Recently, Tim and I made a good old-fashioned road trip from Chicago to Phoenix. Our daughter was expecting a baby any day, we had lots of “stuff” to haul to her, and since we didn’t know exactly when the baby would arrive, it made more sense to drive than to fly. We were gone about a month, spent two glorious weeks with our new grandson, and enjoyed ourselves in the warm weather.
Here are some decidedly unscientific observations from that trip and thoughts we had along the way.
1. The USA is a beautiful country. This is always my first thought as I drive around the country. It is diverse and glorious. While I don’t enjoy the cities and interstates as much as the small towns, the countryside, and the back roads, they are all still fascinating. Each city is a little different. St. Louis with rivers everywhere and Amarillo, which has grown immensely since my last go through, will never be mistaken one for the other. And who knew El Paso was the 19th largest city in the US? It’s bigger than Seattle, Denver or Washington, DC.
2. There were signs everywhere for “Help Wanted”. On the backs of trucks, in gas stations, mini-marts, retail stores, hotels, and just about everywhere we looked. Not sure what that means. Are they looking for good employees or just someone to do the work? Are they having trouble finding good employees? It seems that if you want a job, you can find one. Some may not pay very well, but others seemed to require more expertise and probably paid better. Unless the signs were very outdated, it seems there are jobs out there if you want one.
3. We traveled through Oklahoma and Texas and saw lots of oil pumps and most of them were pumping oil. Thousands of them! I thought there was an oil glut, so why all the pumping?
4. At every hotel along the way, we saw many business travelers. Not so surprising, but many, if not most, were blue collar business people. They were mostly men who were building large buildings, both retail and commercial, or maybe working on infrastructure building, such as electric power lines and natural gas pipelines. During the day, there were work zones everywhere along the roads, even in forlorn backwaters. We noticed many companies that made or sold pumps or irrigation products, and agricultural products. Also, lots of agriculture businesses were looking for help, or building additions to their current facilities. We saw several busy mining areas in New Mexico hauling tons of coal, via both trains and trucks, and a variety of other natural products that are used for road building. Business seemed to be booming in the rural areas if not in the cities.
5. Very long trains are prominent along roads outside the big cities, one after the other on some routes. LOOOONG trains with more than 100 cars. I couldn’t count them all. It looks like the economy is booming and products are moving all around the country. While we saw many semis on the roads, we only noticed the trains in the wide open spaces. They are not so visible without long horizons and few trees. But they are definitely on the move.
6. Did I say the country was beautiful? Even in December, there is beauty in the countryside; from the great rivers to the snowy mountain peaks, from the leafless trees in Illinois and Missouri to the cacti and grapefruit trees in the desert. The wild places and small towns are the most appealing to me, but even the cities have uniqueness and their own special appeal.
7. We always play the License Plate game to pass the time. We scored 44 states and 5 Canadian provinces. I also amuse myself by looking at exit signs on interstates that list the towns at that exit. Then I imagine a person who would have that name and what they would be like. Geary Watonga, Kelly Drumwright, Hydro Carnegie, Lyndon Burlington, Paris Holiday. We started writing a mad torrid love story starring McLean Hayworth as the slightly shady love interest and Atlanta Lawndale as the tawdry rich girl who catches his eye.
But that’s a blog for another day.
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