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A long-attention-span kind of thing October 30, 2008

Posted by Jenny in memoir, travel.
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Spend three and a half days driving to get from Gloucester, Mass. to the Rockies, when you could fly?  It’s hard to explain.

After writing my last post, which was about a hike in August 2004, I started feeling nostalgic not only for the Rockies but for the whole road trip experience.  Bob and I have done big road trips together twice, and he also did a six-week solo journey in 2000 that truly deserves the title of “Great American Road Trip.”  The solo trip featured an old red Tercel.  The 2004 trip starred a silver Echo (“Filbert”), and the 2006 trip put the companion red Echo (“Filomena”) through her paces.  In all of these trips, the back seat and trunk were completely filled up with camping and hiking gear.  These undersized road warriors penetrated into places where compact cars with Mass. plates are seldom seen.  For instance, the Cinnamon Pass shelf road near Lake City, Colorado, or the Stevens Gulch road up to Grays and Torreys.  We enjoyed our gas mileage, in the range of 43-45 mpg.  One day, with a persistent tailwind, we got close to 50.  (No, these aren’t hybrids.)

From Gloucester, the goal is to get somewhere near Akron, Ohio, the first night.  The second night is spent somewhere near the 92nd meridian, for instance Stuart, Iowa, or Independence, Missouri.  On the third day the 100th meridian is crossed, and that is when I feel that I am really getting out west.  A mysterious transition occurs somewhere in the middle of the tier of states that are stacked north of Texas.  On the 2004 trip we had spent the night in Missouri and drove for hours across Kansas.  Somewhere out at the west end of the state, near Colby or maybe Oakley, it was time to stop for lunch.  We pulled up to a convenience store and stepped out of the car into hot, dry, swirling winds.  The temperature was in the upper 90s, and grit was flying through the air.  A geezer got out of his dinged-up pickup truck.  He had cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and it wasn’t a costume.  The air smelled like livestock, and the ditch was full of sunflowers.  I was happy.

We look for where the Queen Anne’s Lace stops and the sunflowers start, for our first prairie dog of the trip and our first antelope.  We go out to the Ponderosa pines, up to the Douglas firs, and down to the red rock canyons.  We admire vast forests of black spruce by Lake Superior, and perpetual-motion black oil rigs in Wyoming.  The transitions happen very gradually, as is enormously appropriate for the gigantic spaces of our huge United States.  We tune into Kansas public radio and hear a feature about deep-fried Snickers bars.  We drive through hailstorms in Pennsylvania and snow squalls in Utah.  We see the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, and use the 11,312′-elevation rest rooms at Monarch Pass, Colorado.

It’s a long-attention-span kind of thing.  Like I said, hard to explain.

The mighty roadster

The mighty roadster

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