These days, everything is epic—people’s skills, fair rides, skydiving, meals. I once even heard a lamp described as epic.
The word is tossed around like a tin can headed for the recycling bin. But when Husband, Flicka, Ricka, Dicka, and I climbed into the old Honda Pilot on July 10, 2019, I imagined our driving to California and back in twenty-one days might satisfy the true definition of the word: long, grand, and maybe even heroic. Hopefully not too heroic.
Luggage stowed in our roof carrier, we stuck a hula lady air freshener on the dash for a festive touch. The party could start now. So, with a turn of the car key at 6:00 a.m., our adventure roared to life. To make the journey sweeter, the girls had gathered 1,308 songs into a playlist to match the states we’d cover, and they explained the criteria for the music: each song must have the state mentioned in its lyrics OR the band/artist performing it must either be from the state or have a significant tie to it.
The first song, “Unsatisfied” by the Minnesota band, The Replacements, drifted from our speakers, and I hoped the title wouldn’t become our trip’s anthem. As we rolled along our first mile, I scanned some other song titles, spying Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
I turned to the playlist ladies. “You know we’re not going to Alabama.”
“Yeah,” Dicka said, “but Steve Gaines who joined the band in 1976 was from Oklahoma, and we’re driving through there.”
In a blink, Iowa came and went with the crooning of the Everly Brothers. After our first night in Joplin, Missouri, we got on the road, and the local wildlife caught our attention. Loose dogs sniffed along the highway and creeping turtles crossed our path. Outside of Wentworth, we saw a dead opossum and our first deceased armadillo, its guts spilling from its shell.
“Can’t you get leprosy from armadillos?” Husband said.
I almost spit out my coffee. “What?”
“Remember that episode of Royal Pains where the guy got sick from his armadillo belt?”
We crossed the next state border to Anne Murray’s “I can see Arkansas,” but I couldn’t get the sticky song of Shindig Society’s “Oh, Arkansas” out of my head as we wandered around Christ of the Ozarks and Thorncrown Chapel. The girls decided Eureka Springs was a vacation destination with its colorful Victorian-style cottages and winding up-and-down streets and walkways. But we still had miles to go and states to traverse—like Oklahoma and Texas—before we could sleep.
“The sky just seems bigger here,” Flicka said as we blew through the Lone Star State at dusk.
Rick Pickren’s “O Fair New Mexico” floated through the air as we covered yet another state line in two days. We rested our heads at a hotel in Tucumcari. As I climbed into bed, I remembered seventeen years earlier—the last time we slept in New Mexico—dreaming for our two girls who were only two years and six months old at the time, their lives sewn into ours in every way. Not like now at ages nineteen, seventeen, and fifteen. Over time, life had taught our three girls to think their own thoughts. And in their beds nearby, they snoozed away, enough trips around the sun to dream their own dreams too.
When one says it’s hot in the Southwest, someone inevitably chimes in with the dry heat comment. The third day of our trip, we entered Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, which straddles Interstate 40, east of Flagstaff. We drove through the park’s ninety-three degree dry heat, stopping for photo shoots among the large deposits of petrified wood and highly-eroded, colorful badlands. We inhaled views of the Painted Desert—strips of lavender running alongside bands of red in the rock—to take with us as we put more miles behind the Honda.
We ended our day at our timeshare in Sedona, Arizona, the brilliant red-rock buttes hemming us in to a place we didn’t want to let go.
Maybe we would stay…
Come back next week for the second installment of the story. In the meantime, enjoy our family’s music playlist which covers the first eight states (click on each for the link):
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.