The sky doesn't tell you where you are, but of course if you look up, above the high stucco wall surrounding a small motel deck, where the top of a palm tree sways, you get a clue that you aren't in southeastern Minnesota.
Palms don't speak to me as eloquently as oaks and pines, though it's intriguing to visit distant places. Traveling 3,500 miles due south and back in 12 days, in early February in a 4X4 pick-up, loaded to the gills with clothes and comforts of home deemed necessary, is no stroll in the park for a worrywart.
Pat kindly brought me along anyway, assuring me that if I forgot something amidst the heaps of stuff we likely wouldn't need it anyway. Into our first morning's drive through Iowa, my frozen feet got our trip off on the wrong foot.
Somehow cold air was flowing from a lower vent regardless of the knobs Pat fiddled with. Not to be a crybaby, I wrapped my feet in a blanket and kept my mind on finding the Leon, Iowa sign, a town I remembered had marked the end of snow on the ground on our last vacation five years ago. Not the case on this trek; light snow cover extended all the way through Louisiana.
Highway robbery! Gas prices averaged $2.00 a gallon. That's not the issue. The most disgusting scandal is that gas must be pre-paid inside to protect stations from being robbed by gas hustlers at the pump. That behavior hardly jibes with the oodles of Baptist Churches all over the south.
All along the way, through Arkansas and Louisiana, the long face of flat land groans with emptiness, scattered oil wells, two-bit towns with wounds of desertion, lone windmills, and scrubby, squatty trees. Beef cattle, skin and bones, lay on fieldstones, forlorn statues against this vast prairie terrain.
One small berg, of many oppressed and poverty-riddled towns all along Highway 71 in Louisiana, still had Christmas bells and santas hanging on street lights, bespeaking
the sadness of mindless, unnoted passing time - the calamity of life simply endured, not lived.
Our fourth day was devoted to getting lost somewhere in the Galveston, Texas area. As we drove onto a ferry, where the highway just dropped off into a bay, we ended up driving along a peninsula next to a sandy beach and a dismal, lashing sea, in uncommon 40 and 50 degree temperatures.
It's a bummer to travel south and not even wrinkle a pair of shorts. Since we were spared bad roads every step of the way, my obsession with weather reports proved futile.
Pat didn't seem to mind not knowing where we'd end up, as I began rustling through a map to figure it out. Miles and miles of houses, new developments, and local businesses were all elevated on stilts. There wasn't a soul or traffic in sight; it was as though we had ventured into a twilight zone.
Unfortunately, one has to travel through cities to get anywhere else. The vacation brought out my uncomfortable regard for metropolitan fast lanes and rude, impatient commuters; every man for himself! A new gizmo we used for the first time, the GPS navigator sat on the dash, its small screen displaying our exact coarse.
Though I was skeptical, we punched in addresses of our motels and the navigator's female monotone voice brought us right to destination's door. (Now it's my best friend!)
One wouldn't think so, but there was a lot I liked about our vacation. Our most southerly destination was McAllen, Texas, to visit friends Pat and Ben Meyer from Winona who winter in Mission.
I want to tell you about the highlights of the trip, the times I wasn't praying to Saint Michael for our safe return home"Šnext week. Would I go anywhere without recording the action?
Janet Burns has always called Lewiston "HOME". She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org