By Diana Guay
By all means, please have Tom Pettty’s Into The Great Wide Open playing in your head as you read this, because I am.
Being in wide open country can sometimes be maddening. You watch the unchanging landscape and can predict traffic for about 5 miles ahead of you, the road is that straight. Mountains are incredibly far away, but the nearer flat landscape holds no secrets on the journey towards these large mountains.
Towns start to blur one into another and towns like Carlsbad, NM looks sort of like Townsend, MT. When you take state routes instead of the Interstate, you’re plopped into these towns’ main streets, separated by the long stretches of plains. You’ll be driving upwards of 70 mph, then have to slow to 30 or 40 when you roll into a sprawl. These I can usually predict by following our path on my google map. You start to look for the “golden arches,” as that is our indicator of civilization that I am familiar with. Here, we are guaranteed clean bathrooms, free wifi, and (except in the south) good coffee. I hate to admit it, but they are our oases.
When driving on these long stretches of plains, Rob tells me he almost has to work harder at staying alert, probably because it would be so easy to let your driving brain go on autopilot, and then completely miss the car turning onto the route from the right.
For these reasons, we do look forward to Interstates, since there are frequent rest areas, food/lodging info, and scenic overlooks, things not guaranteed on the local routes.
When changing states, the landscape is known to change dramatically. One minute we’re in the desert with short, brown shrubbery, the next minute we see red rock formations, then enormous tree-less mountains, which eventually give way to the evergreen mountains of the pacific northwest, which feels more like home.
We’ve driven beside so many mile-long trains, stayed in so many hotels that things aren’t feeling as special. Rob’s even noticed that I barely give a second glance to the appearance of a new mountain or interesting natural beauty on the road. Maybe I’m just getting tired. Maybe I’m homesick. Or maybe there’s too much beauty to be seen and I’m in such an overload that my brain is shutting down. It does get tiring to have to pack up your belongings every morning and trudge on. Its sad to find a cute town like Petaluma or a great bustling city like Portland and know that you have to leave the next day. Oh sure, we hope to visit a lot of these places again, but it’s tiring and sad to discover these gems and then put miles behind you toward the next stop.
I am looking forward to seeing some natural beauty of Yellowstone, possibly some badlands in Wyoming, and then Mount Rushmore. But I think I’m looking forward to not moving around quite so much.