Posted by: George | July 2, 2010

The Day of I-40

July 1, 2010

I expected the day to be a long, dull drive. The plan was to get to “someplace else,” unfamiliar territory, vaguely in the direction of Mesa Verde. The route was simple. Get on I-40, a few miles from my house, drive for 873 miles, through Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas, into New Mexico, then make a right turn toward the southwestern corner of Colorado.

I had not been this way for a while. I remembered the route as being rather homogenous, like driving west through Kansas or Nebraska, where nothing seems to change for 12 hours at a stretch.

I have a friend who grew up in Oklahoma. I once told him, “You need two people to drive through Oklahoma. One to drive and one to wake up the driver when something exciting happens. For example, the passenger might nudge the driver and say, ‘Hey, look, a gully. Water must have come through here two or three thousand years ago.’”

I have a friend who grew up in the panhandle of Texas. I once told him, “You need two people to drive through the panhandle of Texas. From time to time, the passenger needs to nudge the driver and say, ‘Hey, look, a tree!’”

I have a friend who grew up in New Mexico. I once told him, “The entire state has two colors: green and brown.”

My memories were wrong. The terrain changes. In Arkansas, I-40 snakes through the ridges and dense forests of the Ouachita Mountains. Oklahoma has rolling hills with broad vistas, spotted with small trees that have grown bent to the northeast, away from the prevailing winds. The panhandle of Texas is flat; the clouds lay low on the horizon. New Mexico may only have two colors, but it has many hues. The shape of the hills is unlike anything on the east coast, where I grew up, or the Midwest, where I spent most of my adult life.

As I entered New Mexico, the sun was beginning to set behind a bank of clouds that kept shifting shapes.

My car was driving west at 75 miles an hour, tugging at the rotation of the earth, slowing it down a bit. The sunset lasted for hours.

Now, I am in a hotel “someplace else.” I don’t even know the name of the town. I think it’s about thirty miles from that right hand turn.



  1. I wonder if that “someplace else” could have been Grants, my old hometown (I was born in Albuquerque but later lived in Grants). If you stayed on I-40 to Gallup, you definitely passed through Grants. You might have seen a big “G” painted on the side of a mesa.

    I’m enjoying your travelogue and plotting my own road trip again…someday.

    Safe roads,


    • As I was checking out of the hotel, I said to the clerk: “I don’t even know what town I’m in.”

      He replied: ”Moriarty. You ain’t missing much.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: