Some three (ish) years ago (March 2013) the husband and I were organizing our wedding, and therefore also organizing the all-important honeymoon. For about a year leading up to that time I had been filled with a somewhat-irrational desire to drive. Just drive, without predetermined destination or finish. This desire included romantic thoughts of driving for months without goal or responsibility, through an expanse of red rocks, dust and desert, Thelma & Louise style (where the husband was some kind of male-Thelma, and of course without the tragic ending). Where can one locate the type of red expanse I was looking for? Where else but the beautiful South-West USA. I was drawn absolutely to the freedom which comes with an unplanned road trip. I knew what I wanted to see and what I wanted to feel, and I figured the details would somehow fill themselves in.
So it was that two days after signing the matrimonial contract, the husband and I flew to the romance capital of Las Vegas for a few days of glitter and street-drinking before we picked up our blue California-plated Dodge and hightailed it towards the luminous red rocks of Utah. These days, the husband and I are often surprised at the level of planning some people do for their travels. For American road trip #1, the most preparation which took place was the booking of flights, car hire and a few nights at the Bellagio. I admit, we did purchase the apparently bible-esque Lonely Planet guide to South-West USA, and the husband had undertaken some research as to which routes/towns we could possibly stay in along the way (so as to ensure my dreams of red rocks, canyons and long roads was achieved) but other than that, we pretty much made it up as we went along. No advanced hotel reservations and certainly no restaurant bookings. We did buy a road atlas. But the point of this trip (to me anyway) was the illusion of freedom. It’s true that travelling in many countries requires additional research and it’s generally easier to have accommodation arranged where English is not the first language. However, in the US these rule don’t have to apply. And what better place than the USA, with its plentiful roadside motels and abundant food, to throw the rules away. Preferably out of a moving car window.
And so we meandered through incredible scenes like the gasp-worthy facades of Zion, the rusted cones of Bryce Canyon, the long straight solemnity of Monument Valley. We absorbed the drama of the Canyonlands before continuing into the softer landscape of New Mexico, coasting through the plains of Texas, before arriving in the green, damp bayous of Louisiana, Spanish moss dripping from the trees in front of imposing plantation houses. To avoid the one-way car fee, we had to loop back to Vegas, and so we continued south through tumbleweeds and mini-tornados. There, among the dusty sunset of Terlingua, the gateway to Big Bend, I drank a beer, talked to the locals, and half-heartedly tried to convince the husband that maybe we should just screw it and not go back home. We could stay there near the park, get backpacker jobs and then we when we were done, keep driving to the next place. I would totally have done it if he’d agreed.
The magic of the road trip stayed with me for some time. I would look back through photographs, marvel at the incredible beauty of the terrain and try to remember what it was like to stand there, staring down into the Canyons, breathing it all in. When would I again have that freedom to just drive, without a timeline, without having to care about anything except should we stop here for a bit, do we choose chile rellenos or burritos or should we keep going.
Now, a mere three years later, we have had the privilege to revisit the all-consuming American road trip. Instead of vast, red, red rocks, this trip began with the piney-green of Washington state, and due to
the popularity of our desired sights did involve a little more future planning than the South-West.