This has been an exciting week. Last Monday I moved out of my apartment and left Atlanta behind, off on a road trip around the country before returning to Boston; then from there I will fly off to Abu Dhabi in mid-August.
From Atlanta, I drove across Alabama and just over the border into Mississippi, where I got a motel room for the night. I stayed at Microtel, which I’d never been to before, and it was quite pleasant. No frills, and a very small room (hence the “micro” in the name I guess) but more than adequate for one person to spend the night. It was not particularly interesting driving in Alabama and Mississippi, but since I’d never been to those states before, I wanted to be sure to check them off my list (family contest to see who can go to all 50 states first…I think I have now been to 44 out of 50!) It is also mainly for this reason that I took a detour through northern Mississippi to the southeast corner of Arkansas and then down through eastern Louisiana back towards I-20.
While driving through the Mississippi Delta in northeastern Louisiana, I was pulled over in a little town called Lake Providence. The cop said I failed to completely stop at the stop sign. I am almost positive I did stop, but I thought it best not to argue. Just being in the town made me quite uneasy, and I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. It looked very blighted and run-down, as if a major natural disaster had hit years ago and everyone had just boarded up the buildings and left. I did see some people walking down the street or sitting on the curbs drinking. Overall, it just looked like a very crappy little town. Later, I Googled it and found that over a decade ago, Time magazine did a story on Lake Providence, which had been found by census figures to be the poorest place in America.
By then I’d had a lot of time to think about the fact that I’d been pulled over (for the 2nd time in my eleven years of driving) and given a ticket (my first ever except for parking tickets). Reading the article, which while 12 years old still seems like an accurate portrayal of my experience of this town, it all kind of made sense. Of course I got a ticket. I was a white girl with Georgia plates and a college alumni sticker on my back window, driving through what I’d guess is probably still the poorest place in America. I had no business there and was certainly not planning on spending money in this depressing place. The more I turned it over in my head, the clearer the picture became. At the time I was quite angry over being given a ticket (my first one! ever!) when I had not done anything wrong, but I’ve sort of settled on thinking of it as my toll payment for driving through the town. However, this revenue-raising technique by the local police also ensures that I will never drive through that part of the country again. On the other hand, after seeing this area, I doubt anyone would ever voluntarily go there twice, ticket or no ticket.
So, ticket in hand, I drove off to Texas (having decided at that time that I hated Louisiana and wanted to get my butt out of that stupid state as soon as possible–I’m over it now by the way). I spent the night in Longview, Texas at another Microtel. In the morning, I drove to Dallas with two goals: 1) get my oil changed, and 2) have a burger at Keller’s Drive-in, which I read here has one of the 20 best burgers in America. I succeeded with both tasks, although I was kind of confused by the drive-in restaurant concept, having never been to one. I’ve been to drive-throughs of course, but it’s not the same thing. I get the impression drive-in restaurants are more popular in the South and West (maybe because of the weather?) and I hadn’t ever been to a Sonic drive-in until somewhere in Mississippi I believe. So basically, I just didn’t understand how they worked and sort of made an idiot of myself at both drive-ins that I have now been to.
I got stuck in a huge traffic jam going out of Dallas, but once I got out of that area, it was a speedy and quite boring drive along the Texas/Oklahoma border and across the Texas panhandle to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tucumcari is known for being a major stop along the now-defunct Route 66. By the light of day when I woke up the next morning, I could tell its glory days had long ago passed by. It had an almost-ghost-town feeling that was very creepy to me; lots of abandoned motels and stores, and big murals on the sides of buildings that were meant to be a tourist attraction, but without tourists just look kind of tacky and out of place. I got back on the road and out of there pretty fast. I did have to stop and clean my windshield though, because it turns out Texas has way more than its share of large, suicidal bugs that kept hurling themselves at my car, where they became gross bug-gut smears that were quite distracting and icky.
I drove up through New Mexico with a stop in Santa Fe–VERY nice town!–and took a long but incredibly beautiful drive through the mountains. The scenery there honestly did not look real; I felt like I was in a giant movie set or theme park or something, but it was real, and gorgeous. As I got to Colorado–passing by a road sign on my way that warned “GUSTY WINDS MAY EXIST”–the landscape turned greener and a bit less rocky, but still very scenic. A few hours later I was here in Durango, Colorado with my sister Kim! She is an awesome hostess and has been taking me to lots of cool places like Four Corners (where I got to check off another state from my list!) and Mesa Verde National Park. We also went out to bars, restaurants and coffee shops and just hung out in this pretty little college town. I forgot how much fun it was to just go out and have a good time on a Saturday night! I definitely need to do it more often.
Sadly, I have to leave tomorrow and Kim has to go back to work, but the exciting thing is that where I go is totally up to me. It’s hard to describe the feeling of complete and total freedom that I’ve had these past few days. No apartment, no work, almost no responsibilities. Since I’m driving by myself I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. My planned route has changed quite a few times already, and I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so giving some thought to where I want to go from here, because I can go whatever direction I feel like going! Suggestions are welcome, but I’m not going to tell you where I’m going until I get there, mostly because I still don’t know for sure where my next stop is.
Goodnight from Durango, and stay tuned for the next chapter of my highway adventure, which shall be posted at some point in the future when I have internet access. Until then, take care. Also be on the lookout for the gusty winds, because the New Mexico Department of Transportation was kind of iffy on whether they exist or not.