Friday, July 8, 2011

Borderline Cramped: Family Road Trip

Ahh the summer: blistering heat waves, no school, and family road trips. Higher gas prices, a slumping economy, and the aging car almost cut the good ol’ family vacation to a halt before it even began this year, but my dad was determined. He has been planning this trip for months. He has been saving money, calculating, with the help of Google, the fastest routes, and drooling over new water toys for our second trip to Lake Powell. It was his dream destination that became a reality in 2008, and we just didn’t get enough. When he got one of those email advertisements that you would normally ‘spam’ immediately, he didn’t. Instead he ventured onward and never looked back, emerging with a week-long boat trip for 50% off. 

 So here we are. In the middle of New Mexico with my family and very good friend: Mom, Dad, Kara (17), Risa (15), Geoff (20), and myself (20). We have a 2003 Black Chevy Suburban with 140,000 miles on it loaded up and towing two jet skis from back in San Antonio. It’s a little tight, with the shortest person being Risa at 5’ 6” and our combined height of 36’ 1” (an average of ~6’). Our end destination, which we will arrive at today: Paige, Arizona. From San Antonio to Paige it’s exactly 1,189.9 miles; I know this because we have a can with that number on it near our family room that is labeled ‘Lake Powell Gas Money.’ Anyone can drop a dollar or twenty in there if they want to help out the cause. 

And a cause it is. Driving through west Texas and New Mexico is quite the adventure. There is whole lotta nothing until you reach the Red Rocks near the Continental Divide in New Mexico. The land is bare, harsh, and unforgiving. Evidence of the desolation lies not in skulls on the side of the road but the lack of road kill.  In the Hill Country of Texas, there is an occasional raccoon or deer that has been hit on the side of the road: proof of former life. In west Texas, there is nothing. While this may seem morbid or mundane, depending on your queasiness, the desert and countryside are literally awesome. They have the lightning, rolling thunder, and flash storms that can get lost in the city. I love the idea that America is made up of blustering cities and blistering heat and desolation. Traffic jams and 1000s of miles of empty two lane highways. Walmarts in front of a picturesque mountain sunset from the viewpoint of a Denny’s front porch.  Gotta love America. 

And that is the great thing about family road trips. In no other country are you expected to load a SUV and drive to a ridiculously remote destination, and then to think that the journey was part of  the destination. In America that is a cliché but where else do you have 3,000 miles (in one direction) to drive on well-paved interstate highway? No other country that spans an entire continent has even one continuous cross-country intestate, and we have five: interstates that can take you through the seemingly-endless urban sprawl Los Angeles and 2,000 miles later the bayous of Louisiana. Did I say cramped? I meant wide open. I hope I didn’t say boring. This is God’s creation at its most rugged. And I love it. 

I could write so much more, but that would be too much of me talking, and typing in the car is starting to give me a headache. So I want to hear from you (or not). What is you most memorable view from a family road trip? Did that change your view on America or wherever you were?

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