In the past two weeks, we drove to Los Angeles from Chicago and returned a week later. Today, I am driving to Detroit to make another drive to Los Angeles. Finally, I get to fly home.
The reasons for all of this driving, three cross-country trips, are all good. They involve family visits, parents visiting children and grandchildren, and minimizing exposure to the virus and the variant that is now dominating the news.
It is 2,045 miles from our home to our destination in LA. Denver is about halfway on the route we took there and back. We drove about approximately 1,000 miles a day and it took 14-15 hours each day depending on the number of stops, weather, and traffic. The drive from Detroit to LA will be 200 miles longer and thus adding another hour and a half of driving.
This all amounts to a lot of time on the road traversing parts of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and California. It certainly involves driving, helping keep the driver awake, a nap here and there (when not driving and convinced that the driver is fully alert), being bored, observing the changing landscape, and thinking. The interesting parts, needless, to say are the changing landscapes and, at least from my perspective, my thoughts.
Beginning with my thoughts, they were the thoughts that occupy my
idle time. There was just more idle
time. There were alert, weary, and bored
times. There were periods of times on my
phone. There were drowsy times during
the mini-naps. The thoughts were as
varied as what I was doing and not doing.
I ran through my to-do list kinds for priorities. That was helpful. I reflected on the people I saw in various rest
stops along the way. I thought about the
indigenous peoples of the lands we drove through… and I related that to what I
would feel like driving through the Armenian Highlands. I thought about loved ones, family and
friends, that enrich my life and those whose memories continue to enrich my
life. I wondered about what I have accomplished, might have accomplished, and could accomplish still. I jotted some notes, some haikus, and even participated in a few zoom meetings. There was no real order to the thinking. It was ambling and rambling thoughts underscored by the drone of road noise. At times, the thoughts were energizing while at other times they magnified the boredom. I wondered what it might be like if I made drives like this every week as truck driver do versus the mere three weeks I did.
The landscape was beautiful. Living in Chicagoland, one might forget about the vast expanses of farmland though one doesn’t have to drive far to see it. Corn is a huge crop, followed by soybeans. Both are processed and used, for the most part, to make other processed and packaged foods. Corn is fed to cattle, which we also saw, that are processed into the various beef products we consume. Silos and barns dot the landscape though they are now all metal and lack the charm of the wooden and stone ones I recall from my youth.
As we travelled west, the lush and green lands that I am used to in the Midwest and New England gave way to arid and browner landscapes of brush, smaller trees, and eventually some cacti. Chicago and Detroit were I have spent the bulk of my time are flatlands. In Connecticut, there were the rolling hills and mountains that gave a true third dimension to the landscapes. In Colorado and Arizona, we saw mountains of rock and rocks (hence the name of the chain) with and without vegetation. The interstate weaved in and around them. We passed through many a grand canyon that were most impressive though I have, still, yet to see the actual Grand CanyonIn Utah, we saw, what I would call, buttes. There were great expanses in Utah, Nevada, and even California that, besides the interstate, there were many miles where we saw no evidence of man which is a rare occurrence given where I spend most of my time. There was a hundred or so mile stretch where there were not gas stations or food stops. It required a bit more management of the gas levels than we normally as used to.
We did stop for gas, food, and drink as well as to stretch our legs, hit the restroom, and clean the bugs off the windshield. At every stop, we were, for the most part, the only people wearing masks. There was a certain sameness to the stops in terms of gas stations, minimarts, and fast food. There is some comfort in this in terms of expectation. However, I do miss discovery, both excitement and disappointment, of the private mom and pop food stops and gas stations that were more common when I was a kid.
We stayed, both coming and going, in Silverthorne, Colorado. I would have liked to have spent more time in this quaint mountain town. The easy going, low key, vibe of the folks and one local brewery and restaurant we patronized made me want to spend more time there. There was a great diversity of people at the various rest stops. It would have been interesting to get to know some of them but for the lack of time and ambiance, that underscores almost all rest stops.
I have always wanted to travel and document the experience in a travelogue. I would love to meander around this great country to see things and meet people at random. I would like to see towns big and small, both on and off the beaten paths. I would like to see famous and notable attraction but also to find local coffee shops, diners, and explore the history of places that aren’t remotely tourist attractions. I would like to meet people and hear learn about their lives, ambitions, and frustrations that define the America of today. While that sounds scary, I expect it might reaffirm my faith in people and the future of the country. John Steinbeck did just this with his dog, Charley, in a camper in his 1960 book Travels with Charley in Search of America. I believe that I have thought about doing this since reading Steinbeck’s book in a freshman English Composition class.
This is not a new thought. Back in 2012, I had the notion and expressed such in three posts.
I even conjectured that I could simply explore where I live. There are so many places and people here that require neither camper nor dog to explore. All that is need is time, desire, and a notebook. The notebook, I have…