Road trip, southwest style, day 2

Posted: April 25, 2012 in Memories, Musings, Personal, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I wake at 4 again this morning, eye the clock, then decide, “No, too early”, considering my later night last night and the faint caffeine and brain buzz that kept me just this side of the edge of sleep for awhile.  Besides, today I don’t have to cross two time zones, losing two hours in one day. Up at 5:43 am, lovely shower, kale and edamame+ salad for breakfast, with sides of vitamin pills and red pepper strips, dark chocolate hazelnut pieces for dessert.  I’ll see if the breakfast offered at the motel has some OJ, then I’ll load and be on my way.    Time to turn the laptop off and start writing in my mind again.


Today my trip will take me out of Oklahoma, through Missouri and Illinois.  If I were going through the latter two east-west, it wouldn’t be so long, but I’m passing through the long way.  Oklahoma this morning is cool, unexpectedly green and verdant.  The sun is just over the horizon but moving up quickly (yes, I know it’s the earth that turns, but appearances DO count).  It’s hilly and there are faint strands of fog in lower-lying areas.  The sun’s just off to the side enough not to impair my sight, the darkened windows of a car of Arizona origins enough that I don’t need dark glasses.  The dirt is red.

I drive along, carefully keeping my eyes on the road while scribbling notes for the blog in a notebook.  Sometimes the notes are incomprehensible later.  Generally they look like a chicken with ink on its feet ran wildly across the pages.  I take one-handed pictures out of the windows.  Even if I wanted to take the time to stop, there are no pull-outs or rest areas in most of the places.  I’m amazed later at how many of them turn out decently.

I pass fields filled with drying hay and looking into a field at some cattle, see that they’re longhorns.  Longhorns are beautiful, leaner and tougher-looking than the fat dairy or meat cattle in most fields.  How awesome, in the old sense of the word,  it must have been to witness a cattle drive with hundreds, even thousands of these animals, horns possibly clicking…also dirty, noisy, and incredibly long!  When I get to Oklahoma City, a sign tells me I’m passing over the old Chisholm Trail.

The low places are filled with trees, an indication of water.  The Oklahoma highway patrol is sneaky; the cars I see aren’t white and carrying a rack of easily-spotted lights, but dark and sporty; the better to catch you with, my dear.

North of Oklahoma City, I enter one of a number of reservations I pass through on my trip. “Entering Kickapoo Nation.”  I’ve already gone through Navajo and other rezes on the way.  There are small orange, yellow and purple flowers in the median and along the sides of the road.  Near Tulsa, I drive through the Cherokee Nation, bringing sharply to mind the Paul Revere and the Raiders song of similar  name,

The roads are filled with trucks, making it difficult to see highways signs at times.  I don’t have a GPS, although I got my husband one for his birthday this year.  He loves it.  I tend to use maps and Mapquest or similar free services.  Today I have a Triptik from AAA, a glorified, bound Mapquest.  It’s quite good but I can’t tell from it when I’ve crossed into a new state.  In big cities, a GPS is especially useful because it’s too difficult to keep looking at written directions without dire consequences.  Might also be useful in the country, where there might not be road signs at all.  So far, I’m not only surviving, but doing well in the low-tech world of maps.  I like to see more than just the road I’m on, see how things are interconnected, what’s next to what, how I might get around if a detour’s not marked.  I want to have a map of sorts in my head and not just rely on the machine.   This trip there aren’t many highway numbers to memorize.

I’m stopped for gas, bathroom and food, standing by the car in the cold wind, filling my travel mug with, ironically, cold green tea from the cooler.  A woman walks by, sees the Arizona tea and asks me, “How’s Arizona?”  I look at her blankly for a moment, my brain searching for the meaning through the shreds of road trip fog curled in my brain, then answer, “A lot warmer than here!”  As the car’s thermometer shows 53, it’s almost double that in Mesa today. But I’m not there.  I duck inside the car, chocolate balanced on top of my mug, a slice of red pepper in hand, to avoid the sudden spat of rain.

Near Rolla, Missouri, I see a sign advertising the Vacuum Cleaner Museum.  “Suck it up,” I think.  There is probably a museum for almost every type of thing that comes to mind.  We drive by the Spam Museum in Minnesota each year, vowing to stop, but never have.  When we’re on our way out to Wyoming, no one really wants to stop; we just want to get there.  On the way home, we’re not usually there when it’s open.  There’s a mustard museum near Madison, WI that we say each year we’ll see but, no; we haven’t yet.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t lots of interesting things to see.  I have two problems on this trip.  One: I want to get back in two days so I can go to my husband’s doctor’s appointment with him Monday morning to see if he’s cancer-free.  Two is a problem I encounter when driving alone:  I get in a driving groove and just don’t want to stop.  The country flows by, I think about things, listen to a book on CD (on this trip, the further exploits of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, as written now by Eric von Lustbader) and I just keep on going…and going…and going.  The road and the new sights beckon me on and on.

I glance to the left and see a herd of little grey donkeys.  Our younger daughter would love them.  Bob’s Gasoline Alley appears on the right, signs from all sorts of gas companies on walls and on poles, guarded by some llamas.  I skirt St. Louis, a long skirt.  This part of the country is so lush after the dessert and red mesas of the southwest.  Both are beautiful.  I see a sign for Funks Grove, Illinois and laugh, then stop at a rest station and see that Funk was a person.

Now I’m getting close to Naperville.  I can tell I’m back in Illinois: gas prices rise precipitously, from a low of $3.39 many places in Oklahoma and Missouri, to over $4 in northern Illinois.  It’s dark.  I get on Rt. 59, a “highway” that’s really a major street, complete during the week with traffic and traffic jams.  Tonight I cruise along, stopping only for a few red lights.  It will be good to sleep in my own bed again tonight.   I do love road trips!

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