The southern route is (again) across the Mojave, a straight line across Arizona and New Mexico, cut through the northern edge of the Texas panhandle, through Oklahoma and up into Kansas heading straight north. My mom wasn't too sure about this idea, so I was just going to let it drop, but then my step-father Stu (who is a road tripper at heart) threw in his two cents in favor and the next thing I knew we were map questing the route. The northern way is only two roads - Interstates 15 and 70. The other was more convoluted and took some fiddling with to avoid a four hundred mile stretch of two lane undivided highway, but in the end we had a workable route. Map quest said the northern route would take 22 hours of driving and the southern would take 24. I've driven the northern way many times and knew from experience that even with three young kids I could do it in three days. By myself I've done it in an easy two. (Remember this too. It will factor in later. Trust me).
We were planning on a two day trip, but left open the possibility of an extension into early Saturday for some side excursions. (Unfortunately, Vegas was scrapped right along with the northern route, and even though I really don't like Vegas we thought it would be a fun little stop for the two of us). But since I haven't been in most of the southern states for years and neither of us had ever been to Oklahoma, we were sure we could think of lots of things to do.
So Thursday morning we waved bye to Stu as he left for work at 7 am and headed out close on his heels. We fought the morning traffic for a while, but were able to get out of town without too much difficulty. If you aren't familiar with the Los Angeles area there's one important thing to keep in mind about getting out of it. Unless you're willing to swing quite far north you can't get out without crossing the Mojave desert. And even if you are familiar with the Los Angeles area there's one important thing to keep in mind that you couldn't know. I hate the Mojave desert. My mother hates the Mojave desert. Every thinking person I know hates the Mojave desert.
If you're one of those people who actually likes it - Congratulations. You win. You've officially rendered me speechless. Many have tried (some valiantly), but you have succeeded. First prize is a week in Palm Springs. Second prize is two weeks in Palm Springs.
This is what it looks like - for about four thousand miles.
(Photo disclaimer: I am photographically challenged. Admitting it is the first step in fixing it, I know. The whole time I was in LA my camera gave me fits and I blamed the equipment rather than the user. But this is taken with my moms good camera, so there goes that little rationale. I have no idea why the stupid date stamp is on and it's the wrong time to boot. And as a little pre-curser to the rest of the story, I'll confess right now that every single picture I took was from a moving car driving at (roughly) highway speed. This should give you some idea of where we're headed on the tourism front).
When we had crossed the mighty Mojave River (oh god, do I wish I had a picture of that. Imagine a sandbox with a rut down the middle) we got to the thriving town of Barstow where we had to do a little navigating. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time might remember that I'm also directionally challenged. It would not be untrue to say that I can get lost in my own bathroom in the dark. (Reading over my list of shortcomings, I'm a little challenged to come up with anything I can do, actually).
That's a picture you'll never see in California tourism brochures. The Gubernator is not in this building. Sometimes I feel bad that I'm as snarky about the desert as I am, but what can I say? It did make me feel a little better when we stopped for drinks just over the Arizona border and and the store clerk asked me where I was coming from. I had barely gotten the word California out of my mouth when she snarled "God, I HATE this place" and went on a five minute anti-desert tirade. I backed out of the store gingerly, afraid of a potential postal moment on the one hand but seeing her point of view perfectly on the other. It seemed rude to hop in my car and peel out joyfully, so I kept a glum face until I was out of her sight. It wasn't easy.
Trucker heaven. Behind us looked much the same. In the left lane next to me was another. Our little Saab convertible was surrounded by semis. I sped up a little so as not to get flattened and looked at the dashboard to see how fast I was going. I looked again. Casually, I said Um, how high did the heat gauge get when you were driving? My mother leaned into my lap to look at the gauge and say Not THAT high and then she might have cussed just a little bit.
And as the long grade extended in front of us and the trucks all around put pedal to metal, the little needle crept slowly into the red.