One of these days I'm going to take a trip across the country and stop to enjoy some of the roadside attractions. Once again on this my ninth trip, time was somewhat of the essence. Not because I had a deadline or a firm date to arrive in Raleigh, but because I was driving a van load of impatient and restless passengers so the need to get to where we were going was priority one. And admittedly, I was anxious to get to my new home. Still, good old I-40 gave us quite the scenic drive and the iPod and xm radio kept our ears filled with all kinds of goodness. So below the cut, I give you a state-by-state, brief recap of the eastward migration.
California: After the cars were picked up by the tower, we said goodbye to our home of three years, picked up Homer at doggy daycare, and made our way to the 15, heading north at a pace meant for snails and blue hairs. Our farewell to San Diego happened to be at rush hour and the 15 is always an adventure on a Friday after five or so in the afternoon. But that paled in comparison to the traffic around Rancho Cucamonga. We're talking twenty miles in an hour, and much of that hour was spent motoring at a brisk 5MPH. We made it to Barstow at around ten and decided to call it a night, choosing the EconoLodge on E. Main Street as our first hotel of the trip. It turned out to be an okay place except for the fact that I had to park too far away from the room and the many trips to bring in the luggage and cat/dogs and their supplies and then return them to the van the next morning was quite a pain in the ass. The next morning, we made a quick stop at Von's to pick up supplies, bought a tank of gas at a ridiculous $2.99 a gallon, and then hit the 40. There will be no other roads other than the 40. Through the California desert and before we knew it we were done with the state. Eight years of being a resident and now the Golden State was in our rearview mirror. Perhaps for good?
Arizona: The northern part of Arizona is beautiful, especially this time of year when there's still snow atop the mountains around Flagstaff. Had a nice lunch at Arby's in Flagstaff, grabbed a cup of coffee at a very hip coffee place (can't remember the name), and drove the rest of the state without stopping. We thought about visiting the meteor crater east of Flagstaff, but decided to keep on vannin'.
New Mexico: Night fell not long after we crossed the state line, so I can't tell you much about the western part of the state other than it--and the rest of New Mexico--has some asinine construction that brought all traffic to a standstill for long stretches. By Albuquerque, we were spent. Tried to push it some more, but just east of the city we decided to stop at a Comfort Inn in Moriarty. Of course I thought of Dean. Who wouldn't? Especially since we were right on old route 66. Purchased the worst cup of coffee of the trip the next morning. So bad that I had to stop at a nearby McDonald's to grab another cup. While at Micky Ds, Elaine had the pleasure of overhearing a conversation between a mother and daughter in the bathroom. The highlight, according to Elaine, came when the daughter said, "I don't know what happened, Mom. I didn't have any dairy products." Not too many miles after this stop, the state flattens out and it's a pretty boring ride full of casinos and truck stops and gift stores selling blankets and beef jerky. All in all, four hundred miles is an awful lot of New Mexico. Could be trimmed to about 200.
Texas: One of the best things about the 40 is the fact that you only have to experience 200 miles of Texas. We made for Amarillo by mid-morning and stopped at an Albertson's to get more supplies. The dogs enjoyed their best grass desecration at a Taco Bueno, perhaps the highlight of their trip. We sailed through the Lone Star state and didn't shed a single tear at the leaving.
Intermission: Check out this sad but hilarious video of our doped up cat Samone. We figured drugging her would be the only way she could make it across the country, but it was so sad that we decided to let her remain sober for the rest of the trip. She did great off the drugs and is adjusting nicely to her new home.
Oklahoma: First thing my wife asks once we cross the Okie line is "Who famous is from Oklahoma?" "Hell, I don't know," I respond. And I couldn't think of anyone thanks to my brain going down for maintenance after around the 1,000 mile mark. Of course, just before the border with Arkansas we passed through Carrie Underwood's hometown. For those of you who don't follow American Idol, Underwood won the whole thing last year. This little town celebrates her victory with a big billboard with her smiling face on it and the caption "Keep Reaching for the Stars" or something like that. Anyway, in far east Oklahoma, we spotted the ominous cumuli on the horizon.
Arkansas: We had big plans on Sunday to get through Arkansas by the end of the driving day. We wanted Memphis and we wanted it bad. But around Little Rock, all hail broke loose. The lightning flashes that we had been admiring since the Oklahoma border were no longer pretty; they were menacing bolts of danger and doom. Rain didn't start, it just happened all in one sudden downpour, and then there was the ominous pings of pellets hitting the minivan. And around a curve, I hit what should best be described as a lake in the fast lane. The van jerked out from under me and I realized then and there that we wouldn't be making Memphis. We limped off the highway to a Red Roof Inn, which happened to have only smoking rooms available for folks with pets. So Elaine and I tossed and turned in some fetid sheets, waking up early so we could attempt to make it all the way to Raleigh by day's end (950 miles). I can't not mention a stop in rural Arkansas where we received our "Welcome to the South" greeting in the form of some unmentionable bumper stickers, the least offensive thing on them being the Rebel Flag. Couldn't get out of Arkansas fast enough.
Tennessee: As much as we wanted to drive by Graceland, we couldn't stop the momentum, so we cruised through Memphis and started the long trek across the Volunteer State. Tennessee is beautiful. The flat, swampy land around the Mississippi gives way to tree-saturated hills just beginning to fill with Spring colors. There was plenty of evidence of the storm from the night before: trees and signs blown every which way. We made Nashville by lunch, stopping just outside of the city to grab a hamburger topped with cole slaw and pepper jack cheese. (I would pay dearly for this around Knoxville.) We kept pushing through. Hills became mountains. Clear skies became cloudy. Central time became Eastern. And oh the temptation to take a detour to Dollywood was great, but we resisted. I had hit the wall, but stopping at this point would have been foolhardy.
North Carolina: Still 250 miles to go at the border with Tennessee, and some damn scary mountain roads, especially when you're sharing them with big rigs and high winds. By Asheville, I needed more than just a few puffs off of the state's cash crop. Some of Kentucky's favorite drink might have calmed my nerves. A bag of chips and a Sunkist would have to do. After Asheville, I had to acknowledge Black Mountain with a tip of the hat. Soon enough, the distance to Raleigh seemed manageable. A small town outside of Winston-Salem (which wasn't called Camel Lights) was our last stop. Elaine said the baby was craving french fries, so we stopped at McDonald's two minutes before ten, which happened to be two minutes before everything in this town closed. Then the miles began to take twice as long. Winston-Salem to Greensboro seemed to take four hours. Greensboro to Durham eight. But when we hit the 540 and then our exit and then the road to take us to our new temporary home, we could have cared less how tired we were. We'd made it.
Now the real adventure can begin.