Three thousand miles. Actually, a little less, but we took the long drive from Michigan to Arizona via Alabama, and by the time we got to our destination, I was just glad to get out of the car. Just about the time I was lamenting the additional side trip for the length it added, we met a couple in New Mexico who were driving to Alaska from their home in New Hampshire. Now that’s a trip.
But seriously, there were many sights to enjoy, and just as many to forget, and I had a lot of time to reflect, as we counted the mile markers.
Biggest surprise: Tuskegee University. We were there early Saturday morning so it was very quiet, but the beauty of the gated campus was stunning. The road to the historical marker saluting the Tuskegee Airman was closed for construction, so we remembered them as well as we strolled along the campus.
Most somber moment: We took some time to stop at the Edward Pettus Bridge in Selma and tried to capture what the time must have been like. I need to see that movie again.
Greatest regret: Pushing through Mississippi as fast as we did, because I doubt I’ll be back there again. It’s always a balance – time vs exploring. I would have liked to drive a bit of the Natchez Trace and spend more time in Vicksburg, but Shreveport was in our sights, so after a brief stop at the Vicksburg National Military Park, we pressed on. We both agreed, this came too early in the trip to set aside more time.
Biggest of the big: Everything is bigger in Texas. I’ve heard that, but never truly appreciated it. I have never seen the blue dot on my I Pad map move as slowly as it did crossing the state from near Shreveport, LA to El Paso. And I swear, the Dallas-Fort Worth area must be geographically bigger than half of the states.
Best in-car entertainment: From Tennessee south and then, Alabama west, we’d try to think of a different theme to help the miles go by faster, though this concept was lost in Texas – nothing could make the time go by faster there. We practiced our presidential candidate impersonations, tried to recall all 50 state capitals, and name the Canadian provinces. I’m sorry to report that our beat boxing skills were better than all of those, except Kathy’s Trump – “You’re all a bunch of losers.” My personal favorite pastime – naming the traveler yoga poses including the “napping passenger stretch” and the “praying we’re almost there” pose.
Best gas station: Love’s Travel Stop, Van Horn, Texas. A mile’s worth of gas station roller food, but this was Texas, so what would you expect.
Stinkiest stretch: The smell emanating from the oil fields west of Odessa made me wonder if I’d keep my morning oatmeal down. I moved the cotton kerchief around my neck to cover my nose like a filter.
Longest lasting image: The abject poverty we saw when we left the interstate 45 miles east of El Paso and drove the border road for about 30 miles. I could not believe I was in the United States.
Favorite restaurant: The L & J Café in El Paso has been serving great food since 1927, and you’d never know about it and wouldn’t be able to find unless a friend sent you there. Thankfully, my friend Sherry, a lifelong Texan, told me about it. And now I know about green hatch chilies.
Funnest dream: We saw lots of trains (cargo and passenger) on long unforsaken stretches of land in Texas (where else) and a bit in New Mexico. I tried to imagine heading west 150 years ago on the train, to meet James West and Artemus Gordon. If you’re not familiar with them, you’re not a child of the 1960’s TV westerns.
Too tired to fully appreciate stop: The White Sands Monument in New Mexico is truly a one of a kind stop. I’ve never felt anything so silky that didn’t begin with a worm, and this sand was all gypsum, as in the same stuff they use to make drywall. So we stopped, took some pictures, bought a t-shirt and hat and moved on. Younger versions of ourselves would have rented sleds to go sailing down the dunes, but we were too far from health care.
So that’s it. It took me a couple of days to let the trip sink in, but I’ve tried to share some insights. I am mindful how fortunate a long road trip is – I just wish it didn’t take so much time.