3 Boys and an Atlas: A Father's Journey
Somewhere around mile 2000 on Day 4, Ben noted that he had no sense of time since we left California. That might have been because on the first afternoon I taped a ripped piece of a DQ takeout bag over the car clock. It relieved any sense of anxiety that we had anywhere to be or any hurry to get there.
Time and space morphed into one seamless experience. We measured hours by the next meal and space was wherever we pulled over to stretch our legs or snap a picture. In southwestern Louisiana we jumped off the interstate onto a road you can barely find on a map (we navigated the whole way by our shredded 2003 Rand McNally.) We opened the sunroof and rolled down the windows to the hot gulf breeze. "The air smells so sweet," Matty said. It's moments like that you don't forget.
Prada Marfa, we agreed, was probably the weirdest and best stop along the way. We might have seen aliens during an Arizona sunset. And Ben is now a po' boy convert, after sussing out Rusty's in Vicksburg on Yelp. I'm sure it was the only place for a thousand miles serving 'til 10 in Mississippi on a Wednesday night (you can take the NYers out of NY, but...)
The 747 parked in a field -- that nearly got us chased by a guy on a Harley on a rutted 2-lane gravel-top -- stands out as the most threatening moment. The back roads of Louisiana made us want to come back for more. Pretty much all of West Texas left us in awe.
The trip was too long and too short. We needed more days, but we were happy to be home. We spent chunks of time off the beaten path and despite the 80 per speed limits, never made dinner before 9 p.m. We covered 16 states and 3,100 miles and yet it struck us: we hadn't even been gone a week.
In Sicily Island, Louisiana, a friendly guy in a pickup truck saw us studying the atlas on the hood of the car. He looked at our NY plates and asked if we needed help. We'd bisected the entire state on the back roads in about 6 hours. I told him we were looking to get back to the interstate. He hooked one thumb over his shoulder and said, "go north. You can't miss it." I asked him which road? He smiled and said, "any." Two days later we rolled into Brooklyn.