Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Highway 40 Blues

At the beginning of August 1984, I found myself traveling eastward from Utah to Virginia with my younger brother Danny in my non-air-conditioned, although brand-new, Nissan Sentra. Who doesn't demand air-conditioning as a minimal requirement in a new car? Someone who thinks she's being frugal, that's who, and someone who can't see herself driving in anything but a dry climate like Utah's.                                                                                           
1983, Provo River
In a tailspin move, I decided to flee home to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia after playing in the Rocky Mountains of Utah all summer long, to see if I could find a last-minute teaching job, and if not, my "plan" was to return to Utah in a couple of weeks, and get by somehow.  Fabulous plan; success nearly guaranteed. (I was a new graduate in elementary education; no one said I was a MENSA inductee.)

The following was recorded in my journal during the last of our 30 hour, non-stop drive home via Interstate 40.  We were hot; we were sweaty; we were sleep-deprived. We spelled each other from driving whenever one of us found  our eyelids drooping.  Every meal we had consumed had been whatever was available wherever we stopped for gas. We were living on Diet Coke, refrigerated sandwiches, and candy bars. 

My disjointed thoughts are presented in no particular order, but if I had been more geographically gifted, I would have considered listing them from west to east, but alas, once again, I was newly certified in elementary education, with only the rudimentary Geography 101 under my belt. These were scrawled in my journal while Danny took the wheel for his turn when we were somewhere over Tennessee state line.

From my journal:

AUGUST 6, 1984

An hour before Nashville.  (Pilot confused.  Nashville actually only 8 miles away.)  

August 6, 1984 (I think.  I've got the Highway 40 Blues so bad, I don't even CARE what the date is.)

Bathroom graffiti in a rundown rest area en route:  "If you're gonna write something, make it revelant."   And this one:  "I love Jeater with everything I got."

First Moon Pie sighting:  Arkansas.

Quotable quote from Danny:  "I would feel so much better if I could just put my head in the trunk."

First simulation of being suffocated by a wet sponge due to high humidity:  Oklahoma City.

Mosquitoes so numerous in "Menphis, Tennesse" rest area, the sibling duo fear malaria.

Interesting geographical names (I didn't say I had NO interest in geography; I just don't have a very good grasp of the information.): Forked Deer River (forked, as opposed to stabbed or shot?) AND...A sign in Arkansas over a bridge:  LOTAHWATAH.  In my state of delirium, I find this hilarious.

Favorite song from Texican radio:  "Where's the Beef?"

Another quotable quote:  (4:22 A.M. in Albuquerque)  My former college roommate Cindy asked, "Are you hungry?  Can I get you some ice cream?"  

Danny:  "Oh, NO!   A health food nut.  I won't be able to stand it!"

Five days later, August 11, 1984

Even as I left Utah, I knew I couldn't stay in Virginia.  I can't believe the mileage and hours we put on the road this past week.

"I'm going back.  I have no job.  I have no housing.  I have little money.  I hope only to get a good teaching job, a nice apartment, and to be able to spend some good times with my friends."

TODAY, March 26, 2014

Looking back now, I can see that at this particular crossroads, my life actually started to fall into place. My brother and I became closer on that cross-country trip.  If I hadn't returned to Utah, my life would be so different than it is today.  

I ended up getting married less than 18 months later, to a man I'd known five weeks. It wasn't exactly a match made in heaven, but heaven blessed our home with three of the most amazing kids.  I taught for 30 years.  I earned a master's degree from Utah State University.  I later divorced, and remarried.  In my late forties, I learned how to ski on the slopes of south-central Utah. I find myself once again divorced. Hiking, biking, and photography have become some of my favorite things to do when I'm not writing. Utah gave me a place to call home. It gave me a wonderful career, and my three kids; my crowning glory. 

I'm starting to get the itch to hit the road.  Highway 40 again? One day. Highway A1A along the east coast? (Kenny Chesney, I blame you for that fascination.) California's Coastal Highway? That sounds promising. I hope I'll take all of these road trips eventually, but this summer, California is calling my name. 

There is one thing that is certain.  As much as I still love Virginia, and all of my loved ones there, I will never regret coming back to Utah at the end of that summer. That one decision has made all of the difference for me.


  1. Hilarious. Makes me want to do a road trip with my sisters just to put together a list of quotes. Was laughing all the way through this.

    1. Road trips bring people closer together. Or not. I just recalled a harrowing trip with a new stepsister on our way to college together...2300 miles with a loud, obnoxious girl who proclaimed "I can drive all night. I never get tired." So tell me why I had to drive 80% of that trip! I hope you take the time to do a trip with the sisters! Bridger and I can't wait for ours this June!


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