We made it! As I type them, those words fall kind of flat. I feel like I need some fanfare, or flowerly language about what it was like to make the drive, but all I can think of are post-game stats. 8 states in 5 days. 2,554 miles. 5-1.5 liter bottles of water. 3 variations of you-call-these-scrambled-eggs? at the complimentary hotel breakfast.
You would think driving across the United States would involve driving through more states. All those tanks of gas, and 8 states is all I have to show for it? I would have liked to at least hit double digits. Even so, the 8 we saw along the way (CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, TN, NC) were so much prettier than I thought. I pictured Arizona and New Mexico as dry and colorless, but they aren’t at all. New Mexico is red rock formations, green valleys and mesa tops, and Arizona has pine forests. Who would have thought? Also, who knew Oklahoma has soil as red as Malawi’s and crickets as big as hamsters? The Texas panhandle was flat and not much else. Okay, that’s unfair. There was grass. Then there was yellow grass. And a tree every 500 yards or so. Arkansas we drove straight through, but I remember beautiful trees and driving over lots of rivers.
Summer in southern California is dry and brown… summer in the southern United States is the opposite. My mom and I spent an extra day in Nashville to be tourists, and we were drenched in sweat by 10am. I’m glad we stayed the additional day, because the treehouse exhibit at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens was worth it, but I left with a confused first impression of the city. If you asked me, all I could tell you about Nashville is: country music, hipster enclaves, racial poverty, and a giant roundabout of highways surrounding downtown, but I’ll willingly admit that my first impressions were incomplete and my judgment impaired by fatigue and humidity.
Now, I’ve been in North Carolina for 6 days, in my new apartment for 3. The synopsis thus far: Most people (locals) are bizarrely friendly; searching for street names at an intersection is almost futile; and a walk up the street to the local cafe feels like a woodland nature tour with a chorus of insect sounds I can’t identify. It took me several days just to gain some sense of direction, because all these trees blocking my view is really disorienting.
I like it here, now that I’ve stopped missing highway exits all the time. The mosquitoes seem to like me even more.
Here are a few photos of the drive, as captured by my phone. My favorite is the treehouse inspired by The Rainbow Fish, and the photo of my mom embracing her inner child.