We have been in the car for a long time, I think. My fickle friend is back to his old tricks, so I can't be sure just how long we've been in this silver bullet to the South. I'd guess on the long side of forever, but it's anybody's guess really. Certainly long enough for my consciousness to be nullified by the road--it's taking me about an hour to write a sentence because I keep getting mesmerized by the ribbon of white that the centerline has become. Maybe this is what it's like to be hypnotized. Maybe I've reached Buddha's highest level of awareness. Either way, we've followed the ribbon for better or worse across 9 states. AND STILL, HALF A LEAGUE, HALF A LEAGUE, HALF A LEAGUE ONWARD! Though we've traversed these places I feel like I have very little to report, or what there is to say I could say in a sentence or two. This is depressing and hardly fair to the states, if you ask me. Highways are not very accurate representations of what a place has to offer. However, this is trip is very much business and very little pleasure, and if you had 40 hours of driving to do in 3 days, you'd blow through too. Although I have made a mental note to return to Kansas and visit the original Museum of Oz. Looks fantastic. I also saw my very first Roadside Attraction. It promised live rattlesnakes. I had my fingers crossed for hot dogs.
Here's a brief summary: I slept through the first part of Oregon. I left behind my world of saturated color without even knowing it. Then we were in the brown land, and that defined roughly describes the next four or five states. Brown mountain land hands out of Eastern Oregon, flat sagebrush land through Idaho with a reprieve from the monotony in Northern Utah. We climbed up to meet the Wahsatch Mountains face to face, and if you could get into a staring match with a geographical feature, I would've looked away first. I glanced up at them when we got closer, saying, they're pretty, but when I looked back I instantly regretted saying anything other than, I salute you, craggy and imposing rock faces. Though not as high as other ranges, they were steep and dense and deep. Once we skirted their edges, we crossed into the reddish canyons that brought to mind The Monkey Wrench Gang. I had to wonder, why aren't we headed Southwest instead? That swamp can't promise the same things those canyons can.*
We stop in Wyoming for the night. There are a lot of antelope in Wyoming, some weird lunar landscapes, and Little America--the most luxurious truck stop in the world. Or so fifty nine billboards told me. When we get up in the morning, we eat breakfast at a place in the hotel called The Legal Tender and we watch weather reports foretelling our certain doom in New Orleans. Isaac is coming. A man in the booth across from us only drinks coffee and makes phone calls about his missing dog. I become far too invested in his lost dog--apparently the early morning is when I'm my most empathetic. We start our second day drive and cross into Colorado. Colorado is the worst. It lets you down. You go in expecting the Rockies, and that interstate just brings you wide open spaces filled with dying corn. Good night, good luck, good riddance Colorado. Kansas is also wide and flat, but they have sunflowers and at least one very suspicious pizza hut, and also we got to watch a lightening storm way far off in the distance. Kansas also had the second most horizon I've ever seen in my life, which was pretty impressive. We spent a fine few hours sleeping in Wichita and then we go into Oklahoma. I'm ok with Oklahoma--I think they use subliminal messaging to make you like their state. All their signs say OK. I've also heard that's the abbreviation for Oklahoma but still. I became less ok with OK when we tried to venture into Tulsa for new tires, but it turned out to be a trap, turning into a confusing maze of construction and closed roads. We cut our losses and took our business elsewhere. Elsewhere turned out to be Kellogg's Firestone in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. The mechanic looked at our plates, looked at us, and asked if we were driving across the country, how the hell did we end up in Oklahoma? Fair question sir. He has a tattoo of a pitbull face on his left hand, and what could pass as a chupacabra right above it. Kellie and Haley are tattooed on either side of his neck. He is tall and pink around the edges but I like him. The other mechanic gives him a bad time, tells us he's a redneck. This mechanic is shorter and rotund--the two side buttons on his overalls are left undone and I'm not sure they could close, even if he wanted them to. We chat with them for a minute because they are friendly and interested in us, and I start relaxing a little bit more into my Southern state of mind. The redneck one talks to us about noodlin'. He's a big fan, got a huge one last weekend. The other tells us about the herd of deer he saw on a walk with the kids and the old lady. They aren't old. I love it. They make fun of each other and when we're ready to pay they send us into the office to see Mrs. Kellogg. Mrs. Kellogg is possibly one hundred years old and has the finest church lady hair I've seen in a long time. She talks to us too because she is friendly and interested. This is the South. I tell her I go to Tulane, she tells me to watch out for the storm. She asks me what I want to do when I graduate, I say be employed. She laughs. Sure, sure.
We cross into Texas and it starts getting hot and still, and then we have to leave a McDonald's because the line is too infuriating for my Dad to wait in. That's when I have to remind him that we are in the South now. Get used to the slower pace. He won't, but I will, unless it's for my coffee. Then all bets are off.
Now we're driving through Northern Louisiana, which is wide and flat but at least broken up by dense, swampy forests on either side of the road. There is less horizon but still more sky than I'm used to. It is, however, back to green and that I can appreciate. It's a tall glass of water after so much dry land.
Here's the thing about a highway trip like this: I know that in each field is a story that I'm missing, a world of detail that I haven't yet noticed, haven't had the chance to describe. It's inevitable that some things will be passed by, because if you stopped for every untold thing, examined every single thing in a place, you would never get anywhere. A shame. I would like to slow down but it doesn't seem possible. My Dad told me a metaphor about life somewhere crossing Colorado, about how time and lives are like long, rolled up carpets. The closer you get to the end of the carpet when you're unrolling it, the faster it will snap itself open. The carpet is life, the unrolling is time. You can't stop momentum, not very easily at least.
But! The good news is we will be stopping this car at some point, because soon we will be in New Orleans and I will have time to stop and look and see and describe when I'm there. And that I think, will make it worth it.
*I guess it could be argued that the swamp can offer at least a few things the canyons can. Snakes, for one. The opportunity to get miserably lost, for another. Also both have predators I wouldn't mess with--alligators in the bayou, cougars in trees. Real problems any way you slice it.