My driving time is also my thinking time. It lets me get away from other people and pressures which would otherwise constantly occupy my thoughts, & largely prevent me from being able to think & reflect about things (which is how I prefer to spend much of my time anyway). I am a philosopher, you see. The word "philosopher" (in case you don't already know) comes from two Greek words, "philo-" meaning "love of", and "sophia", meaning "wisdom" or "knowledge". So, since I am a person in love with knowledge and learning things, I believe I truly am a "philosopher". Driving big rigs over the wide open stretches of America merely takes me away from normal, everyday life (like Thoreau in the woods), and allows me the time and opportunity to really think. I never was happy with the 'normal' nine-to-five routine and competitiveness of the life I once tried to pursue. And finding that I was not likely to be handed a job as a college professor merely based on my good looks (ha!), I went out on the open road as a perpetual traveller, since I was better-known there anyway.
Many of the people in my family are professional educators, and a number of us also write, so I guess I "fit right in". My first cousin, Dr. [ ] White, is Associate Professor of Mathematics at [ ] College in [ ]--quite a brilliant human being. His late Dad (my uncle) was even smarter, and could never be "stumped" by even the most difficult, "unsolveable" mathematical problems which his son (the Mathematician, who couldn't even solve them himself!) would present to him!
My field, however, is not mathematics, but rather life itself. I am mostly a serious, even somber person. I do often find situations funny and laughable, but there is nothing trivial or frivolous about me at all. I do not like to waste my time with personal interactions with most people I see from day to day. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they are very few. I was almost certainly mildly autistic as a boy and young man, and much of this tendency still carries over to the present day. It seems (from what I've read on the subject) that the frequent drawback to having a brilliant mind is also being autistic (and thus antisocial). In other words, the same gene (or genetic combination) which produces the brilliant left-brained mind also seems to produce autism (much of the time, anyway).
I guess you could also say that--due to my autism--I'm still trying to find where and how I "fit" into this crazy, mixed-up world, and feel I need to distance myself from other people to give myself the time to think things through properly.
I hope I have not put you off by saying any of this. But I do want you to realize who and what you are dealing with here.
Oh, you are very right about Illinois being very gray and depressing in the Winter! I have seen so much of it over these last few weeks that I will be very happy indeed when Spring (and some greenness) finally arrives!
Yes, there is a stark, bare, almost primitive beauty to that barren landscape--if one has the eyes with which to see it. I saw similar stark, raw, wild and primitive beauty in several places when I was in South Africa twenty some years ago--many places there look much like our Great Plains.
(Oh, and since you might have wondered about the French I used--) I am also a self-taught student of several languages--including French--but mostly the older forms, like Medieval English, Medieval French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Gothic, Medieval Old High German, etc. I am not so much interested in what now IS, as much as I am interested in HOW IT GOT THAT WAY. I have always liked to delve into the causes of things--the "whys" and "wherefores" of existence.