Six Years Ago

Hank and I landed in Taos six years ago Aug. 14 after a quick cross-country trek in our Toyota pickup. We took the mid-central route, leaving on a Friday after signing papers for the house closing. We quickly discovered the highways are full of big trucks, that cities have grown since the last time we made a cross-country drive and franchises have taken over the landscape, although I profess a fondness for TA Centers, truck stops with clean restrooms and on occasion, Starbucks.

We kept the windows open and the air-conditioning off despite the heat. The truck had too many miles to tax it. I had burned a few cds, mostly alt-country fare, that we played only once. We never turned on the radio. We barely spoke, letting our old lives and the intense work of the last few months slip from us. Besides the truck was too noisy. Hank kept it at a steady 75 mph and the roof rack on the truck set off a hum at high speeds. I’d say something like “Wanna a peach?” and Hank would answer, “What sheep?” That I believe was our longest conversation.

First stop was Ashtabula, Ohio, where we ate barbecued buffalo sandwiches (we had to try them) at Buck’s Grill and Bar, then crashed at a Comfort Inn. We went onto Indiana and Illinois, where we discovered we could buy a house for less than $40,000 and handyman specials for under $10,000. We camped in Marshall, Ill., just off I-70, where the trees buzzed with cicada and people slept in air-conditioned RVs.

The sun was hot and steady through the Midwest, and we both got windshield tans. The third day got us through Missouri, with its barrage of billboards along the interstate. “Avoid hell, repent now.” “If you died today, where would you spend eternity?” “Passions, the place where lovers shop.” We stopped at the Iron Skillet, where truckers AKA professional drivers get priority seating.

We stopped in Manhattan, Kansas, and stayed at a cheap, noisy Motel 6, because the forecast called for a big storm. The town is home to Kansas State, and like college towns it had a microbrewery and good coffee, located in a section called Aggieville. A big storm did hit in the middle of the night, with lightning so earnest it set off car alarms in the motel parking lot.

We were in Hayes, Kansas, where Hank was unsuccessful trying to find a decent cup of coffee, when Dale, who was driving our stuff across the country, called to say he was in Oklahoma below us and would be in Taos Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Could we make it? We did, after driving through southern Colorado, then over the Raton pass into New Mexico.

We got as far as Eagle’s Nest 45 minutes from Taos. We called it a night at an Econolodge and ate elk burgers (had to try it) at a local grill. The next morning, we saw a hundred elk or so grazing and fishermen along mountain rivers.

We arrived in Taos just in time to meet Dale coming up the road. And, since then, we’ve been making this our home.

I wrote this to send to friends and family so they knew we made it safely to Taos.  I posted it first in my old blog last year and updated it to “six years.” We closed on our house today, Aug. 10, and began the long trek to Taos.


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