Empty streetcorner in small New Mexico town

Restaurant with giant horse statue in front of it

Run-down small house

road with long horizon

Three 12-hour days in a row, through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, the corner of New Mexico, and Texas, followed by an 8-hour day through Texas. So much Texas.

Texas broke me. Late on the 4th afternoon of nothing but driving, it was 104 degrees in Fort Worth. When I got out of the car at a gas station, it felt like stepping into a furnace. When I hit that wall of heat, my tenuous hold on OKness melted.

I felt overwhelmed by how foreign such huge swaths of my country feels to me. I felt overwhelmed by how much of the land is empty, or only very sparsely populated. I felt overwhelmed by our history. We passed so many towns that are shells of what they once were. Old buildings with empty or boarded-up store fronts. Dilapidated motels, falling-down gas stations, shuttered restaurants. I felt overwhelmed by the scope of ugly commercial sprawl. We passed so many towns with nothing but chain restaurants and gas stations. I felt overwhelmed by how many Americans are living such hard lives. It’s one thing to know it from images and stories, and another thing to drive through places and see it first-hand.

(I still feel overwhelmed by all these things.)

All the photos above are taken from the car, often through the window. We didn’t take time to stop for anything but eating and sleeping. The first three days we pulled into the towns we were staying for the night after 9:00 PM. I do not recommend traveling this way.

My ex-husband used to “joke” that if I were on the Oregon Trail, I’d never have survived. (We lived just off of what was once the Oregon Trail, and he said this fairly often. Part of this week’s journey took us past part of the Trail in Wyoming. Or maybe Colorado.) It was a mean joke, and I never appreciated it, but this week, I have acknowledged that he was somewhat correct. I probably would not have. But, as Cane pointed out when I said something about it somewhere in Idaho (or maybe Colorado), I would never have gone on that trail.

Or maybe I would have. I mean, I made this trip, probably for reasons not unlike those other women had for following their men to a place far from their homes.

Somewhere in the midst of the travel (honestly, it’s all kind of a blur), I read “Welcome to Iowa,” which provoked conflicting feelings. Yes, we (Americans, so many of us) are out-of-touch rubes with an inflated sense of ourselves, and, yes, I’m an asshole for having so many of the thoughts I’ve had about the places we traveled through (primarily, that we are rubes).

We did finally make it out of Texas, however, and I felt such relief when there were trees again.

There are absolutely gorgeous trees in Louisiana. We stopped in Natchitoches (pronounced “Nackatush”) for lunch on our last day, after I insisted at the end of day 4 that I needed some restoration before we reached our destination. I was able to take this photo while standing (rather than sitting in a moving car). It’s a pretty town, the oldest in Louisiana. (It’s also where Steel Magnolias was filmed, and I now want to watch that again.)

As you read these words, we are already deep into the reason we came: Renovating the house we bought last summer. Our first full day here we put in about 12 hours of work. It’s going to be another kind of journey. I’ll try to keep you updated, but I have to go to the library to have internet on my laptop, so we’ll see. I am posting small updates and photos on Instagram, if you want to follow along there.

(If you’d like to know about the Freedom School building in the first photo, here ya go.)

6 thoughts on “Broken

  1. Kari says:

    I’ve been enjoying your pictures as well as our conversation on Instagram. I was also wondering how your migraines were (hopefully nonexistent). I know how stressful travel and humidity can be for me and mine. I’m sending you love and hoping everything is going well for you. Continue to keep us updated. I enjoy watching and reading from afar. I’m glad you’re closer to me now than you were in Portland. This makes me very happy.

    • Rita says:

      Amazingly, I’ve been migraine-free. What is that even about? I wonder if I’m in that place where my body is holding is holding it all together so I can just get through the stress, and it will completely fall apart once I have some space/ease. We’ll see, I guess.

      I wish you were even closer.

  2. Ally Bean says:

    Traveling by car is tedious. I admire you for going the long haul doing it, but I also understand how stepping out of your normal car into the unknown can take its toll. Of course now that you’re at your destination, all is well? Are you flying back home, btw?

    • Rita says:

      New post regarding the all is well question, and YES, thank god I am flying home. Thanks for checking in with me.

  3. Kate says:

    Your pictures are gorgeous.

    I can’t speak to the Oregon Trail. I never did play that game as a kid – and what I’ve learned about the actual historical event I’ve mostly forgotten, but I think you’ve shown time and again that you’re resilient AF. Acknowledging that something is soul sucking when it is soul sucking doesn’t mean you couldn’t survive it. Long distance travel is hard and you did it. Now you’re working your butt off to make a home on the other side. (Look at me being offended on your behalf from a comment that was made years before we knew each other, but SERIOUSLY.)

    And seriously – great pictures. That TREE!!!

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Kate. I needed these words. Truly.

      The trees here are amazing. They are not soul-sucking. I’ve been counting the things that aren’t. 🙂

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