Riding the Concrete River

Everyone has their quirks. Mine include sensing a rising, inexorable excitement when interstate highway signs signal a choice between Dallas and Little Rock, or point the way to Tucumcari, or suggest, at the Louisiana-Texas border, that El Paso lies only 873 miles to the west. It makes me want to get rolling.

It began early, this love affair with the road. Still in junior high when Interstate 80 opened, only a few cornfields away from our house, I soon began sitting on the front steps, listening to the hum of the big rigs drifting up from the south and dreaming of the day when I, too, could be part of the passing parade.

In time, I joined that parade, and some highways became favorites. Others, driven only once, provided experiences that will live forever in memory: a young Indian girl watching from her pony as I passed through Nevada on the so-called “Loneliest Highway in America”; the grand sweep of US 2 across northern wheat fields; the horizon stretching away across the Flint Hills of Kansas.

From time to time, even urban roads can be enjoyable. Generally a San Antonio traffic nightmare, Anderson Loop still provides a decent way around the sprawling city, and I take it often.

One day, to my astonishment, I found no construction taking place on the Loop. There were no accidents, no stalled cars in the middle lane. The traffic was as light as on New Year’s morning, flowing so smoothly there was time to appreciate the well-engineered curves and subtle banking that evoked the feeling of a sailboat’s perfect downwind run.  

Nothing replicates that steady, soothing rhythm of a good drive, or is more metaphorically apt, than J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton’s cut from The Road to Escondido, titled ‘Ride the River.’  I’ll be riding the river for nearly three weeks, and while there certainly will be time for gravel tributaries and dirt distributaries, that coursing concrete has a lot to offer.

I’ll send along a postcard from time to time, and keep in touch as I can. As always, your comments are welcome, but it may take a bit of time for me to respond. There’s a lot of territory to explore, and not every river is charted.


“Ride the River”

Comments always are welcome.


129 thoughts on “Riding the Concrete River

        1. when my friend barb was visiting, the rainy season was at its peak.. on one rainy-afternoon departure, we laughed as eddie rabbit’s ‘drivin’ my life away’ played on the music system. we both laughed as we sang about wind-shield-wi-pers- and their tempo keeping perfect rhythm on the radio!

          hmmm. i think i should do a search to find more women of interest from arkansas. um, my sister lives in monticello and my niece is in little rock.. let me know if your route takes you near them.. they’d love to meet you!

          1. I’m in Malvern tonight, but I’m heading to Hot Springs and into the mountains tomorrow. Monticello actually is on my list of “maybes” for a visit. The post office there is one of 19 in Arkansas that had WPA murals painted. They’re scattered all over the state, and some are too far away to visit, but I’d like to see three or four. You should ask your sister if she’s seen the artwork!

    1. I shouldn’t be hard to find, since I’ll be avoiding crowds. Now, here’s a puzzler for you. Whose grave might I be seeking in Arkansas? She’s been quite important to my blog.

      There’s nothing like a change in routine. Even someone who lives a life many of us consider freewheeling and romantic can long for something different now and then. I have a friend who spent some time as a food critic. On weekends, she ate peanut butter and jelly — although she did stick with wheat rather than white!

      1. My mind went very silent with “Who-Where?” and out of wispy dreamlike clarity, the name, “Maya Angelou ” came through with amazing strength; tears formed in my eyes when I thought of quiet moments between two gifted wordsmiths.

  1. Have a great time, Linda, on this your next adventure!
    I especially liked how you described the Loop as calm as a New Year’s morning!! That’s so true, nothing moves then except a few crawling creatures trying to reach a Bloody Mary!!

    1. Thanks, GP. I laughed at your addition to the New Year’s Day description. How true, how true. Some people have been known to drive into Houston for the day, just because it’s possible to look around at changes that have come, and locate out-of-the-way spots, without having to contend with the crowds.

      Like every cruise, the first day or so has ended up with a glitch here and an amusement there, but that’s to be expected. I’ve already seen the coolest, most Arkansan gravestone ever — more about it later!

  2. Oh my!!!! What a grand adventure you’ll have, do you have a plan or are you just going with the flow? Either way it sounds just the thing!
    I shall look forward to your postcards and hearing all about it when you get home. Be safe and have yourself a ball!xxx

    1. I have some general plans, and a few specific destinations in mind, but I’ve built in plenty of time for just poking around. And, at the end, there are a few days where I haven’t a clue which direction I’ll go. The good news is — I don’t have to know. All I know is I have to be home by the 30th. I get giddy just thinking about all this free time.

  3. Of course this touched a chord with me as we are about to begin our travels… Some days I wish it were only going to be three weeks, but we have to let go the sandbags to float this balloon.

    Love J.J. Cale and have Clapton’s album of his music!! Great traveling music, all of it. Happy travels…can’t wait to hear about it. You’ll surely have great stories to tell.

    1. I met a couple last night who have been on the road for three years, Martha. They started out in Nebraska, after retiring from farming, and, as she put it, are just drifting around in ever widening circles. She did say that a certain routine sets in after a while. It’s not the routine of The Normal Home Owner, but it’s a routine nonetheless, and she said they’re enjoying it more as time goes on.

      I had hoped to put together some CDs of my favorite road songs before I left, but that didn’t get done. That’s all right. I can pick my favorites out of the middle of a disc if I have to.

  4. Three Week Roadtrip! how great, have fun!
    I grew up two blocks off US 20, that starts in Boston and goes all the way to Oregon, runs through Yellowstone. When I have a reliable car (and tires where you don’t have to draw the treads on with a Sharpie) I’d like to drive the whole thing, this tune definitely goes on the soundtrack. Have a great trip.

    1. Thanks, Robert. I’ve been working toward this for some time — it’s the first time in 25 years I’ve left town completely caught up at work, and it’s certainly worth the effort it took to keep working through August and September.

      I just realized that the US 20 you mean isn’t the I-20 I crossed on Sunday. I looked it up, and read that it’s the longest highway in America, spanning 3,365 miles. Now, that would be a road trip. A good car makes a difference — that’s one reason I didn’t want to wait. My car is relatively new, and even though I have some years on it, we’re both in pretty good shape. It was time to go.

    1. Right now, I’m in the Malvern, Arkansas library. Libraries are always a good solution, and the price here is right: a dollar a day for three hours’ access. But I won’t need libraries much longer. Having grown impatient while trying to untangle the Gordian knot of circumstance, I sliced it through. In short, I finally took a bite of the Apple, and have become an iConsumer. It ought to be interesting — and it certainly will be more convenient than lugging around a heavy old laptop running Vista.

      Old dogs, new tricks, and all that.

        1. I did: an Air 2 with an external keyboard. A very nice young man spent an hour with me yesterday getting me started wtih it. Now I’ve worked with it enough to have some questions, so I’ll go back for another tutorial before leaving the area.

          If Fine Art America provides covers to fit the gizmo, I even could adorn it with a photo from a favorite photographer.

  5. Yes, be safe, but do have fun. I love the beginning of a trip. I guess it’s the sense of adventure, the feeling that anything could happen. Looking forward to your postcards from the road.

    1. I’m hoping to hear about your travels soon. It may be that you start off on day trips and long weekends, just to test the systems, so to speak — but your time is coming, too.

      I still remember a couple of those posts I wrote when I was caring for Mom. The urge to get up and go was so strong, and I envied everyone who was trotting off to Paris and Toronto and all of those hither and yons. Well, circumstances change, and part of the trick is adapting to them. Sometimes, things do change for the better!

      1. Had to respond to this. I, too, think about how I chafed while taking care of mom. I wanted to Travel! Now I get the chance. Some days it feels a little crazy–it’s not Paris, or Toronto, or Scotland, or Hawaii–but travel through our beautiful country with so many amazing sights, people to meet, places to explore. Thanks for the reminder about others doing this. It helps. Last night I even said a little word to mom, “Look mom, I’m finally doing it.” Better late than never. And hello to Bella Rum. Will check in with you again. Been a while.

  6. I know just how you feel. Indeed I do. I love the open road. What I can’t stand are traffic snarl ups and roads that lead nowhere but from one industrial estate to another.

    There is something so romantic about a road trip, as romantic as an old fashioned long distance train journey or a gentle drive down a watery river. And being on your own, with nothing but scenery, hills and mountains, meadows and small towns to keep you company, is great too. I love the idea of stopping where fancy takes me.

    Have a wonderful adventure!

    1. I just had to come back after I read the comments. You cannot imagine I envious I am of you and how my heart aches at the mere thought of this freedom of the spirit as well as the body. As you know I am tied to a rather mundane lifestyle. One day, yes one day, I want to experience the long empty roads and wide horizons you are following.

      Again, my very best wishes.

      1. Friko, it seems to me that freedom of the spirit comes first: almost necessarily. It certainly is true that, even while we’re constrained by circumstances, we can start developing qualities that will enhance our enjoyment of life’s pleasures when they become available.

        Lack of money and lack of time, responsibilities to others and a whole variety of commitments do stake their claims, of course. I suppose that’s part of what makes open roads and wide horizons so appealing — their very emptiness.

        In any event, I understand your envy. I’ve been there. That’s what makes the chance to travel so special.

    2. Friko, you’re exactly right. No one sets out to pack a picnic lunch and drive one of the ghastly loop roads around Houston. There was one time that my parents and an aunt and uncle wanted to drive around the 610 loop, but that was about 1975 or so. The road was new, and quite the talk of the town. Today? It’s one of Dante’s circles.

      Journeys do set up their own rhythm, don’t they? And being attuned to that rhythm is as important in travel as it is in music. There have been times when, despite a few days left and other plans in the works, I’ve simply stopped traveling and come home — I could feel that any more would be too much. A little space is as good for travel experiences as it is for a garden or a photo!

  7. Never mind the traffic snarls. With music like above, it means nothing. It reminds me when I used to co-drive trucks up and down Melbourne- Brisbane here in Australia. How come so many truck drivers play guitars? Are trucks and music symbiotic?
    Enjoy the trip, Linda.

    1. I love the thought of you as a long-haul trucker, Gerard. I’m not sure how far it is from Melbourne to Brisbane, but it’s surely enough miles to qualify as long-haul. I still remember a couple of truckers I met years ago in the Trans-Pecos. I’d had a little mishap, and they fixed me right up. Nice fellows.

      I don’t know about guitars and trucking, but music and trucking (or driving) certainly fit together for me. I tend to listen to music that reflects the area I’m exploring. This time, I left my Cajun collection at home, but brought my string band music and a little pure trucking music. When I finally hit the flatlands, I’ll have the Flatlanders to enjoy. When I figure out how to get to another screen with this new device, I’lll find an example for you. Back in a flash.

      1. Well, phooey. I got the YouTube app, but can’t find a way to link the video here — Even going through Google, I can’t find a URL. No matter. Do a YouTube search for the Flatlanders White Freightliner, and you’ll have an example of pure Texas trucking music. The guitarist provides some real highlights farther into the song.

  8. Have a good time on your travels, Lina. I love the way you’ve romanticized the highway and I enjoy reading about the highways and byways more than fighting with the traffic.

    1. I’m extremely lucky to have only a 15 minute commute to most of my work, and to be able to time my travel to avoid the worst of the daily traffic jams — especially around the schools. Still, life in Houston is life with traffic, and it is great to be able to travel some roads that allow a little more freedom. I’m not heavy-footed, but seeing those 75 mph speed limit signs does make me smile. The song I linked is the perfect 65 mph song: funny, but true.

      Sunday and yesterday were cloudy and gray, but the sun’s out this morning, and it’s cool — very cool, in every sense of the word. Another cuppa, and I’m going to make like the bear, heading over the mountain to see what I can see.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, SOL. I can imagine that the pressure of traffic on an island would be considerable. How’s the waterway traffic? That may be one advantage to your new life you hadn’t considered!

  9. How wonderful!! Music, travelling, adventures! I’m making progress towards my own travelling future, and look forward to hearing in time, of your own fabulous tales :-)

    1. Whether they’ll be fabulous, I can’t say, but I’m sure there will be a surprise or two. The best news is that, after two cloudy and gray days, the sun is shining, and when I opened the curtains this morning, I found a flock of Canada geese grazing in the grass beneath my window. Who knows? Perhaps they’re headed to Texas. It’s cool here, and utterly delightful. If nothing else, it’s been worth heading north just for the change in the weather.

  10. Wow, Linda, I feel like one of the other commenters who wrote that the music made them feel better or something to that effect. I love the beat and it’s the perfect tune to play on your CD player as you drive.

    I hope you have a great trip and that you’ll get lots of pics to post when you get home. Be safe, please.

    1. I had a hard time not stopping for photos when I got to the Neches river. I’d never been in that part of Texas to see the river or the dams, and it’s clearly worth a return trip. It’s only three hours or so from Houston, but I’ve always tended to head west or south,not east and north. My bad, as they say. Talk about slow — now I understand how Port Neches got its name.

      I’d forgotten the best part of a longer trip — there’s a little time at the beginning to decompress, figure out what’s been forgotten, and solve unexpected problems. That done, it’s time for fun. I must say, everyone I’ve run into so far has been as nice as can be — not just polite, but good-country-folks nice. Of course, what would. you expect of people who live in a place where you can check out fishing poles at the library?

  11. So a fall road trip for you. How wonderful. Will there be foliage I wonder. Will be pleased to see some pics and road journal entries every now and then. Have a great one!

    1. I thought of you this morning when I found Canada geese outside my window. I’d forgotten how big they are, Arti. I thought about your first photo from your window while at TIFF — new views are such fun.

      I think it will be subtle and scattered, but there is some color appearing. There are great fields of goldenrod, and another sunflower-like yellow bloom that I’m sure isn’t sunflower. I need to get a better look at it. I found some accessible stands on a less-traveled road yesterday, so that’s on the schedule for today.

      Such a nice schedule: look at flowers, wander a graveyard, poke around on back roads. It’s pure heaven.

      By the way! I saw some photos of snow in Calgary a couple of days ago. Granted, it wasn’t a blizzard, but still — it’s time to enjoy fall days before they truly disappear.

      1. I was in London, England last week! Remember my New England fall foliage road trip last year? Well it’s same time this year but the real England. So I came back to snow and sleets. BTW, I saw a film about a bus driver in Paterson, NJ who writes poetry. My review at the Pond now. :)

  12. It is interesting to think about how decisions are made about what to put on road signs. I could be wrong, but my memory is that the road sign on Route 80 in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border lists how many miles it is to New York City -without mentioning the miles to any towns along the 300 or so miles that the road crosses in Pennsylvania.

    1. That’s true on the interstates that cross Texas, too. I suspect it has to do with the fact that interstates are, by nature, meant to move people efficiently over long distances. When you get on I-80 in Des Moines, you’re going to get the distance to Davenport and Chicago if you’re going east — at least, that’s what I recall. Get on I-35 heading south, and it’s Kansas City that gets the attention.

      Sometimes, point A to point B is just the ticket., But today? I’m interested in Butterfield, Magnet Cove, Social Hill and Friendly. Who wouldn’t want to explore those towns?

  13. I’m fixing to do a road trip of my own — just a little three-day jaunt. I just might have to put something together something appropriate on my little MP3 player. Tunes and traveling. Yes, ma’m’.

    1. I thought about that trip while I was getting ready for this one. The specialness of your travel will be in large part the destination: the personal connections involved, and the sense of generational history.

      I mentioned above that I haven’t figured out how to link things here from YouTube — the Apple environment clearly is different from the Windows I’m used to — but there’s another great road song that’s always with me: Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away.” Every time I see a young (or old) hawk flying, I think of it.

  14. Oh, lucky you, Linda! We have similar plans for when Bob is retired… still a couple or three years to go. In the meantime, I will be waiting and watching for your postcards here!

    Have a blessed and safe trip.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you’re pondering some travel, too. All things considered, the experiences you’ve gone through, and the release of some property, may have unexpected benefits. I’m sure Bob’s ready for a little more freedom, too.

      Thanks so much for your blessings. It’s good to see you here — it’s a sign that your recovery is either continuing or is complete. Keyboard tapping had to be a pain for you. I actually thought about you today when I passed a house with a sign out front that said, “Quilt for sale.” I didn’t stop, but I almost did. For some reason I had a feeling it was an old, handmade quilt — maybe a family heirloom. That made me a little sad. I may go back tomorrow, just to see what the story is. I’ll probably find a quilt guild turning them out by the dozens, with a marketing genius in the group!

  15. Travel writing is one of my favorites. New territory, faces, food, and attractions. I, like all of your readers, anticipate your take on your view. I’ve been on the road myself these days. Resting here in Arizona but heading up Highway 395 to come over Tioga Pass tomorrow. Safe travels!

    1. Ah, yes. The food. Today, it was a fellow selling his wife’s homemade fried pies outside the Saline County Courthouse. I bought an apple, and it was so good I intended to buy another when I finished my business. Too bad for me. An hour later, he had sold out. He said they’re usually gone in an hour or so, and then his wife makes more. He had a card table set up, and a couple of hand-lettered signs at the edge of the street. I love small towns.

      Tioga Pass is one of those names that just makes me smile. Pike’s Peak, too. Pike camped on the Kansas Prairie near to where I’ll be. Last time, I didn’t spend much time exploring his history there, but I’m hoping to remedy that this time around.

      Safe travels to you, too. Get across that pass before the snow flies.

  16. the horizon stretching away across the Flint Hills of Kansas

    Everyone has a place or places that strike a chord in their soul. Even nations have places like that: the Grand Canyon, the Coastal Highway in California, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

    Mine is the view of The Flint Hills from the Cattle Pens near milepost 110 north of Wichita. There is not a lot to see there other than prairie grass and a vista that rolls on forever.

    1. There’s more to see there than people imagine. Those pens are about 20 miles NE of Cassoday, and very near Matfield Green, where I’ll be spending six days in a renovated railroad bunkhouse. Cottonwood Falls, the Tallgrass Prairie, the stone fences, Teter Rock, and Council Grove all are within striking distance. I fell in love with the area when I was there two (three?) years ago. It’s a place that demands a return.

  17. You’re the only blogger I know who starts with something like, “I might not be able to reply to comments regularly” . . . and here you are banging out replies!!! You are an AMAZING person, Linda; and while I’m super envious of your three weeks of wandering, I’m happy for you, too. I appreciate something you said above to one reader about preparing yourself for the time when you are able to travel. You know I am pretty well strapped to home these days, and really not by my own design, but your words give me hope that one day I will be free as a Chevy rolling up LA 1!!! BW

    1. I do love October, partly because it’s my birthday month, and partly because it’s just so darned beautiful. The pull of “north” always is strong for me at this time of year, and a really splendid trip seemed in order for my 70th. I’ll be able to visit with family along the way — always a treat — and I’ll have the time to ponder some other projects for later in my birthday year.

      I took a more easterly route through Texas than I ever have, and thought about you when I saw the signs for Shreveport. I left my BeauSoleil and Pine Leaf Boys at home this time — I’ll save them for later. We still need that visit to the sculpture garden, after all. It will be great fun, and has the advantage of keeping you closer to home.

  18. Three weeks adventuring on the road sounds heavenly — take LOTS of pictures (and notes for posts), enjoy a much-needed break, and be safe out there! I look forward to the fruits of your trip!

    1. Part of the break will be just enjoying some experiences, Debbie. Sometimes, a mental vacation is as important as a time for physical relaxation. Not that there won’t be photos and posts — you know me better than that! — but I think sometimes bloggers and writers fall into the trap as seeing everything as raw material. It’s time to wander a bit, and see what happens. If what happens is interesting or exciting, you can be sure I’ll report!

  19. This reminds me of the years I lived in southern Utah. I disliked the drive through Las Vegas, but once through the city it was you and a few truckers rolling along past the red rocks and beauty of the desert.

    1. I didn’t realize you’d had some years in that beautiful country. You’re right that it’s gorgeous. I had a chance to enjoy some of it when I lived in Salt Lake City, and always was torn between the mountains and the desert.

      Speaking of truckers: it’s been interesting to watch the trucks on I-30 through Arkansas. There seem to be far more than in Texas, but they’re good drivers — polite, with no tailgating or excessive speed. Who knows? Maybe enforcement of the laws is more consistent here!

      1. There are a lot of trucks on I-5 . It gets congested up around Portland, but we’ve discovered a wonderful slow paced back country road that will get us to Salem and then another 40 miles to Portland on the freeway…

  20. Have fun! “Ride the River” is perfect; I can see you zipping along, horizons expanding on all sides.
    When we lived in NYC we took a trip to Arkansas (no one in NY had any idea what we were thinking), and had a great time. We flew into Little Rock, rented a car and drove up to the Buffalo Nat. River area,
    staying in Jasper – how we loved that little town. The Ozark Cafe, the old courthouse & jail, a rag tag nursery on a side street, and Louise’s art studio on another. Saw our first herd of elk, drove through Eureka Springs and down to Mt. Magazine, where we stayed at the lodge and I encountered my first armadillo. Gorgeous place that was. It was a good antidote to city life.
    Safe travels, can’t wait to hear about where you go, what you see & do, and see pics!

    1. Here’s a coincidence or two for you. There’s a Jasper and a Newton in Texas, too. But what really is interesting is that I was born in Newton, Iowa, which happens to be in Jasper County. I can’t help wondering if there were some Iowans who drifted south and were responsible for the Arkansas and Texas names. It may or may not be, but it’s worth exploring.

      I hadn’t heard about Jasper or its charms, but I’ll have to stop by and see the town. I’m going to be staying in Eureka Springs at one point, using it as home base for some other explorations. I can put Jasper on the itinerary.

      I was in Benton this afternoon, just on the fringes of Little Rock. It’s great that you have such good memories of that trip — especially the armadillo! I’m limited in my ability to link just now, but if you go up to the search box and enter “Armadillo Farm,” I suspect you’ll enjoy the post that turns up. I still can’t get over the fact that there once was an armadillo ancestor called a Glyptodon that was the size of a VW beetle!

      1. Oh, an armadillo the size of a VW Beetle? I was startled by the normal-sized ones! OK, not scared, but they are strange! Yes – please go to Jasper, and report! Maybe the name turns up because the stone is around?

        1. I didn’t get to Jasper (so much to see, so little time) but it does seem that most of the Jaspers and Newtons were named after people: and not always of the same clan. I still think it would be interesting to track the history of all the towns, at least chronologically, but again: so much to write about, and so little time.

    1. Thanks — and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, Allen. It sounds like you had a perfect adventure of your own during the holiday. The mode of transport matters not a whit — kayak, canoe, or car can do just as well if the destination is a state of mind and spirit, rather than a place. I trust you returned refreshed — as I hope to do.

  21. Oh, my! I am so excited for you/with you! When I saw the song, I thought, Maybe she is driving to Escondido! But you are headed the other direction…. “Ride the River” is a perfect road song.

    When my husband died I immediately thought of road trips I would take – new ones, not the same routes I’d always done to visit family – but the idea has so far remained a romantic dream. I find that driving a few hours all by myself on the freeways is exhausting, and I am wondering about the details of your travels – How much time are you spending behind the wheel on a typical day? Are you always sleeping in motels, or sometimes staying with friends? Do you eat in the car? Do you ever get sleepy on the road? Of course, you don’t have to answer any of these questions :-)

    Maybe if the road trip I imagine were more relaxed, and on less crowded roads, I would not get so tired. I would not be hurrying to see the grandchildren, etc. I had begun to think that train travel might be a good alternative, but it really doesn’t sound like that much fun, looking at landscapes all day or visiting with strangers. I like the freedom that a road trip offers.

    I’m also interested to know if you have any safety tips for women traveling alone. God bless you on the road!

    1. What a wonderful comment, and such interesting questions. Safety’s important, of course. Have a good car, good tires, and always carry extra belts and hoses. A couple of gallons of water for the car can be useful, too. I joined AAA at the level that provides 200 miles of towing. Given my affection for deserted areas, that can be important.

      Beyond that, it’s just common sense. Stop at well-llighted, populated gas stations for coffee, and if a neighborhood looks sketchy, don’t stop until you have more information. Etc. I take care, but I don’t worry, and I’ve never had any bad experiences on the road. The only time I’ve been mugged was at my front door, so there you are.

      Time behind the wheel can vary. On this trip, it was eight hours straight the first day, but since then it’s been smaller, one or two hour chunks, as I was exploring. I used to drive Houston to Kansas City in one day — fourteen hours — but I don’t do that any more. Ten hours is about my outside limit, even though I find driving energizing.

      Where I stay depends on what’s available in the area I want to visit. I started out with motels, but tonight I’ll be at a mountain lodge, and then I’ll move to bed and breakfasts. At both, I’ll settle in for two or three days, and use them as a base for exploration. Both innkeepers inquired about my interests, and will have maps of local hiking trails, natural areas, and such when I get there. In Kansas, I’ll be staying for several days in a renovated railroad bunkhouse at the edge of the Tallgrass Prairie.

      I never, ever eat, text, or talk on the phone in the car. I will have a cup of coffee, or water, around, but that’s it. And I rarely eat in restaurants. I arrange things so that an occasional grocery store stop keeps me in veggies, fruit, dairy, and deli meats. I’m convinced that bad road food (lots of fried, sugary, or carb-laden snacks) leads to sluggishness.

      On the other hand, there are some apple cider doughnuts waiting for me in Louisburg, Kansas, at the best cider mill in the world. That’s where I’m meeting an aunt and some cousins. Whoever gets there first gets extra doughnuts!

      1. If you don’t eat in restaurants much, do you have picnics instead? Some grocery stores around here have tables indoors or out, which might serve well in case of rain. Or perhaps you sit in your car to eat – when you’re not driving, of course!

        If you ever make a road trip to California, I invite you to stay a while here at the Gladsome Lights Lodge ;-)

        1. Well, here’s how today went. This morning, I had breakfast at the lodge where I stayed last night. They had a good buffet, so it was eggs and sausage and biscuits and gravy: standard fare. My lunch actually came about 2 p.m. I was miles back in a wildlife refuge, so I had some crackers, peanut butter, an apple, and a banana out of my little grocery stash, while sitting on a log and watching frogs.

          Tonight, I went to a restaurant and had a wonderful meal of salad and Cajun pasta. The pasta portion was so generous that it will make three meals. I brought the extra home (that is, to the B&B where I’m staying) and put it in the refrigerator. The B&B will serve breakfast, I’ll have the same sort of casual lunch wherever I end up tomorrow, and leftovers for supper.

          But no eating in the car! That’s just depressing.

  22. AH, those wheat fields just like an ocean – and as a child you finally understood the “waves of grain” and why wagons were called schooners.
    Bet the prairie grasses are just as impressive and an impressionist’s canvas right now.
    (Amarillo was always out road construction nightmare – usually at midnight…astoundingly “normal” last trip)
    Take care. Checking on Miss D. today. (rain most yesterday, and back to 90’s …enjoy that fall weather. we’re envious..and sweltering)

    1. When I read my favorite weather blog this morning and found “humid,” “hot,” and “blah” included in the forecast, I confess I laughed. It’s sunny, cool, and delightful here. I’m sure the perfection won’t last, as there seems to be creeping humidity, but that may mean mist in the valleys. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      I got a panic-stricken call from the kitty-sitter Sunday night. She began with the words, “I can’t find…” and I was terrified until she finished the sentence: “…your fish.” Fish? I don’t have a fish, which we sorted out in a few minutes. She had no idea how she came up with the idea that I had a fish, and neither do I. The only thing we could figure out was that she may have turned a comment about Dixie’s water bowl into a water-filled fish bowl. It’s always something!

        1. I’m back down from the top of the Ouachita mountains, where there was no wi-fi and a lot — lot! — of clouds and fog. When I got there yesterday, I was smart enough to go out and get at least a few photos, because there will be no more photos of the mountains until this rain, fog, and cloudiness clears. It’s 60 degrees and dropping, for heavens’ sake. But no problem — when you can’t look up, looking down is a good substitute. I traded my telephoto lens for the macro, and went looking around. I found some treasures, too.

          By the way — here’s another cheat note, that will do it for sure: think syllables.

  23. Oh, how I love a good road trip! Our last one was from Omaha to southern California (Big Sur), stopping to smell flowers along the way, and back via the rather boring interstate, but still through very interesting country. Even on our regular drives up to the cabin in northern Minnesota we frequently plot out detours through country that we’ve not seen before, and therein are always adventures to be had. I wish you safe travels and look forward to your postcards!

    1. This has been an especially fun trip, because after the same-old, same-old path I have to take to get off my home turf, I traveled farther east in the state than I ever have before, and saw plenty of nice, new sights. I had to keep reminding myself that anything within a day’s journey of home was to be ignored. I always can come back for those.

      Arkansas has been a bit of a revelation. I’ve never spent much time in the state, and I’ve found the people to be absolutely wonderful. Every state has its jerks and losers — yes, even Texas — but I must say, I’ve not found them here. Not yet, anyway.

      The biggest surprise? Good, polite drivers, including the truckers. I’ve seen a couple of young kids who just had to do the 80 mph dash around traffic, but even on the mountain roads, I’ve not felt pressured or anxious. Everyone seems to understand that no matter what, it’s a two lane road, and you might as well relax. A steady 55 seems to suit everyone. It certainly suits me.

  24. Wish you were riding that river a little farther north than it sounds but no matter where you go, travel safely and keep us in the loop. It sounds like a wonderful road trip. I know you’re sometimes concerned about leaving Dixie but she will be just fine.

    Meanwhile, have a glorious time and “don’t forget to write!”

    1. The way I figure it, Jeanie, there are two more biggies in my future: one will be the Michigan/Wisconsin/maybe Canada loop, and one will be the Mountain West/Calgary trip. Cajun country and New Mexico are more doable, so they go on a different list. :)

      You’d better start thinking about how to decorate my guest room. One of these days, it’s going to happen. I’m thinking fall, but summer might be better. The last long trip I took, Oklahoma was closed down by ice a week after I got home — and that was the end of October!

      I haven’t even called the kitty sitters to see how things are going. I pretty much know what’s happening. I’ll deal with her none-too-pent-up frustration when I get back. If I have to sleep on the couch again, I will!

    1. What I like best is the spontaneity, and the freedom to spend extra time when I find a place that interests me. Tomorrow, I’m going back to a wildlife refuge I stumbled across quite by accident. It not only had some wonderful plants, it had owls galore. At least, I think they were owls. Whatever they were, their hooting was delightful. And, with not another living soul around, I could hear things I’ve not heard in a good while. I’d forgotten how loud falling leaves can be.

      1. I loved listening to the Barred Owl at night when I was in central Florida. I have some iPhone apps with bird songs. That was another thing I loved doing, getting the bird´s call ID. Now, it’s easy to just google it. Enjoy yourself!

  25. Ah, the sound of tires singing different songs on different pavements. Vast open spaces and up close forests and swamps. Brackish water with slithering water moccasins and crystal cold mountain creeks. Villages, towns, cities. Corn as high as an elephants eye. Road trip! Enjoy, Linda. As you know, I’ll be riding along. –Curt

    1. I sort of missed the trip across the Red River from Texas to Oklahoma this time. Those Oklahoma roads are something else: at least, before you get to the Indian Nation Turnpike. Chunk-clunk, chunk-clunk, chunkety-clunkclunk.

      I’ve a new appreciation for some of your travels now, having re-experienced mountain driving. I found one road today that was so narrow and wind-y that there wasn’t a single logging truck or RV on it. Just me, one turtle (where did that come from?) and a few gray squirrels.

      Even better, I found red-dirt-gravel. Since it’s been rainy and wet, there wasn’t a lick of dust, so I rolled down my windows and listened to the crunch. I also spent some time appreciating the fact that I had to put a jacket on. Right now, it’s 58 degrees. It’s wintertime!

      1. Not a single RV I get… but lucky you, Linda, without any logging trucks. May be too late. And yes, winter is arriving. The higher up you get in the mountains, the more it arrives! You road does indeed sound like our kind of road, and don’t you just love that fresh mountain smell you get with your windows down. Watch out for early snow, however, always a hazard. Looking forward to learning more about your journey. –Curt

        1. The logging truck count is up, but only to about a dozen. The good news is that I encountered them without a blanket of fog. Granted, that would have provided some extra amusement, but if I want amusement I can find better avenues.

          I did make a run across the Talimena Drive this morning, hoping that there might be a nice sunrise. Silly me. In the valley, it was partly cloudy. Halfway up the mountain, the fog started setting in, and at the top it was blowing about 15 kts with nearly zero visibility. I didn’t know sea fog could live atop a mountain!

          1. I haven’t been over the Talimena Drive, Linda. Usually I am north of there on I-40 rushing somewhere. Sorry about the mountain fog. But ever so glad you didn’t encounter any logging trucks. I was in the Bay Area once lost in a heavy fog when a train seemed to come out of nowhere blowing its whistle. Fortunately I wasn’t on the track but I think it scared me out of five years of my life. –Curt

            1. The sun’s shining now, and all is good. I saw a white squirrel today, and photographed a half-white one. Tomorrow — out of Arkansas, into Missouri. Onward!

  26. Ah, the call of the highway, though the “blue highways” are my calling. Whether it’s to Salina from Orange City or (years and years ago) to a Petra concert in Michigan or a quick six-hour trip to Iowa City (to see a Nick Lowe concert) this weekend, I love to climb into the infernal combustion vehicle with Janine and a sackful of sunflower seeds and hit the road. My sister has horrible memories of me going north to go south, but it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.
    Looking forward to your posts.

    1. I’m off the freeways now, and have been for several days. Dirt and gravel has a lot to commend it, although it is advisable to keep your hunter-orange vest on. Yesterday, I saw more rifle-toting guys on four-wheelers than cars on the road. Was I happy? Oh, yes. And I’m ready to rate Arkansans as about an 11 on a 1 to 10 scale for friendly. I don’t know how I’d feel about Little Rock or any of the other big cities, but I’m a fan of what I’ve seen.

      As for that going north to go south — I think I’ve done that a time or two this trip. Generally, I have a great sense of direction, but driving mountain roads in fog seems to mess with it.

  27. A lovely river quote to go with your journey, courtesy of Winnie the Pooh, who has turned 90. “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Enjoy your journey, and every good wish for your birthday.

    1. And don’t forget that other wonderful quotation, from “The Lord of the Rings”: “Not all those who wander are lost.” The whole poem is wonderful:

      “All that is gold does not glitter,
      Not all those who wander are lost;
      The old that is strong does not wither,
      Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

      From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
      A light from the shadows shall spring;
      Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
      The crownless again shall be king.”

      Speaking of a crownless king, I can see the upper portion of the Christ of the Ozarks statue from my balcony here in Eureka Springs. A local told me a wonderful story. It’s the second highest statue of Christ in the world, second to Rio. They wanted it to be the tallest, but the Federal Aviation folks told them that, if they wanted to make it higher, they would have to install a blinking red light atop Jesus’s head. They decided to put art above records, and so there isn’t a red light. Every time I think about it, I laugh. Can you imagine the meetings that were held to discuss all this? Hilarious.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, too. I’ll be in Kansas by then — unless I’ve changed my mind.

  28. Is that one of your own images, Linda? I love the processing and that timeless feel with that shapely auto. Memories of car journeys linger long – especially when the kids were young. Firstly there was the plaintive question (not long into the journey) – ‘are we nearly there?’ And then when we were finally getting close to the journey’s end, hours later (if we were heading for the seaside): ‘I saw the sea first’. ‘No you didn’t -I did’. etc etc
    Have a great trip, Linda.

    1. It both is and isn’t my own image, Andy. I’ve carried on my dad’s interest in postcard collecting, and occasionally pick one up at a flea market or store. This was a postcard I scanned, and then processed myself. I don’t have a clue where it was taken, or when. It could be old, or it could be relatively new, and only shows an old car — perhaps part of a club. I do have a photo of my dad and I washing a Studebaker that looked much like this — when I was about three.

      I realized this morning that I didn’t have a clue what day it is — surely the sign of a good trip!

  29. Now that both in my house are retired (or as we say, rewired), we are tempted to go on a road journey, too. I loved so much your vignette about I-80, “Still in junior high when Interstate 80 opened, only a few cornfields away from our house.” I-80 was the road that beckoned me both west and east. I lived near it from childhood until I went off to work in NYC. From U of Chicago, the favorite thing to do on a break was to pile in a car, get on I-80 and head west. I went just now to look up its route and found this: “I-80 is the Interstate Highway that most closely approximates the route of the historic Lincoln Highway, the first road across the United States.” Lincoln Highway ran right behind my childhood home in Illinois. Happy travels, and I look forward to your trip reports.

    1. People today — especially in densely populated and traffic-heavy areas — probably never will understand the pull of the open road. The opening of the interstates seems, in retrospect, the point where the historic westward movement of early pioneers and settlers met modern technology. The spirit still was there, but the trip was a whole lot easier!

      And how many Iowa college kids made the trip to Colorado, to bring back trunkloads of Coors beer? It wasn’t any better than what was available, but it took some effort to get it: what better excuse for a road trip?

  30. Like yourself, I love to take a road trip. Must be something about carrying your luggage on board with you and the closeness of sitting together in the car. We usually choose the less-travelled back roads as the scenery is often very beautifu. Many lovely rest stops provide a leg stretch and a chance to open the thermos, to make a quick coffee and enjoy a packed snack. We have so many quaint little towns along our back roads and each one has a special ambience and usually something interesting to check out: a beautiful little park, a garden and flower shop, a small local museum tended by a local historical society. Farm gate stalls display fresh fruit and vegetables for purchase and craft shops are always open for business.

    Bring it on and have a happy surf yourself, Linda, along your concrete river.

    1. Also: it’s not quite as necessary to be organized — at least, not in the way that air travel requires. But best of all are those back roads, and meeting people along the way. Sometimes, I learn the most surprising things. For example: I’m staying in Eureka Springs, Arkansas just now. Talking with a good friend this evening, I learned that her uncle was superintendent of this school system, back in the 1950s. You just never know.

      Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to getting some fresh apple cider and apple cider doughnuts at an old cider mill in Kansas. An aunt and some cousins will meet me there, and we’ll have a bit of time to just enjoy one another. It will be a nice trip for my aunt, and no one will have to cook a meal or clean house!

  31. Well, you are now a week into your trip and I am just catching up with you. Your first week coincided with my week or so. I hope you are enjoying the ride. I used to feel the same excitement for a road trip, but that has faded over the years as I became more enamored with the local land. My week was supposed to be in Maine, but we decided that we’d rather stay close to home and, maybe more importantly, did not want to kennel Bentley.
    You can’t go wrong with Cale and Clapton..either together or separately.

    1. As you can surely imagine, I understand your feelings about Bentley and the kennel. I thought a bit about leaving Dixie Rose for three weeks (three!?!) and, when one of my friends who’s looking in to check on the kitty sitter’s reliability sent me a photo of her under the bed, I had a momentary impulse to turn around and come home. Obviously, I didn’t, but still — I know how unhappy she is. Ah, well.

      It was a little amusing (in retrospect) to find my days in the mountains characterized mostly by fog and rain. There were no splendid views from the top, that’s for sure. The good news is that I crossed the Talimena Drive enough times that I could do it in darkness or fog. Hooray again for eye surgery.

      But, I did think of your wonderful photos with even more appreciation. I have a few I got the first night I was there that at least show the layering of the mountains — I’ll share one or two of those when I get home. I certainly do have an even deeper appreciation for the power of light: also, I need a tripod and a lens hood. It’s always something. (I need a new laptop, too, with something better than the screen provided by an earlly Gateway Vista machine. That’s going to have to wait. The discretionary income’s paying the the trip.)

      1. Digital imaging, and most else digital, is a great tool for self-expression but it does run a much greater expense than just plain old film…or typewriters.
        A tripod is one thing universal whether digital or analog. Get the best you can afford. A cheap one is unreliable.

    1. I am still on the road — in Kansas, just now. I’ve another week and a couple of days left — and all I can think is, “Oh, my. The next time I need to plan a month.”

  32. Oh what fun! I know that exhilaration you feel when a suggestive road sign presents itself and you find yourself free to respond. I am currently plotting an epic road trip of my own. I love to drive, but I’ve never just taken off on my own. I’ll need to pack my Eric Clapton, for sure and don’t forget Bob Seeger :) I can’t wait to read about your trip.

    1. Along with Clapton and Seeger, don’t forget what I forgot: something to remove thorns and plant stickers. On the other hand, I did learn from an outdoorsy sort that mesquite thorns do the job rather well.

      Seeger’s “Roll Me Away” was my soundtrack for the trip that actually helped to initiate my blog. I’ve got it in reserve for my next westward trip. it’s one of my favorites; especially the line that goes, “I could go east; I could go west. It’s all up to me to decide…”

      There were plenty of new sights along the way on this trip, and some real advantages to returning to places I’d been before. In “The Music Man,” Professor Harold Hill had one thing right. If you know the territory, you can accomplish things that would be otherwise impossible.

        1. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have those fears, Melissa. Just yesterday, I made a little journey into new territory, by taking a course on landscaping with native plants. It was sponsored by our native plant society, and, if we passed a test at the end, we could be certified and go on to take other courses.

          The questions all were about plant ID, ecosystems, and so on. I took the test, and passed wtih flying colors: 100%. It was such fun, and all my hesitation was for naught — sort of like most of my road trips. I’m sure you’ll have the same experience.

          1. It’s true, all one has to do is bravely leap past the first scary moment and usually things turn out just fine.
            I’m delighted to learn of your foray into landscaping with native plants. I am not surprised at all that you scored 100% on the test, based on the knowledgeable replies I see you make on Steve’s blog. I’ve taken some classes in this as well and had such a wonderful time.

            1. Here was the tidbit I found most interesting: if the caterpillars have denuded your plants, cubes of organic and well-washed zuchinni or butternut squash will do quite nicely as a substitute. But note: only organic, and only well-washed. Otherwise, they’re nutritionally just fine.

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