Note: First published on Blogger on July 6, 2006
Unfolding the Map
As always, you may click the image at right to get yourself to the map, which is keeping track of Sal's (our) progress across America!
"...another cowboy, this one six feet tall in a modest half-gallon hat, called us over and wanted to know if either one of us could drive....His wife was at Grand Island, and he wanted us to drive one of the cars there, where she'd take over....Of course Eddie could drive, and he had a license and I didn't. Eddie drove alone, the cowboy and myself following, and no sooner were we out of town than Eddie started to ball that jack ninety miles and hour out of sheer exuberance. 'Damn me, what's that boy doing!' the cowboy shouted....
"We stopped along the road for a bite to eat....and Eddie and I sat down in a kind of homemade diner...and here came this rawhide oldtimer Nebraska farmer with a bunch of other boys into the diner....He came booming into the diner, calling Maw's name, and she made the sweetest cherry pie in Nebraska, and I had some with a mountainous scoop of ice cream on top. I wished I knew his whole raw life and what the hell he'd been doing all these years besides laughing and yelling like that. Whooee, I told my soul, and the cowboy came back and off we went to Grand Island."
On the Road: Chapter 3
Grand Island, Nebraska
A couple of things come to mind in reading this excerpt from On the Road. First is the sheer exhiliration of being on the open road. I have a love-hate relationship with car trips. The hate part comes in two flavors: I hate getting ready for car trips, and I hate packing things up after a car trip. I usually love the act of being in a car trip.
I remember at home, when I was growing up, there was something intangible about car trips. I remember that there was even a smell that I associated with car trips -- I would be helping to put things in the car, or I would be around the car, and it just smelled different. I can't describe the smell, other than it was sort of sharp and metallic, but I only smelled it just within an hour before we left somewhere.
By car trip, I mean any extended trip anywhere. Not just a trip into town to the store, but a trip where we actually went out of town, and we spent more than one-half hour in the car.
There was something about being on the open road, about the new sights, about other cars moving past us at fast or slower speeds, that just captivated me. Of course, I also had a tendency to get violently carsick on roads that had sharp turns, so I also had unpleasant memories of car trips as well. But mostly, my memories were great. I always had a great gift of recall, so if I had been somewhere once, I could usually direct my parents back to it (when they would actually listen to me). I was captivated by freeway systems, how in the cities they bent back and around each other as onramps and offramps wound around, and I loved bridges, especially the Golden Gate and the Richmond-San Rafael bridge that looked like a big roller-coaster.
As an adult, I still find myself captivated by car trips, especially over new territory that I haven't traversed before, or for a while. I also find that it's easy to do what Eddie (in the quote) did. On a recent trip from El Paso to the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas, we were literally "balling that jack" at 90 for a good half hour before I noticed. We were so caught up in the scenery and the endless vistas that the speed just escaped our attention.
Of course, I have said it before in this blog and I'll say it again. Finding a good local food place, with the emphasis on good, is a treasure in itself. We usually take a chance. Sometimes we get unlucky, like our last car trip down to Mountainair, New Mexico, where we stopped in a local cafe only to find the food greasy, spicy, and despite that, relatively tasteless. At other times, we hit the jackpot and find a great eatery and even hints of an adventure. A year ago, we stopped in Pietown, New Mexico, after a weekend camping trip in the Gila Wilderness and had a great meal when the managers of the place decided that they would stay open a few extra minutes with us. Not only did we get the meal, we got pie and we got the very interesting story of the couple that managed the place. We usually don't find that mixture of luck, adventure and mystery in McDonalds or Burger King, and therefore, we don't stop there often.
Next up: Shelton, Nebraska