I had so much fun on my solo trip in the midwest I talked TG into a weekend in Kansas! Some people spend the weekend in Monaco but we went to Kansas.
It’s summer vacation in my world and summer means road trips. I haven’t taken a real road trip in years. I’ve driven to New Mexico and Texas but I haven’t taken one of those cross country trips in over a decade. I’m thinking this summer might be the time to load up the MINI van and drive East just to see what I can see. Penciling it into the schedule is going to be tricky: between Oldest Friend coming for a visit, the Denver County Fair, and that pesky job; I’m already closely booked but I could manage something just after Beav’s birthday in August.
I want to see this place again. It’s the prefect roadside attraction. The house is haunted and the cafe in Lucas is to die for. If I made this trip in late August I would be treated to the sunflowers at full bloom.
I want to meander through little towns in Iowa. The last time I drove through the Midwest, it was a forced march to the Twin Cities and Iowa was a blur in the middle of the night. I have this vision of quiet little towns, green sweeps of lawn in front of picturesque houses all of which have a mandatory front porch and swing.
I want to see the vast fields in southern Minnesota and maybe take another nap in the deep silence of a very hot afternoon. I pulled the Mitz over, opened all the doors and slept for about an hour in the back of the truck. It was peaceful, hot and almost otherworldly when I awakened to the golden light of late afternoon near wheat fields.
I want to swing further to the east and experience Wisconsin, maybe stopping in Pepin where there is no doubt a tribute to Laura Ingalls. Wisconsin sounds like it would be forests which give way to endless cornfields (I’ve never seen them, just heard rumors of them). I want to compare the towns of rural Indiana to rural Iowa and to see if there is a difference between here or there. I will loop my way south of Chicago to avoid the traffic and congestion as to not spoil my palate for Indiana.
I want to drive down Ohio, into Appalachia. I’ve never been to Ohio before. I want to hear fire and brimstone preachers on crackly AM radio deep in the night. I’ve been across highway 81 through the Appalachian mountains to Gettysburg Pennsylvania. That was the first road trip I took as an “adult” and saw the landscape unwind from the front seat rather than the backseat of the family car. From Pennsylvania we went across to New Jersey, New York and Atlantic City. I was just old enough to gamble and drink and I felt like such an adult. What a long trip, I’m so happy I flew home.
I want to push my way back through Pennsylvania and into upstate New York so I can stop and sit in the cool shade of a friend’s yard in her little town. A town I imagine to have a square and a cafe where we can sit and spy on the old guys who gossip more than the high school girls hanging out in the park just down the road. Maybe she will take me to a minor league ballgame while I’m there.
I want to drive along the western edge of Maine where there are only blue roads. I’ve only been to Kennebunkport for a day when I was sixteen. What I remember most was how the fog made the huge homes along the shore all look like Manderly in Rebecca. I longed to stop and explore each one of those huge family houses. They were always completely silent, the only sounds were my footfall and the ticking of an ancient clock.
I want to turn the car around at Presque Isle which isn’t an island but a tiny dot on the map near the Canadian border. The people there would look suspiciously at my dusty blue van with its green and white license plates and they would politely ask if were from “these parts”. I imagine this little place to be carved out of the forest, literally a wide spot in the road.
I want to meander my way down the eastern seaboard making a right turn at Connecticut so I could graze the edges of western Pennsylvania; stopping at farm stores and stands for Shoo Fly Pies, brooms and preserves. When I reach Baltimore–the place that is a pleasant mix of Southern and Eastern sensibility–I would find blue highways to drop into North Carolina to see how their BBQ sauces stand up against “Howdy” (my dad’s sauce).
I want to drive the full length of Tennessee like we did when I was really young and I spent more than a day asking if we were “someplace else”. Texas was the only state I had been to which took longer than a day to cross and Tennessee seemed endless to my eight year old imagination.
I want to swing down into Mississippi and drive the old roads where you can catch traces of a terrible past that should provoke shame and a heartfelt apology. I want to see the wet heat shimmer off little highway 16 just outside of Midnight. Midnight will be worth seeing just for the poetry of the name. Once upon a time in Montana I discovered a place called Rivulet and to Ward’s credit we went hours off our track to Canada to find a place with the name of the path left by a raindrop. Rivulet was gone, the forest had hidden any traces of a town or settlement. The ferns were thick and the ground loamy. It would have been a sweet place for a town. I wonder what happened to it.
I want to drive through Louisiana, a place I’ve never been and a place which doesn’t register anywhere on the map of places I want to see before I die. I imagine it as endless boggy low country and oil refineries. I want to be wrong about this and instead charmed by the people, the music and food and feeling like cost for such a nice surprise is braving the cross town traffic in Houston after where I10 turns into one huge highway in a mass of other huge highways. The interchanges had “cute” names when I was a little girl. I wonder if I10 was part of the Spaghetti Bowl. I remember being disappointed the day we were in the spaghetti bowl and it wasn’t actual spaghetti.
I want to drive across South Texas. Hug my dad and my stepmother’s neck before I push west for a peek at Marfa, a place which fascinates me because it has popped up from a simple idea and one gallery. Marfa is the symbol of our marvelous century: where your office can be held in a laptop computer. You can live and work anywhere. Even if anywhere is a one-horse town in the middle of the Texas desert.
I want to make my way up the interior of New Mexico avoiding a certain hypnosis which settles in on the last days of a trip. But this hypnosis is inevitable in southern New Mexico which in some ways is more “magical” than northern New Mexico. I know someone who swears he witnessed Falcon Gods marching across the mesas outside of Bayoud on 180. The farthest south of Albuquerque is Truth or Consequences. One would think I would plan an entire trip around this deeply existential name but I have been there. I will admit when we drove through there I was waiting for something magnificent and being a nine year old and impatient with the backseat and an older sister I could not find beauty in the strip shopping center and a cheesy sign welcoming me. I was expecting someone to stop our car and ask us questions but I shuddered to think what the consequences would be in that tiny town plopped in the middle of a mesa. Probably more water skiing in an lake the temperature of water from the ‘frig; and I had already suffered through that. Perhaps if I had been pressed and the truth was revealed I could go back to the lake and feel the power and the speed of the boat as it streamed through the glassy water surrounded by otherworldly rock formations.
I want to stop for a green chili lunch at the Shed in Santa Fe; a cocktail and local music at The Taos Inn before the last part of the trip the familiar part of the trip transpires. The familiar part is the worst part. I hate the last few hundred miles of a long trip. I can’t find language to describe my impatience with those last miles. It just is.
I want to zoom through southern Colorado to shrug off my impatience and remember the reason I dislike the Colorado Springs Trinidad corridor is because it’s the last few hundred miles before home. I will have to battle to stay awake and fight disorientation because five days before I was surrounded by molten blacktop just outside of Midnight, Mississippi a few miles north of Yazoo City.
Pesky job interfers with my vacation plans for the summer.