December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
I haven’t had a vacation in four years.
Really. 2005 and 2006 were fantastic travel years; I visited Japan in 2005, and in 2006, spent a little over a week in Denver, followed by two months in Los Angeles. Being one who loves to travel, I had a terrific time with all that moving around.
And then everything just dried up.
Sure, I drove around northern Illinois. But that’s as far as I went. I stayed at Jun’s apartment a lot, but that was only 45 minutes from home. No vacations, cruses, or even overnight stays at a hotel.
And then — and I now realize how damn insane we were — my mother and I packed up most of our belongings into a small U-Haul trailer, attached it to the Rav4, threw leashes on the two dogs, and decided to take a five-day trip across the country.
We didn’t have an apartment picked out, or even a place to stay. Our trip-tik book from AAA simply ended in the middle of Scottsdale simply because we needed to give the lady a specific ending point, or at least a town to finish off in. Aside from that, we had some money, our things, and a few internet listings my father had handed off to us before we left.
Driving cross-country is a fading art. There’s such magic and majesty that comes with driving through so many states & regions, an awesome sense of how small we really are. We passed from the lush forests of the Ozarks to the wide-open plains of Oklahoma and Texas, through to the desert of New Mexico and Arizona. The progression was slow, a blended photo winding along outside the windows as we drove on.
There was the amazing pizza we had in Missouri, ordered from the desk clerk’s favorite place. And the breakfast at Waffle House; we’d never been to one before and simply loved it! Down through the rolling hills and onto the turnpike in Oklahoma, where it cost $6 to drive half the state.
Oklahoma City was windy, on the edge of a thunderstorm. I spent the night running around town with Deina, trying to find someplace to print off the photos I’d taken so far. The courtyard was full of birds singing — a chaotic choir that helped us to wake up early the next day.
And then the great plains stretched before us, wide open spaces with mountains far off in the distance. There were lines and lines of tall, white windmills, rotating blades catching the warm sun.
Very gradually, as we passed through Texas, the plains began to dry up, the grass turning to rock and sand as we entered New Mexico. Here, the time changed, signified by a small green sign, “Now Entering Mountain Time.” That night was spent in Tucumcari, just off I-40, in one of the most beautiful hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. As we wandered out in the morning sun, we came across the peeling paint of abandoned gas stations, the asphalt of old Route 66 cracked and forgotten. Old advertisements painted on the sides of buildings were washed out, bleached by a hot desert sun, their builders and owners long-gone. It made me sad, driving out of town, a fading monument to times long gone by.
Mountains seemed to grow from the ground as we passed through Albuquerque, our poor car’s engine struggling on low octane to make it through the higher terrain, our progress slowed by the extra weight we were towing. When we hit the border to Arizona, our aching backs and pounding heads were filled with glee as the end of our journey neared. We stayed the night in Holbrook, in a hotel with the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced.
All along the way, we ate at local restaurants, the dogs left in the car with the windows rolled down as many hotels didn’t allow them to stay alone in the room. We stopped at gas stations for water and pop and snacks, ate greasy fast food as we continued on along the interstate. Walked the dogs and let them pull us along. Tried to keep Drake from chasing shiny things all around the car.
Let our hair down and listened to books-on-CD. Found funny and interesting things in gift shops. Befriended some helpful guys near the edge of Texas, who came together to help us figure out that we were in desperate need of more oil (as we’d gone through what was in the car by then).
Once you’re on the road, a few hours in, everything seems to spread out before you into infinity. You can see nothing but land and road as far as you can see. Time slips away. And for a few precious days, the rest of the world ceases to exist.
There be magic.
I'm sitting here listening to Blue Ridge Mountains by Fleet Foxes (one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard), but in my mind, I'm still in that car heading west, as the pioneers did, in search of a better life. They were definatly onto something.