Day 24, remembering the Robert Earl Keen song, “The Road Goes On Forever,” and enjoying the discount offered as a member of the American Association of Retired Persons. Flash you card, admit your THAT old and it’s 10-20 percent off almost every major hotel-motel chain in America.
And to quote the great Chico Marx, eventually “that runs into money.” So here in Gallup, N.M., I save even more at the Comfort Inn in West Gallup (it doesn’t that that long to get to east Gallup) over my AAA discount. Ah, the joys of seniority.
It also means I’m getting old and today, I really feel it. For the first time, I was forced to exit the interstate, head to a McDonald’s parking lot in Winslow, Ariz. (made famous in John Carpenter’s “Spaceman” with a fine performance from Jeff Bridges) and take a nap. The Flagstaff altitude and constant whistle-blowing from the nearby trains kept me from gaining any credible sleep.
So here’s my confession: I’m ready for this to be over. Four weeks is more than long enough to spend driving across the USA. I am ready to sink deep into my Laz-Y-Boy and about a week without being disturbed. Just me, my remote, an Igloo of sugar-free lemonade and an alarm clock to remind me when it will be time to watch “Rome,” “Alias,” “Lost,” “Medium” and “ER.”
I am tired. I am tired of driving. I am tried of sleeping in a different non-Posturepedic bed night after night. I am tired of using Brillo pads disguised as bath towels.
I am tired of driving my Ford Escape; I can smell each inch of it and know that there are fries under the seats that could be 2-3 weeks old. I am tired of feeling each stitch in the driver’s seat and tired of stepping on the brakes for miles at a time while going through the kind of windy mountain roads that can best be described as spaghetti in a colander.
In the morning, I will head straight down I-40, past Albuquerque to Amarillo, flying past the Big Texan and its 72 oz. steak challenge and plop on a bed for the night. Then I will make my final choice of the trip – to go all interstate through Oklahoma City to Denton and Dallas, or go down U.S. 287 through Childress, Vernon, Wichita Falls, Decatur and Fort Worth before hitting Plano.
My eyes and heart were much bigger than my brain. I thought this would be a breeze and I could do everything I planned without becoming exhausted. However, I have discovered a major flaw in my planning. My computer software, by Rand McNally, cannot possibly calculate that a state highway, normally flowing at 55 or 65 mph, is really one of those mountain roads and you’ll be good to do 30. That changes time calculations and alters plans. But I had no way of knowing. Such information is not given on maps provided by AAA.
And it’s just been nerve-wracking. I don’t do roller coasters and I still get queasy watching the chase scene in “Bullitt” through the streets of San Francisco. Imagine, how much Alka-Seltzer I needed after actually driving on them. I do not do well when I can imagine falling over the edge. I got weird when I saw a yellow caution sign with a guy fallen off a cliff when people not to walk along the edges of Crater Lake in Oregon. Why? Because they’d fall off and no one would come get them … EVER!
For the record, we also saw signs for deer and elk crossings, duck crossings and senior citizen crossing, which was a figure walking with a bad back. Seriously.
So I guess it was appropriate that I made my last national park visit to be Petrified Forest National Park. I discovered it really isn’t a forest, but mostly the spectacular panorama of the Painted Desert. As an addendum to my last piece about Arizona, here are the figures on states by national parks – California (24), New York, Arizona (20), and Alaska, Washington, D.C. (16).
I also got to hear something that I will never experience again. A radio station in far eastern Arizona tossed off uber-conservative Sean Hannity and the language of Native America (perhaps Navajo) replaced it. Obviously, I had no clue as to what was being said, except when the name “Alan Jackson” came up, but it was still interesting.
I also heard the kind of commercial that indicates Christmas is nearing. Star Registry is back with its “sale” of stars for loved ones at $54 per pop … or per star. I have never understood how people can sell something that doesn’t belong to them. And, is there a star outlet store somewhere … out there? And can you return your star for a different one? And what if it is defective and blows up en route to your sweetheart?
Does love really mean never having to say you’re starry?