Interstate highway travel is not our favorite; high speeds, by-passed sites, higher-priced gasoline....but if one has a long, long way to go, it sure beats the way my family crossed the country in 1958 and again in 1960, on the famed Route 66. Crossing the country--including the Mojave Desert-- in an unair-conditioned car in midsummer was not a picnic (though we have memories of the roadside shade trees that welcomed us at lunchtime occasionally.) Every little town had a water tower (name emblazoned on the metal tank); only the Burma-Shave signs broke the monotony.
I-40 pretty much parallels the 'Historic Route 66.' Our point of departure was, of course, Central Arkansas. Before driving away we thought to go down our checklist once more; this was fortunate, because Don had forgotten to pack up his c-pap. That would have been quite the set-back. While he was back inside the house loading his medical equipment, I thought of several things I had over-looked, too. Ultimately we got away at 9 a.m., though once we passed out of range of our NPR station and looked for the thumb drive with our audio books, we discovered it had been left behind. Happily, the DHubby had the stories backed up on his MP3 player. Let the murders begin! (Mysteries make the miles fly.)
Oklahoma has rolling hills, fair-sized trees; it's not too bad. It was fascinating to read the names of the 'resettled' Native American tribes as we crossed invisible borders. We drove farther than we had planned, ending up just across the border in the Texas panhandle spot-in-the-road of Shamrock. We'd overextended, and we were tired and aching the next morning. There are possibly more desolate, benighted landscapes than the drought-stricken miles we crossed, but I can't think where. Every so often, a horrid stench would warn us that we were approaching another feed-lot, where beef cattle are fattened before slaughter. To make matters worse, on Saturday we were driving into storms. As we passed into New Mexico, heavy skeins of clouds moved over the land. We couldn't begrudge these struggling areas the moisture, but the weather did nothing to improve the views. It was also unusually cold; we had clearly packed the wrong things. I purchased a 'Route 66' hoodie on sale at a tribal rest stop. We crossed the entire state, winding up in Gallup. The bright spot: the food! Lunch in Santa Rosa at the Silver Moon Diner--posole and enchiladas,oh my...and dinner at Don Diego's Restaurant in Gallup (margaritas! Carne Adovada!)
Making it that far got us past the worst of our soreness and exhaustion, and a sunny Sunday raised our spirits. That was fortunate, because crossing Arizona and entering southern California (driving from Needles to Barstow) took us through territory that had nothing to recommend it: stones, dust, creosote brush, tumbleweeds, desolation. Things improved the next day, as we reached Tehachapi and then Paso Robles; the mountains were greener and the views more appealing.
Paso Robles at first seemed to be one large traffic jam (poor signage, narrow streets) but we made a turn, drove blindly, and stumbled on City Park. We strolled along the margin of the park and found a Thai restaurant. By this time we had caught on that we needed to order ONE lunch and split it if we wanted to avoid disastrous weight gain. Then we walked into the park because I had a hunch about the little building in the center: could it be a Carnegie Library? And it was!
The jewel-box building is now a historical society (with the large, newer, modern library nearby)...and alas, closed on Mondays. I was able to press my nose to the glass of the front door and see handsome columns, dark woodwork, and high ceilings. How I do love the individuality and beauty of the Carnegie libraries that grace so many American towns! A statue and plaque honoring Ignacy Paderewski (a long-time resident of Paso Robles) was an informative surprise.
We ended our fourth day of travel in Monterey, happy to find a Trader Joe's a short walk from the hotel.
(To be continued....)