Arizona Roadtrip -- Winter is for the Snowbirds
Scenes from the road: Oregon to Arizona, empty desert to glittering Las Vegas, and palm trees and poolside
Nowhere, Nevada -- A thin ribbon of blacktop spins though a rough blanket of sagebrush, and a handful of grey burrows dot the horizon. Pink clouds billow out from jagged hills, followed by rich apricot plumes that bounce off the fragrant rabbitbrush. Desert air passes through the open windows and Johnny Cash’s rough Tennessee Flat Top Box plays over the radio. I’m sandwiched between two of my favorite people, with tangled hair and yesterday’s shirt, Southbound and worry-free.
From a 10-day, coast to coast voyage with my mother (click HERE), to the annual haul my grandparents took us on from our farm to the Snake River, roadtrips have always been one of the best catalysts for grand memory making.
I believe in the healing power of a good Roadtrip.
When you’re crammed into a car for an extended amount of time, there’s only so much you can do. The open road evokes both depth in conversation and loud, often poor, singing of classic tunes, that inevitably draw people together.
You see just how big the world is, with miles of country rolling out beneath your tires. You see how small the world is with each change in climate and terrain. You can watch snow fall on the windshield in the morning, and hours later be warmed by the sun on your face. With lush green woods that taper into desert that climbs into cool mountains. You can stop for gas after driving though hours of nothing, then fill up again in the likes of cities such as Las Vegas.
You see people who have different ideas from you, from bumper stickers to church signs to the bickering at a corner booth. Then you have miles to think about those ideas and how they might affect you. Maybe you’ll grow to understand where they come from, with context greater than a black and white newspaper headline.
Diner smells; potatoes in the fryer. Maple syrup. Cheap hairspray.
Fifty-dollar motels with shag carpet and poorly disguised cigarette smoke.
Inevitably, something will go wrong. Then you’ll laugh about it, together, for the next hundred miles or so.
Just as inevitably, you’ll meet unforgettable characters along the way. Maybe you’ll laugh about them for the next hundred miles too, or maybe you’ll keep in touch and be friends for the next forty years.
You’ll get tired of peanuts, but you’ll keep eating them because they’re there. You’ll get tired of who you’re riding with, but love them because they’re there.
Brooklyn, New York -- Now that I’m living in New York City, I don’t spend much time in the car. No time, actually. When I was visiting my family over Christmas Break, I did a pretty good job of making up for that time away from the sweet hum of tires on asphalt.
My friend Julia and I rode from the Oregon High Desert into the Willamette Valley, and my friend Alexander and I drove around crossing a few of Oregon’s many waterfalls off our bucket lists. My parents took me on a day trip around Portland, spoiling me with Lebanese lunch and a scenic route around Silverton’s rolling vineyards and wheat fields.
And then there was the eleven hundred miles I put in from Bend, Oregon down to Yuma, Arizona, with my snowbird grandparents. It was great, and not only because Arizona is sixty degrees warmer than New York right now.
It was such a blessing to be in my grandpa’s pickup truck, riding around with them listening to the same old songs and adventuring together. Grandpa in his white cowboy hat, and Grandma in her red converse shoes to match mine. I felt like I was eight years old again.
My grandpa decided he was going to marry my grandma when he was in second grade. He still carries a cut out yearbook photo of her from those days in his wallet, and she brings him coffee in bed.
Spending a week with them away from the buzz of the farm as well as hearing old stories and new ones, was a gift. I’m so thankful for them and the laughter, sunsets, and miles shared on this road trip as well as the ones from my childhood.
Another roadtrip in the books. Eleven hundred miles of new scenery for the brain. Eleven hundred miles and good memories made.