe Eskenazi

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