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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Sometimes “Uneventful” is Good: The Trek Home


Does disaster await?

We were five days and four nights on the road coming back to Michigan from Arizona – easily twice as long as most people would take for the trip but a manageable pace for us. Our overnight stops were Santa Rosa, New Mexico; Great Bend, Kansas; Cameron, Missouri; and Monticello, Illinois. I’ve loved Santa Rosa since our first visit; Great Bend invites future visits with its wonderful wildlife areas; Cameron was very good to us, offering up an old-school mechanic and got us back on the road in an hour just when we feared losing several days and beaucoup bucks; and Monticello, a place we discovered many years ago, looked so good this time around that the Artist declared, “I could live here in a heartbeat!” Of course, we had been on the road a long time by then, and if we did live in Monticello we would have been home when he made that declaration, so I took it with a grain of salt.


Our first day on the road took us northeast through New Mexico. We veered off our highway (U.S. 54) long enough to explore half of Duran, New Mexico, saving the other side of the road (where the church is) for another time. Duran’s population in 2010 was 39. I wonder what the recent census will reveal.

I swear there was a diner in Vaughn the last time we went through! No longer. Want to buy a small town? This one might be available. The railroad station is gorgeous!

And it’s no news that the demise of Old Route 66 has brought hardship on many American towns, but we couldn’t help thinking that COVID-19 had made things worse for Tucumcari, NM. So many beautiful old buildings, though, including a stunning old train station (sorry I did not get a good photo of that), make me wonder why some group of retired Southwesterners (and retirees to the Southwest) weary of overdevelopment, crowding, and crazy traffic don’t move to one of these places and inaugurate a renaissance. All that’s needed is critical mass. Not every near-empty town can boast the beautiful wall art you will find in Tucumcari.

Tucumcari is filled with beautiful Doug Quarles murals

We followed the old Pony Express route through the northeast corner of Kansas but found in the town of Washington (I think it was) little decorated statues of squirrels in front of businesses everywhere. No doubt there is an explanation….

Then there was this intriguing business name, which made us laugh. We actually did quite a bit of laughing on the trip, which is a good sign (speaking of signs). 

Cannot omit an image of the mechanic's garage in Cameron, Missouri, where we were saved from disaster and back on the road in an hour! Did not have to get a horse and buy the old wagon displayed in the garage window to get ourselves back to Michigan!

And finally, on this whirlwind, cross-country photo-trek, I give you Monticello, Illinois, with not only a pretty old train station and lovely little garden park but a beautiful horse sculptor by an artist whose name was new to me, Anna Hyatt Huntington. The Artist and I were both happy too learn of her work.

So when I call our long trip home “uneventful,” I do so with deep gratitude in my heart. Before we left Arizona, I could not imagine how we would get all the boxes of books packed into the car and still have room for ourselves and my new dog. I could not imagine the dog being patient enough to ride in the backseat for five days and not be off his leash once! 

"You are not leaving me!"

And my little car is a 2002 Subaru, made back when the Forester was a very different, much smaller vehicle than the new models are today. Nineteen years old! I was telling the Artist (not for the first time) about my grandmother’s old Chrysler and how it was “probably the oldest car on the road,” and he commented that I was following in my grandmother’s footsteps. Or tire treads, I guess.


But we made it, and my bookstore will be open Friday and Saturday, May 21-22, and then again Tuesdays through Saturdays for the foreseeable future! Ah, the “foreseeable”! As if we can look past any given moment! “How do you know there will be a next winter?” the Artist asked me one day recently. “How do I know there will be a tomorrow?” I retorted. But we do plan, and today the summer almost upon us looks bright.

Grand Traverse Bay!


Dawn said...

I would take at least 5 days too. So many pretty sights to see along the way. And what a nice surprise that Peasy was patient with your meandering. That's because he loves you. Did he sleep at all the first day back? It must all seem so different to him.

Barbara Stark-Nemon said...

Welcome Home!!!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks, Barbara. Dawn, I would take five times longer if we didn't have so much to do at home. Would have loved to visit those wildlife areas in Kansas, for instance.

Peasy was astonishingly good on the trip, both in the car and in motels. He absolutely loves our yard! Sarah considered the kong only a receptacle for peanut butter, but Peasy loves to toss it around in the grass or have me throw it. Its bouncing is more erratic and unpredictable than a ball or stick thrown. I do have to scold him, though, when he wants to bite the tires of the lawn mower. He seems to think the mower is alive and needs its heels nipped!

Jeanie Furlan said...

So glad that you, the Artist, Peasy and all your books got back to Michigan in good shape! I loved your photo-trek and your comments! Those middle and western states are such an unknown to me, and you have brought them to life - Thank you! How funny about your lawn mower is Peasy’s playmate - he is a cute one!

Jeanie Furlan said...

Oh! Anna Hyatt Huntington and Doug Quarles - wonderful photos of their artwork! She really captured the horse’s movement, and he had great expansive views of his area. Also, the story of the kind and talented mechanic was heart-warming, and his eclectic display window with the horse-drawn wagon and what looked like toy trucks, was just a perfect comment on your hardly ‘uneventful’ journey!

P. J. Grath said...

Hi, Jeanie! And you made it safely back to Brooklyn, too, I know. Yes, it was a pretty good trip. Despite all my high anxiety for weeks ahead of time, we enjoyed the travel as much as we could, with laughs along the way. David says the trip is "killing" him, and we are pretty worn out upon arrival, but the day-by-day went amazingly well, and somehow I never get tired of even the "emptiest" of landscapes.