Leaving Iowa: Remembering post cards not sent from our great American road trip

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I had every intention of sending post cards to my friends from our recent great American road trip to California and back, undertaken the first day of spring.

There’d be plenty of time, I’d assumed, since we’d be staying two or three nights at a couple of places. Plus, I was going to remember to take the proper stamps with me this time. Post offices, it seems, are never conveniently located when I’m on the road. Of course, I forgot the stamps.

I had every intention of writing some sort of blog from the road, as well. Nearly three weeks, you’d think I’d have time to come up with something.  But, no, my dreams of being a totally mobile writer fell short, with much tinkering yet needed.

My laptop, teetering on extinction, was too slow. My internet connections were often iffy. Being tired from long days of driving didn’t help. I still don’t have a real camera [lost a year ago]; and this trip I lost some fabulous photos. I mistakenly tried to update my iPhone —  when I should have waited until I got home.

All that way west along ancient byway Route 66 – canyon country — and not one post card sent.  All the way back via I-70’s mountain vistas; no postcards sent. Yes, there we were leaving Iowa on the final day of road-tripping, heading cross-corners of Illinois and Indiana, home to Pure Michigan — with lots of memories, and post cards only for scrapbooks.

Some serendipitous things happened on the way to visit our daughter and son-in-law in southern California. It was a long way to go for Easter dinner – a 5,500-mile storm-dodging journey. Following I-40 west, we traveled just below the big snow that was heading eastward that week. Homeward bound, we stayed just ahead on I-70 of the storm that’s crashing through Denver, Dakotas and Minnesota as I write this.  But, in between, the weather cooperated to fill our days with blessings and wonderful encounters.

It was beautiful in Nebraska, where a hotel employee said she’d grown up in Lincoln, moved to the southwestern corner where we were, and had never seen a tornado. I felt much better. But, thanks to The Weather Channel, we knew the storm was kicking up velocity from both north and south, and soon that part of Nebraska would be in its vortex.

I have a much better perspective about the heartland now. I can’t imagine myself in a covered wagon train traversing it, though.  My husband’s grandmother told stories of doing just that, as her family moved to Minnesota. I recall the wonderment of Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie tales when I was in elementary school.  I’m not sure I’d be a great prairie dweller, but passing through is awesome.

We’d never traveled by road across the entire Great Plains, through the mountains, to the Pacific.  We’d spent the summer of the moon landing (1969) in Texas, and saw that state in all its diversity.  But, we’d never driven from Michigan to California and back in one trip. We’d always flown westward over the country’s vast interior, gazing out of airplane windows to the landscape below.

This trip, we didn’t have time to meander too much; but it was fun imagining the old Route 66 days. We both felt like we were in the Disney movie, Cars. Amazingly, that was playing one night at our Arizona motel, which added to the impression. Yes, I got one of those Get your kicks on Route 66 postcards. Another postcard not sent. And I picked up a cool tin plaque with all the states you pass through. Oh, yes, and the Petrified Forest… a must.

This was a car drive. Our mechanic had assured us that our little Fusion would have no problem. He was right. That was the biggest blessing, next to seeing our kids in CA. It had been over a year since they were home.  All last year, I kept thinking about just taking off on a road trip to go see them, and to get a feeling of just how far away they are on the west coast, and  to see the lands in between.

Everyone should drive cross-country at least once.  I’m glad we did. We’ve driven back and forth to Florida so many times visiting parents, that it has become more like a commute. We’re used to the terrain, and the beauty of the eastern states. However, if I had to pick a word to describe traveling around on this side of the Mississippi, I’d pick the word cozy. Cozy and intimate.

This trip was anything but that, once we left the snow in Branson, MO. This trip was mind-expanding. It was also heart expanding.  I think we both felt our minds and hearts stretched beyond belief on this trip. A couple we know loves to take train trips on travels around the North American continent. That would be awesome. However, a road trip involves engagement with the road and all the stops along the way. Our appreciation for the vastness of our homeland is immense because of our roadrunner kind of trip.

It was great being able to zip into the Grand Canyon [our daughter insisted we take time to stop, as she’s regretted not doing so], and the Utah national parks Zion and Bryce Canyon. We were even glad we didn’t have our camper trailer this time. You could call this a reconnaissance mission for when we plan a more extensive trip out west, to more thoroughly visit the national parks (new pickup required).

An RVing couple pulled into the same rest area the day we left Utah. They’d come from wintering in Arizona and had apparently been through the two canyons the previous day, as well.  We wound up seeing them several more times: at a gas station (where we’d gotten bad coffee); at a McDonald’s (because they, too, had gotten bad coffee); they waved at us on the road once; and, when we arrived at our motel in SW Nebraska that night, they’d chosen that one, too.

When serendipitous things happen like that, I begin to think there’s a purpose, and that I should have gotten their names. We missed connecting in the morning. Now, all I know is that they were from Dollar Bay in the Keweenaw, and that they couldn’t believe that we knew where that was. They were trying to beat the storm home to the U. P.  I hope they made it; and I regret, now, not exchanging addresses.

Leaving Iowa [we have a new appreciation for the play Leaving Iowa, a favorite at Williamston Theatre a couple of years ago] the no place like home feelings kicked in. There’s that wonderful rush of familiarity you get, when crossing the border under the Pure Michigan welcome sign.  Traveling is great; it makes you appreciate home base, and all the things you take for granted.

Robins return? Our road trip wound down to Pure Michigan and robins returning.  We’re not really snowbirds, according to my description of snowbirds.  But, I have to admit, it was fun coming home to Michigan before the rains came, on a warm, sunny April Sunday … getting out of the car at the Michigan Welcome Center … and hearing the happy spring chorus of robins surround sound. Glad to have gone; glad to be home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Susan Parcheta 101 Articles

Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were — writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared — and always lovable — cat, Spock.