I love road trips, especially trips with no set schedule. There’s something about sitting in a car for mile after mile, watching the countryside slowly change from the ponderosas and short-grass prairies of home to Somewhere Else. I’m also a huge sucker for those brown signs erected by the Department of the Interior. Do the elk/bison/pronghorn know this is a “wildlife viewing area”? (I always turn off the road and go look, just in case.)
There’s nothing like a road trip for carving out time to connect with someone. It’s getting harder and harder to be out of touch, but in the middle of nowhere, there are no interruptions. Get far enough from civilization, and even the cell phones don’t work. This makes me very happy (unless the car breaks down, gets stuck in the mud, or runs out of gas).
Pete and I try to schedule at least one road trip every year. For once, we can talk and talk until we run out of things to say. Then we just sit together, watching the scenery go by, making silly comments about the billboards advertising the next tourist trap trading post, and breathing the same air. Well-meaning friends have suggested we pick up some audio books to pass the time, but we don’t need them. We have each other.
This year, we’re heading to New Orleans by way of Brownsville, Texas. Yes, we looked at a map. Brownsville is sort of on the way. Just a little further. Another 782 miles. Only one long day extra.
We’re going to New Orleans because Pete’s dad is now 90, and we’re hoping to help him and his wife deal with some confusing paperwork. Pete will also offer his computer and handyman expertise. I’m sure he’ll be quite busy.
We’re going to Brownsville because a zillion Mexican birds don’t realize they’re in Texas where an enthusiastic birder can add them to her North American life list. (In birding circles, “North America” stops at the Rio Grande.) I’m looking forward to some stunning photography—Green Jays, black-and-yellow Great Kiskadees, Vermillion Flycatchers.
Birding along the Rio Grande is a bit dicey—posted warnings of illegal activity in the area are enough to put your nerves on edge. Last time we were there, I was startled out of my wits by the heavy thud of something landing on top of the birding blind I was in. Now I know that Chachalacas are large, heavy birds that like to hang out on blind rooftops.
January isn’t the best time for driving across the country. We’ll have to stay flexible, adjusting our expectations along with the weather. We don’t care; maybe we’ll get snowed in somewhere. What’s more romantic than watching the world turn white outside the window of a seedy motel along the interstate?
I just know we need a chance to get away, get reconnected after an overwhelmingly busy fall, and make sure we’re on the same page for the coming year. If we don’t take care of our marriage, who will?