It's not my best work. But as I re-read it, it reminds me of all that I've learned since this trip about what I like to do when I travel, and how much I've changed in making my travel decisions. Even though this info is almost 20 years old, I hope it's still helpful to those who might be thinking of doing a cross-country trip:
I had driven across country before, or under large swaths of the USA before, but always in under a week, to get from the beginning to the end as quickly as possible - the intent was never the journey, though I did very much enjoy those road trips. But before this trip, I had never done a road trip for longer than a week. Also, for this trip, I wouldn't be the primary driver - that was new to me.
I wasn't entirely sure what to bring for a real cross-country trip that would take several weeks. I knew there was no need to take a LOT of clothing - we would stay with friends of the person I was traveling with a few times, as well as my family in Kentucky, and get to do laundry at their houses, and I had no plans on going to anywhere that required something other than very casual clothes. I decided comfortable, wash-and-wear clothing would play a key role in keeping my stress levels low, so I went on a spending spree at REI, my favorite store ever, and bought two pairs of all-cotton hiking pants, two pairs of hiking shorts, and a couple of long sleeve button down shirts (on sale in the bargain bin) to wear over t-shirts when it was cool (but not cold enough for a jacket). I figured it would all be good long for future adventures as well. I took a lot of t-shirts (probably too many), one pair of jeans, and four pairs of socks -- two really thick, and two really thin. And lots of underwear, ofcourse. For shoes: my Teva sandals, hiking boots, and tennis shoes. I took one winter coat (for snow and freezing temps), one light jacket and a rain poncho.
We would be doing what I call wimp camping: sleeping in the back of a truck that has a camper shell on it, on a futon, complete with blankets and pillows. There was no need to bring sleeping bags, a tent or Therma rests, but there was a big need to keep the bedding dry, so lots of large plastic tarps were needed and used. Also brought along for the trip was a cooler, a double burner Coleman stove, and things to cook, eat and clean with. All of this was kept in the back of the truck while driving, and in the cab at night time. The dogs sat during the drive and slept at night in the tiny back seat of the truck (and note I'm not sure they were always warm enough - would not do that again if any night time temps would get anywhere near freezing).
When all was packed, we were on our way.
The first night out was spent at a camp ground near the California/Nevada state border, in a lovely, forested site inappropriately named Sand Flats. It's a terrific site, and so nice to have the roaring Clark Fork River as a lullaby, and even nicer that there were only two other campers in the whole park.
The next morning, just before the border, I saw a coyote standing by a river...
We continued on, over Sonora Pass (108), and then into Nevada.
We went through Tonopah and headed for Rachel, the town just outside of the Air Force base where readers of the Weekly World News and people who take the X-Files too seriously believe that the military tests its own flying saucers based on the one that crashed outside of Roswell, New Mexico back in the 1950's. My friend Gregg, a struggling, hungry, wannabe film-maker, had been there and told me all about it, and I was primed to see the weirdness. And now, having been, I must say that Rachel is the USA - it just doesn't get more American than that.
After driving in the middle of nowhere for hours, we turned on to the road to Rachel and were greeted by a new, official state sign welcoming visitors to "the Extraterrestrial Highway" (375). When we finally reached the tiny town out in the middle of nothing, there was a similar sign just on the outskirts of the "town", being filmed by a small group of men - I suspected it was a TV crew. Rachel is made up of almost nothing but trailers. The main attraction, the Little A 'Le Inn, is a bar / restaurant / gift shop / hotel office all in a double-wide.
I sat at the bar of the Little A 'Le Inn and eavesdropped on conversations, while reading the anti-Clinton, anti-communist, anti-gun control, anti-government bumper stickers on the cooler behind the bar. One corner of the trailer is filled with "alien" t-shirts, postcards, hats, books, posters, magnets, key rings, bookends, masks, playing cards and bumper stickers, along with books, newspapers and pamphlets on conspiracy theories and right-wing political themes. There are also banners for sale commemorating the naming of the Extraterrestrial Highway in April of this year by the state (sorry I missed THAT event).
The person I was traveling with went over to the gift area and was approached by a round, anxious man. "Are you with the film crew?" he asked excitedly. He looked dejected when he was told no, and he walked away. Then the film crew that we had seen earlier came in; it turned out they were from a TV station in Los Angeles. The guy ran over to them to tell them he was out searching in a restricted area and got shot at. "I've got real bullet holes in my truck" he told them with oh-so-much excitement (FYI, there are signs everywhere along the perimeter of the base saying that they will shoot you if you pass a certain line). But he wasn't as fun as the two older women from the upper mid west who sat at the bar next to us and listened enraptured as a drunken local told them the best places and best times to watch the skies. I was trying hard not to laugh out loud. Really, I wasn't laughing at them, I was... okay, i was laughing at them.
I was so sorry to have to leave and, due to time constraints, I had to skip the "UFO research center" in the trailer down the road.
We continued our drive across the desert, dodging the free range cattle ("Wiley, Buster -- look at those huge dogs!!"), the occasional dust devil (too much like tornadoes for me to enjoy), and hundreds of kamikaze rabbits. I also saw another live coyote, far off the side of the road, hunting for vermin.
This is one of my favorite states. It is gorgeous in an alien, other planet, Star Trek kind of way. The first night camping in Utah was spent in the most beautiful state park in which I have ever been -- Kodacrome Basin. The campsite is inside an almost perfectly round canyon of red and white rock. Except for the sand fleas, which bit me all over my face and made me look dotted for a day, it was wonderful.
We drove through Capitol Reef National Park, which I had never heard of, but, then again, I didn't know much about the Western USA at all - I wasn't even sure where Yellowstone was. It's a beautiful park - the highlight was the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock - I'd never seen such first hand. The second night, due to the intense heat, was spent in an air-conditioned motel in Blanding, an incredibly boring city. Blanding is bland.
The next day we stopped at Four Corners and stood in four states at once (bonus points if you can name them). We also drove through parts of the Navajo Reservation -- always a humbling experience. We made three Indians walking on the road very angry because we didn't stop to pick them up - they couldn't know that the back seats had dogs and coolers, and the back was our bed and camping equipment. Still, I felt bad. We listened to Navajo radio for a while, which was great except for the horrible "new country" music they played -- oh, how I hate the song "Red Neck Son of a Red Neck Son" and "You'll Always Remember the Ride" (which equates women with horses). We also saw some interesting livestock -- buffalo, llamas, ostriches and emus.
I had never been to this state before, and I now understand why so many people have said I would love it. It's still rustic, despite the influx of Los Angeleans who continually move in around Taos, tear down real adobes to put fake ones up, and put in lawns.
We drove to the ranch of some friends, who live outside of a very small Northern town called Vallecitos - the area has few paved roads. As we entered there part of the area, on all dirt roads, we passed a small procession of older Hispanic women solemnly singing and carrying a large cross of flowers. I learned later that it was to honor a Saint's Day -- as I'm not Catholic, I have no idea which one.
These friends used to run a retreat on 4 1/2 acres of land, right next to Carson National Forest; they've sold most of the land now, including the main house, and now and live in a small adobe (I think it used to be their barn) on half an acre, along with a horse, a donkey (on loan to keep the horse company), two cats and a dog. I got to watch the horse get new shoes, something I'd never seen up close before. Buster got to bury a huge cow bone that he could barely put his mouth around (oops, cute dog story, sorry).
The next day, we went to Taos for lunch -- I didn't like this city like I thought I would. It was too tourist-oriented and too pseudo-quaint. Perhaps I need to take a real tour of it, to get a better sense of it. But the canyon outside of Taos was breath-taking; the Rio Grande runs through it. I definitely want to go back.
We camped in the huge, remote Palo Duro canyon, with lots of monuments and historical notes on some famous cattle rancher (but not on the Cherokees, who used it to evade the White Man for years, although it does note that the U.S. Cavalry slaughtered over 2,000 horses in one day so the Indians couldn't have them).
It was my first night to really relax while camping. Up until this point, we drove every day for hours and hours, much longer than I wanted to, with no stopping to really explore any place, and we always seemed to be setting up camp in the dark - this is not the way I wanted to travel, but I wasn't making the decisions. We had seemed more focused on moving that actually seeing a place, getting to know it, discovering new things -- all the reasons you actually go on a trip in the first place. This day, for the first time, it was still daylight by the time we had set up for the night. I walked the dogs, we cooked, played guitars and sang, watched the sun set and the moon rise... It was the first time that I thought, ah ha, this is why I came on this trip. And just as I laid down for the night, I heard the approaching noise of Jimmy Buffet, growing louder and louder. It was an entourage of Texas A & M students, who end up parking a couple of camp sites over and were ready to party. I, however, was not. I flew out of the truck and marched over to said students and threw a fabulous fit within seconds of their arrival. The music was turned off, and they left shortly thereafter. The person I was traveling with said later that he heard a girl say "Oh, please" as we walked away, and I went into my best white-trash rant about how I could kick any Texas A & M sorority girl butt in any state... but I digress.
The next day, we headed for Austin. I was going reluctantly, at the insistence of the driver. What I had seen of Texas during my life up to that point -- Galveston, South Padre Island and Dallas -- had NOT impressed me. In fact, I had disliked all of those places intensely. But I learned something wonderful as we approached Austin: Central Texas is beautiful. I loved it immediately. The small towns and landscape we traveled through on US Highway 83 heading South were like out of a picture book. And when we crossed the city limits into Austin... I fell in love. I fell in love with this city at first site.
We stayed two nights in Austin with a friend. We had a wonderful dinner at Good Eats (green bean casserole is better than heroin), and drank Mexican martinis at the Ceder Door on the Colorado River, while CDs of Southern Culture on the Skids and other bands I love played in the background. I ate a burger at Babe's on Sixth Street while listening to Don Walser, the Pavorati of the Plains, and I sat there entranced, almost in tears. I felt like I was in a dream, a wonderful, perfect dream. It was magical. There's just no other word for it -- magical. So... hold on to your hats... I'm thinking of moving to Austin. Seriously! (I won't, however, be doing it any time this year probably, so please don't change any travel plans involving the San Francisco Bay area). I always love cities with a river running through them, and add to this the tons of funky diners and shops, the endless bars full of amazing music, and this laid back vibe... Yes, indeed, I love this town. I'm going to have to move here. Thanks to Cherylou of Postcard 2 for all the restaurant and music suggestions.
LOUISIANA & MISSISSIPPI
I don't think Louisiana actually exists. It's just too surreal lookin' to be real. I felt like I was on another planet -- Dagobah, perhaps. The endless swamps and endless heat... and yet, it's beautiful. We just drove through, which was a shame -- there were a lot of great looking dives I would have loved to have stopped at, but the driver was, as usual, in a hurry to get somewhere else. And for some reason, the driver absolutely insisted we stop at a McDonald's just before we hit the state. I'll never understand that, given the legendary nature of Louisiana cuisine, which I hope to get to find out about someday.
We drove on and on, another day of no sight-seeing, just driving driving driving. We got to a campsite in Mississippi on the Gulf after midnight - I think it was Buccaneer State Park, but I'm not entirely sure now, as I post this the web. The driver unloaded the truck while I walked the dogs, and sleep was attempted at around 1:30 a.m. Two hours and several bug bites later, I awoke with a start. A flashlight showed our arms were covered in sand fleas. In record time, equipment was moved to the bed of the truck and we drove frantically across town to a convenience store to buy and cover ourselves with bug spray -- and that point, I didn't care if it was toxic or not. I was so grossed out -- we didn't stop 'til we reached the Alabama state line.
We went to sleep just after dawn in the parking lot of the Alabama welcome center. I woke up before noon and went inside, where I was greeted by three charming ladies and given a free Sprite (if you have never experienced Southern hospitality -- even better, Black American Southern hospitality -- you just haven't lived). It was tourism week in Alabama. Lucky me. I picked up tons of brochures on various places of importance to the Civil Rights movement, as I would like to return someday for a tour of such places.
Then we drove more than 200 miles to Tuscaloosa and ate at Dreamland, a total dive / shack / wonderful / famous barbecue place. It's on the outskirts of town, and caters black, white, rich, poor, and everything in between. It's really dark inside, and after we sat down, a large woman came up and said, "What'll yaw have?" We looked frantically for a menu, then the person I was with said, "Well, what do you have?" She gave him a look of disbelief and huffed, "We got ribs. A slab is good for two", and walked off.
They were the best damn ribs I've ever had. I bought a bottle of the sauce for $3.
That same day, we pushed on (because we were ALWAYS pushing on) to Atlanta, Georgia and the King Center. The final resting place of Dr. King is a simple tomb surrounded by a large reflecting pool, which is itself surrounded by a center dedicated to teaching non-violent activism. And this center is next to Dr. King's neighborhood, and only a few feet from his childhood home. It's a place I've always wanted to see. Yes, I cried. And I bought a ton of stuff in the gift shop.
Then we pushed on for Athens (because we were ALWAYS pushing on), where we stayed in a motel and walked around a few neighborhoods: I saw where Peter Buck used to live, and the soul food restaurant that REM frequented. Athens didn't charm me like I had wanted it to. Guess Austin ruined me for all other places. I was exhausted from the ride, but knew tomorrow would be more of the same, so I did my best to rally my spirits.
The next day, we stopped at a Waffle House here. So, since I spent more than one hour here, I will include it. But that's all there is to write. Hope to go back some day and get to write a lot more.
NORTH CAROLINA (Enemy territory)
We stayed with friends, and went to see a band called Whiskeytown, a twang core band playing a benefit for the Raleigh Planned Parenthood chapter. The bar was HORRIBLE -- fraternity / sorority pick-up city. Luckily, the sound system got locked into a ear-splitting feedback for about four minutes, which emptied the place except for the 15 or so of us there to see Whiskeytown. They were good -- but not as good as their CDs. And the lead singer, Ryan Adams, seemed nervous and a bit of a jerk once he started drinking.
The next day, we hooked up with a guy met via the Internet (on a guitar newsgroup) and his girlfriend. They took us to a Vietnamese restaurant and we had a great time and a great meal. It felt so good to stop and talk and enjoy one place. Then, that night, we went to see Michelle Shocked -- another guy via the Internet (Postcard 2) had told us about the show and gotten us tickets. We sat out in the parking lot and drank beer with him, then hung out together during the show, which was AMAZING. Michelle Shocked is a fabulous performer, and if you don't have her CD "Arkansas Traveler", you must buy it NOW. The show was just her and a guy from Hot House Flowers, although near the end of the show, she invited anyone who could play mandolin up on stage with her for a couple of songs. She ended up with this guy who was a really good player, and he looked stunned that he was up on stage. We even did a soul train line, and she danced down the middle of it to start it off. The only downside was that I got incredibly overheated and had to miss the last couple of songs while I sat outside trying to cool down.
The house where we were staying was in a wooded area, and was really beautiful, but I just couldn't get comfortable - I never felt like the people we were staying with - friends of the person I was traveling with - really wanted us there - or, at least, didn't really want me there. Part of the problem is that they were never told I had my dogs with me - we showed up, and there they were. They also didn't tell me that I had to flip a switch when taking a shower, because otherwise, I would use up all the well water - which, indeed, I did when I took a shower, and then got to learn that evening what I had done. It was just completely awkward and uncomfortable, for the most part. When I welcome travelers into my home, things will be very different - they will blog about how welcoming I am as a hostess.
The next four nights we stayed at other friends, who have a beautiful home in a historic area, and I was totally paranoid about the dogs breaking something. Also, the woman of the house sleeps until 11 a.m. each day, so I couldn't do anything in the mornings but read or sleep as well - I felt like I was staying at a really snooty museum. The person I was traveling with was working that day - his company is based in the area. I was bored out of my mind. The first day, the lady of the house encouraged me to go downtown and have lunch and leave the dogs in the house. So, I did. Chapel Hill is lovely -- I admit to that -- but too snooty for my taste. The homes are huge and luxurious -- old, old money abounds. Unlike Lexington, it's hard to tell you are in a basketball town, except for the restaurant named Four Corners. I ate at the only dive there, called "Dips". I walked back home and found out that Buster and Wiley had torn the porch screen away from the wall and taken a romp through the neighborhood. The screen was repairable, but my nerves weren't.
Three days later, after being bored out of my mind most days as I waited while the person I was traveling with worked, I was ecstatic to get the hell out of there and get back to my vacation, which I felt like I had left on the road somewhere before North Carolina and was now half over.
After dawdling in North Carolina in the morning and actually getting to see a bit of Durham, we took a long drive through the hills of Virginia (bonus points for those of you who can find the town Mouth of Wilson on a map). It is the most beautiful state we visited in the East. Appropriately, we listened to the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers as we drove through the mountains and tiny towns. It was here that I announced my discovery of the trip -- all towns, no matter how small, have tanning bed salons. We camped that night in the Cumberland Gap.
We went to the Cumberland Gap visitor's center and I wrote something really inflammatory in the visitor's book under "suggestions". I was really pissed off at the depiction of the settlement of Kentucky. First, the display said that Kentucky was uninhabited when the European-Americans moved there, then it kept talking about Indian raids on the settlers. Excuse me? There was also not one word about the white raids on Indian settlements nor the Indian ways that were displaced by the white. Made ma left-wing blood boil.
We then drove through some more small towns throughout Eastern Kentucky (we came very close to Paintsville, home of my friend Todd, who just sent me all sorts of cool stuff re: the UK Men's Basketball Team, and who, therefore, I am indebted to for life). My driver was intrigued by the hills of Kentucky, and also pronounced his own trip discovery -- "Now I know where all the Cameros were sold."
We got to Louisville that evening and stayed with my brother and his girlfriend for two nights. We played on my brother's computer, argued about government programs, and were taken on a tour of Louisville. It was so refreshing to not feel like I was in the way of anyone, that I was a burden or a bother, that the people hosting me actually wanted me there. They were so sweet to my dogs in particular.
The river was waaaaaaay up -- I have never seen it so flooded. There were many moments when the banks of the river started on the sides of the road we were on as we toured around the area.
We ate at the Waffle House in New Albany (but, then haven't we all?) and did the Interstate Highway thing for a while, then crossed the river into Kentucky and took U.S. 60 until Owensboro.
KENTUCKY, PART TWO
We got to Henderson just before noon. I went into my mother's house to put her cat away - she was at work - then we let the dogs into the house. And after having been almost-perfect angels the entire time, after numerous assurances to my mother that my dogs would not damage her precious house in any way, after comments by all with whom we had stayed about how well-trained my dogs were, Wiley immediately walked into the dining room and took a pee on a table cloth. I nearly fainted. I put the table cloth in the washer, and we unpacked the truck and wondered what to do -- we were expected at a family reunion, and it was getting late. By the time we had unpacked, it was time for the table cloth to go in the dryer. I came back outside, and my sister pulled up. Then my mother. And the most miraculous thing happened -- they both sat outside with us, and then some neighbors came over and sat outside with us, and I casually went inside, got the dried table cloth and put back on the table and she never knew about it. Well, she does now, if she's reading this. Which she isn't.
I had a wonderful visit. One of the best moments was that first night, sitting out on the front porch in the night air and just gabbing. I so love the house my mother lives in now, and my home town is so much nicer than when I was growing up there. It really is a lovely little town now. My mother's boss told her she was fired until I left Henderson, so we got to spend some good time together. We ate well and often, as usual -- master chef and fabulous grand daddy R.J. prepared most-delicious hamburgers and fawned over me, his fellow-family Democrat and Clinton supporter. My grandmother, Mama Cym, fawned over my companion (I think she's happy to have proof at last that I'm not a lesbian).
The next day we visited Henderson's coffee house (yes, we do have one) and walked around downtown. We also had lunch with one of my best friends, Ben, who is pastor of the Zion United Church of Christ, the ONLY open and affirming church in the state of Kentucky, in case I haven't bragged to you about this before. Ben sang for us in his church, empty that afternoon except for us, and it was so sweet. Then we ate at one of Henderson's two Mexican restaurants, where Ben told me his favorite bumper stickers are, at the moment: "Jesus is coming -- Look busy!" and "I found Jesus -- he was hiding behind the couch." We ate at my other grandmother's, Mamaw, that night in Spottsville (oh, how I have missed chicken gravy), then met up with mom and my oldest brother at Wolf's Tavern (since the 1800's, a terrific little pub and the best bean soup anywhere).
I wish my stay in Henderson could have gone on longer, as I didn't get to see but one of my closest friends in the area. It was the first time in my life I left when I really wasn't ready to go. But I wasn't in charge of this trip, so off we went.
ILLINOIS & MISSOURI
We left Kentucky early in the morning so we could drive to Belmont, a small town outside of St. Louis, where the band Uncle Tupelo was born. There wasn't much to see, although it looked like a cute little town. Then we went on into Missouri midway. We camped at a state park by a lake and the frogs sang me to sleep. I wish I could remember the name of the park... it was in or near Mark Twain National Forest.
We drove through this endless state in ONE DAY. Night fell and we were still driving and driving and driving. It was miserable. I fell asleep, and I kept dreaming of a tornado slamming into us and I kept bolting awake in terror. The weather was awful, with driving wind and rain. And I hated driving so much, even if I wasn't the one at the wheel. It's not enjoyable, and feels like a chore rather than traveling. Yuck.
I had never been to Denver. I found that I liked it. Not the suburbs, where we stayed (yuck), but downtown, definitely. Coors Field looks so fabulous, and there are so many terrific restaurants everywhere. Downtown has lots of character, and real cowboys. There is an AMAZING book store in Denver, the BEST ANYWHERE in the world, called the Tattered Cover (I have been to a ton of book stores in many, many towns, folks, and this one beats them all). I spent two and a half hours there, and could have spent even more time. It has four floors, extremely comfortable chairs and a fire place -- you can lay in the floor and read and no one will tell you to move. I bought a book on religions in America, a book of political post cards (you will probably receive one in the next six months), and a book of Star Wars Toys post cards (you can see this if you come visit, but I am NOT sending any out). My traveling companion bought a book of Deep Thoughts post cards, which we stayed up late one night reading and laughing so hard we almost woke everyone else up. We were going to go see the Rockies play, but it was REALLY cold and rainy, so we went to a brew pub instead.
Again, we stayed with friends of the person I was traveling with and, again, I felt horribly awkward and unwelcome. And, again, the person I was traveling with tried to get us to stay longer than we were supposed to - he didn't really care that I was bored and feeling out-of-place, HE was having a great time, and that's all that mattered. We stayed two nights longer than we had originally agreed, but at last, he agreed to leave and get our vacation back on track.
I was stunned by the beauty of Wyoming. I knew it would be beautiful, but, wow, it's BEAUTIFUL. The first night we stayed at a completely empty campground outside of Saratoga and awoke the next morning to three inches of fresh snow. The beautiful forest and fresh, thick snow was almost too good to be true. We stayed into the late morning to let the dogs romp off leash and make snow angels (I'm not kidding -- they throw themselves on to the ground, wiggle like crazy, then get up and run away). Ooops, sorry. That was a cute dogs story. But Buster got too cold, and was forced to wear his pansy dog sweater that he hates so much.
We drove more and stopped the second night at a campground that was on any of our maps, called The Willow Lake -- we had the whole side of a hill to ourselves. We were going to stay at Fremont Lake, but after enjoying the constant buzz of an ATV, I suggested we leave. Just as we finished dinner and started to pack the cab to clear the back so we could sleep, it started to rain. Perfect timing. It stopped by morning, and we ate breakfast while watching beautiful birds, the water, and the highest mountains in Wyoming. We loaded up, and it started to rain again. Once again, perfect timing. Then it started snowing.
After two and a half hours in one spot, of wondering where to go next, while the person I was with kept changing his mind over and over and over and over again, driving in one direction for about two minutes before saying, "No, I think I want to go the other way", then driving for about two minutes in that direction and saying, "Oh, actually, I've changed my mind" - AFTER TWO HOURS OF THIS (it's at this point I should have left him - I threatened it), we decided on going to Grand Teton National Park.
We drove through Jackson, a really disgustingly-pseudo-quaint town (I was so disappointed -- instead of diners and local shops, it was the Gap, Polo for Men and chain steak houses). Also, I looked for Harrison Ford, but never did see him. After we got through town, and except for the occasional subdivision, the terrain was breath-taking. We stayed in the National Park campground -- something we almost never do, given the nimrods that often camp at such places ("Honey, put little Susie on the wild moose's back while I film with my camcorder"), but we lucked out, since it was a Tuesday -- we had really nice neighbors who loved my dogs, and had a spectacular view of the Tetons. It was also in Wyoming that I had to amend my earlier discovery: all towns have EITHER a tanning salon OR a taxidermist.
On the way out of the park the next day, we saw about five wild buffalo. And lots of idiots parked in the road, to film them with their camcorders.
I just love this state. We camped outside of Canyonlands National Park, off the road on Bureau of Land Management Land. Since there was nothing anywhere around us, the dogs got to run around off leash again (although, by now, Buster's back leg was really hurting him, so he had to stay in the truck most of the time). There is something about the red earth and steep, painted canyons of this place that calms my soul -- it's why prophets were so drawn to the desert, I think. The next day, we went into the park and took a very short hike. We were so high up and so close to the edge that I got dizzy.
We passed through another Austin, dropping down into the town from a high elevation, and stopped at a Forest Ranger office there to get some maps of the area for future reference (we ended up staying there for over a half hour taking to a really nice ranger who had some fun stories about Rachel). We camped outside of this other Austin, and I cried because I didn't want the trip to end - not this part, not the part where we were setting up camp before dark and seeing beautiful landscape. I could spend the rest of my life camping around North America. I should have ditched the driver and kept going.
The next day, we went into Reno and ate at the brew pub in the Silver Legacy. This is a great thing to do after a camping trip, long or short -- stop in a casino town, get a huge meal for a reasonable price, in air conditioning, and no one really cares how you are dressed. But it's so weird to be inside a place and see absolutely none of the outside -- no windows. The apocalypse could come, and you would have no idea.
Somewhere, we saw a farm that had a Zebra, but I can't remember which state. So I'm putting this note here at the end.
We arrived home on May 31 -- a day earlier than we planned, not because we wanted the trip to end any sooner, but because we decided we would need the whole weekend to re-orient ourselves to the world of adult responsibility (work, house cleaning, job hunting, etc.).
And so, I spent the weekend mowing and cleaning up the yard (after a month of neglect, you can imagine what it looked like), cleaning up bird shit around the downstairs windows (there was a bird in the house when we got home last night; it was very happy to be set free), and reading those three books on Kentucky's 1995-96 season (Todd, I just can't thank you enough!!!!!). And wishing I was still traveling. The dogs are bored out of their minds, and can't understand why we are just sitting here.
I long for the road. I must do this again.
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