education / I love the USA / writing

Driving Across Country

Everyone should do it. In fact, when I mentioned to friends I was going to drive my daughter’s brand new VW Jetta from California to Annapolis MD during my spring break, most people responded, Yeah, done that. Not me. In my 50’s and it’s a first. I took my son, who’s in 20’s, so now he’s done it.What it looked like in my romantic eye

What a blast! We had a deadline, so we couldn’t stop and see the sights, but there’s so much to see as first timers, just off the highway, I never got bored. Arizona is very red. Iron in the soil and stuff, but it stands out for its redness. Makes it beautiful to see. The layers in the land make is so clear how our earth has changed over the eons.

The climb over this end of the Rockies is so much easier than doing it from Colorado, which I did once coming back from the Air Force Academy. Then, my Range Rover let me know it was 11,000 feet up. Down here, in Arizona and New Mexico, we were fine. Yes, a newer Range Rover, but still never a problem. What beautiful country–the mountains, the tree, the multi-million year old rocks. Land that was once underwater, an inland sea, and now is Indian country. What’s hidden there? So much that would amazNot my picture--this is from a good photographere me, if I had time to stop.

Speaking of Indian lands, it made me think of Tony Hillerman’s wonderful novels about this part of America. It is wide, and open, and seemingly impervious to man’s civilizing roots. The teepees at the trading posts gave me a start. I wonder if the Indians are insulted by that, or love the revenue it brings for the tribes.

It got cold, with snow on the ground all the way through Texas (it was March). We hit a dust storm, blowing from Oklahoma into southern Texas, right across the road. Blew the smoke right out of the trucker’s pipes.

After we got through the first big traffic jam from Orange County to Las Vegas, the entire 1200-mile drive east on I-40 was stunning for its openness. So much land in this country. Small towns. A few big ones, like Albuquerque, Flagstaff, but then more openness. You can live cheaply here, if you have a satellite internet and cell and don’t need company. You probably have to have a good truck and a garden, too. We bought snacks at gas stations because we were too eager to drive to sit in a restaurant. Here’s a tip: be careful of the ‘born on’ date for that stuff. Everything we bought at one spot was stale, from donuts to pnuts. Yuk. So bad I had to toss it, and I’ll eat almost anything.

We debated staying on the I-40 to Memphis, in case the Mississippi tributary flooding stalled traffic, but decided to risk it. Good choice. No problem with that, even in St. Louis. There, I finally saw the mightly Mississippi River, stuff of poems and stories and legends. Tom Sawyer… Huck Finn… Wow. It is as mighty and dirty and fast-moving as they say. It looks a lot different up close than from a jet.

I want to do it again. Maybe take some side trips, now that I’ve gotten a feel for the land. I’m in love with this country.


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