Monday, August 17, 2009


Jen was hoping we would wake up early and drive without stopping so she could make it to afternoon orientation. Alas, we all overslept, and didn’t wake up until 8:30 NC time. Calculations showed us arriving sometime around 5pm. We also had dinner arranged with Jim and Carol for a bbq dinner, so we tried hard to make good time. Could we get there in time with only bathroom breaks and drive-through meals, perhaps?

As we headed toward east Tennessee, the landscape changed and became hilly and lush. The Great Smoky Mts. was similarly mountainous, not jagged rocky peaks like the Sierras, but lush, green
heavily wooded mountains similar to other parts of the east coast. We stopped very little today and our behavior became similar to that of a runner about the finish the race, barreling down to the finish line. Bathroom breaks and short rests were all we had time for. We’d had enough jelly beans, doritos, melted and reformed chocolate, and hard gummy bears, and we were tired of sitting on our butts. No more Thomas Friedman on CD, thank you. We’d bonded enough and had no more to learn about each other. I was beginning to appreciate the flowers in the cupholder.

Though arriving at our destination meant that our journey was over and we would be delivering Jen to her apartment before leaving her behind. That thought was somewhat sad but the thought of getting out of the car was overpowering that feeling of sadness. What a feeling of empowerment it was to have made it across the country in a bit over 3 days! It made us feel like we could drive anywhere with minimal discomfort --Yellowstone, Washington, Las Vegas, Utah, Canada? What next?

Entering North Carolina and Raleigh, we ran in to some road construction. The gps took us directly to her apartment and I was surprised to see that it looked like the townhouses we used to rent for skiing at Tahoe. The buildings are grey, wood, 2 story, and nestled in the woods. I think I was expecting a concrete apartment house and this didn’t at all fit what I had imagined it would look like. We gasped when entering the place, as it was HUGE. 2 roomy bedrooms, a large living room, 2 baths, eating area, kitchen and large balcony with a bbq grill that looked down on the woods. Very different from California.

Jen’s things looked sparse in the room. Her clothes didn’t even halfway fill the 2 large closets, and her books looked lonely on the shelf. The bookcases in the living room were empty, as was most of the room. The vase of flowers in the cupholder looked homey on the kitchen table. We unloaded and quickly left to meet Jim and Carol; Jen went to her social event. We did finally get our bbq dinner and it sure did hit the spot.
It was fun to catch up and to realize that life takes us to places we never imagined we would be. Who woulda thought we would be in NC visiting our favorite neighbors?

We spent the evening watching Jen unpack her few boxes and I wondered how long it would be before her apartment was full, and if it did get filled, how she would move all of the stuff using her Prius. It would take a moving van to move if she filled this place. It also felt like the place needed some music, and the aroma of cooking to help fill the space. We were reluctant to leave so soon and I wished I could have stayed to help decorate the place with rugs and stuff. But there is something comforting in making the bed for your child and knowing that once the bed is made, you can leave, because they will be able to sleep at night. Having a made bed is very important, you know.

The next morning, Jen drove us to the airport and we flew out, to our chagrin, over the same route we had driven over the past few days. Little Rock down below....
It had been a good trip, good company, interesting sights, and in thinking back, it all went by so quickly. Amazing, isn’t it, that one can drive all the way across this great country in 3 days! It made the country feel not so big after all. We’re so close she can come back any time; all it takes it a few day to get here!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Halfway across the Country

Funny how we psychologically need milestones and markers to help us measure our progress. There is some comfort in seeing the signs that mark each state, as if we can mentally cross them off our list, or in our minds mark the line across the country with the state borders having been crossed.

Jen woke us up early, 7:45am Texas time. The further we travel east, the more behind we get in time. We have been driving until midnight CA time to rise on local time. Unfortunately the coffee at these motels is not worth drinking and the thought of getting back in to the car is not enough incentive for us to get up. Somewhat still groggy, we partake in our free breakfast of muffins, cereal and bananas. I managed to drop my muffin on the ground. Ok, Oklahoma, here we come. I slept through the Texas panhandle and woke up to Welcome to Oklahoma. It is very flat and so green, a warm 88 degrees and humid. We have hit the halfway mark and are looking forward to a bbq dinner in Little Rock, AK. We’ve spent a lot of time looking in my Southern Belly book, yelp, and the internet, checking out the best bbq restaurants. Did you know that there are 2 kinds of bbq sauce? Texas style is the traditional red sauce, but Eastern style is vinegar and mustard based. Our mouths were watering at the thought.

We saw a large wind turbine farm. I suppose the farmer is making so much money off his land from these turbines that he doesn’t need to farm it; sounds like a pretty good deal to me. So far, we have not interacted with any local people besides those that work at McDonalds or the night clerks in the motels, who have been from India. The cities look like any other American city. Though if you live in Oklahoma, you can have your own recognition sign if you are famous. We saw one for the former Miss America 1981 and one for some astronaut we had never heard of.

Our bbq dinner is waiting for us and we are anxious to get to Little Rock--pulled pork, ribs, beans anyone?
The gps has given us perfect directions and we make it there in good time. But oh no, why is it closed? Calling around, we find all of our choices closed. Turns out much of the city’s businesses are closed on sunday evenings. We are so disappointed and the hamburgers do NOT taste good tonight!

We cross in to Memphis and bed down for the night. We have now officially travelled half the distance. We are still speaking to each other and are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Route 66 and Winslow, Arizona

It was a beautiful morning, blue skies and puffy white clouds. We left Barstow early and with lots of enthusiasm, driving through the red rock of Arizona and the high forested plains of Flagstaff. Ray was quite excited to see signs for Route 66, the Mother Road, which brought back memories of rock and roll and movies depicting travels along this famous road. Route 66 parallels I-40 for a bit, then meanders away from it, to join up again. Worn down shacks and rotting gas stations are the only indication of livelihoods lost with the construction of the Interstate. Now, cars whiz by the old towns and only a few stop to visit places like Winslow, Arizona. We pause for lunch at a small Mexican cafe that serves wonderful homemade tacos and enchiladas. Did you know there is a town named 2 Guns, where the Navajo and Apache fought each other? I’m sure this place was quite significant to their lives and yet, is merely a dot on the map to most travelers.

Driving through New Mexico, the scenery changes to colorful purplish blue skies and copper landscapes of mesas and buttes that show some incredibly beautiful cliff formations, especially as we get closer to Albuquerque. The city is nestled in a valley and reminds me of Las Vegas; the Rio Grande runs through the center of town. After our very enjoyable local eatery at lunch, we decide we should try hard to find local cuisine for the remainder of the trip.

Unfortunately, we were to realize at dinner time, that we are a McDonalds nation and there is not much else to be found along highways. Hard as we tried, we could not find anything ressembling local grub and at every corner were greeted by those golden arches. We ate a very disappointing meal of Big Macs and hamburgers.

It had been a long day and we were pleased to have gotten the last room at the Day’s Inn in Amarillo--who goes to Amarillo in August, go figure! Although we noticed that some one is taking care of Amarillo as we drove through a big construction zone on a 6 lane highway--could this have been stimulus money? Who goes to Amarillo that would warrant a 6 lane highway?

At the Day’s Inn, we and the desk clerk went through 3 key cards before determining none of them would work. He entered with the master and we flopped in to bed not even realizing we didn’t have a key to the room.
He could have been an axe murderer and that would have been the end of us.