Okay, to recap: We left home on three days’ notice with a car full of stuff and a need to get across the country in pretty good time.
Tuesday: We made it through the rest of Missouri and much of Oklahoma, and did our now-customary mall walkthrough to put Maddy to sleep in OKC. We went a little past the city before stopping for the night, a little earlier than planned. In retrospect, I had the very mildest end of a stomach bug that was working its way through our Indiana friends. At the time, though, I just felt a little off and did. not. want to drive anymore, so we stopped.
The next day, I didn’t eat anything all day but thought it was just road-weariness. We stopped at the Top of Texas Catholic Superstore (which was really just a nice bookstore right off the freeway), and then I slept my way through the rest of Texas and a fair bit of New Mexico.
The highlight of our trip – or at least the story we keep retelling – came at an exit in New Mexico. Far from any real civilization, Maddy made it know that she wanted to stop, so we took the next exit that promised gas. Picture the dustiest, hottest, most desolate place you can imagine. That’s where we were. We pulled up to the only building for miles, and our dialogue went something like this:
Me: Well, the sign said “gas,” but I don’t see any pumps…
Johnny: Is that it? No; those haven’t been used for years.
Me (reading the sign): The 203 Club? This isn’t a gas station.
Johnny: What on earth is their logo?
Me: Umm, I think it’s a naked woman. YEP, that’s a butt.
It was only as we had pulled away from this house of ill repute that Johnny said, “Hey, did you see the bull they had outside?” Yes, for whatever reason, there was a live bull in a pen. One of the great regrets of my life will be not capturing a photo of it.
We (by which I mean, Johnny) had dinner in Gallup, and then we made it all the way to lovely (no, really) Holbrook, Arizona for our last night on the road.
Our last day involved a steep descent from 7400 feet down to 34 feet, which made for a some fun driving. Up where we started, there were pine trees, meadows, and medians full of some yellow flower. It was incredibly pretty. Then we wound down through this:
We drove past the signs for the Grand Canyon and very briefly entertained the idea of making a side trip, but ultimately decided not to. Next time. And then, with a glimpse of the Colorado River and a perfunctory “Welcome to California” sign, we were in for hours and hours of this:
I have to say, the Mojave Desert was stunning in how much nothing there is. It seriously feels like it goes on forever. So much nothing. Next time you think of California as populous, consider that after entering the state, you have to drive four hours before coming to a town of any size. It’s awe-inspiringly desolate.
Under “Things I Wish I Had Photographed” comes the tale of a street sweeper we saw brushing down the shoulder in the absolute middle of nowhere. I like to imagine that some lazy bum begged his DOT Commissioner father-in-law for a job, and was assigned to the Herculean Labor of sweeping up the desert.
Eventually, we came back to civilization, a term that I use more loosely now. Johnny is convinced that George Lucas used the city of Barstow as his inspiration for Mos Eisley, and I have to say, it’s hard to disagree with him.
A little later, we drove past a real Spaceport (which looks really fun, except for being hours from anything). We drove through one last stretch of mountains, these littered with thousands of half-working windmills, and then made a steep descent in the valley, and suddenly everything was green and there were produce stands everywhere. Five days and 3200 miles later, Johnny was back to the one place on earth where he doesn’t need a map to get around, and life was very good.
(…until 4 hours after we got home, when he succumbed to the Stomach Bug with a Vengeance and got violently sick. But at least his mom was there to take care of him.)