Day 3 started off strong, because according to the beautiful itinerary Mom crafted for the trip, I didn’t have to leave Flagstaff, AZ until noon, which allowed for a major sleep in. Did I sleep in? Of course not! By 10AM, I was fed, showered, dressed, had published two blog posts and was itching to get on the road.
In my pre-departure phone call with Mom, she reminded me to enjoy the journey. It’s so easy to think about getting to the next destination and forgetting that driving through this country, exploring its features big and small, might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I can’t take for granted. With her wise words in mind, I hopped into my trusty steed George and headed east!
My first stop was in the full road trip spirit of spontaneity. I had been driving on the highway for close to an hour when I saw a bright blue billboard for Meteor Crater. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but as I talked about with Mom, I had to enjoy the adventure, so I turned off the highway and followed the meteor-themed signs to the Crater.
The crater is massive, clearly, as deep as the Washington Monument is tall! You needed s serious pair of binoculars to even see the scene set at the bottom of the crater. Can you believe that something that big fell from space? Can you imagine being the someone who happened upon this and was undoubtedly confused how this giant bowl came to be? How that someone had to be smart enough to ask the questions that led to the answers? This trip has certainly been one humbling reminder after another that this country, this planet, this universe is far greater than us, and that we as humans are constantly playing catch-up in terms of our comprehension of the universe.
After the much-needed and appreciated pit stop at Meteor Crater, it was time for the day’s biggest attraction: Standin’ on the Corner in Winslow, AZ. For those youngsters or non-music-buffs who might not understand the significance, Winslow, AZ is referenced in the Eagles’ song, “Take it Easy.” The town has since built a facade after the song, complete with a statue with a guitar and the girl in the Ford pickup truck.
Mini photo shoot completed, I realized it was 2PM and I was starving. As luck would have it, across the street, Relic Road Brewing Co. was offering a buffalo chicken mac & cheese lunch special for $9. Was it fate? Yes. Yes, it was. I settled myself into a seat at the bar along the front window and watched car after car of eager travelers stop to talk their picture on the corner. My meal was delicious. The music was the perfect balance of nostalgic and hopeful. All was well in my world.
Feeling refreshed, I got back on to road for New Mexico. I gotta say: New Mexico was my most beautiful drive to date. The bright orange and pale pink plateaus that lined the highway, popping against the robin’s egg blue of the sky, were far more interesting backdrops than the beige sands and shrubbery of Nevada and Arizona.
Deeper into New Mexico, I came over a hill to see the clouds ahead darken to purple and flashes of lightening light up. I’m a sucker for a good lightening storm, so to watch the strikes break through miles ahead was exciting. As I approached the area, I could see the clouds’ definition grow murky in the rainfall. I braced myself for the rain, but with my fingers ready to switch the windshield wipers on, something else caught my attention…
I’m not pulling your leg. It was an actual rainbow. Probably the most vivid rainbow I have ever seen, each color as distinguishable as the last, arching perfectly over the highway and fading into the grass of the median strip. I was mesmerized. Is this how symbolic road trips worked? Did beautiful rainbows appear out of nowhere just as your Spotify playlist chooses a sappy song about finding yourself for everyone? I really hope so. Because it was a picture-perfect movie moment of serenity. I couldn’t have written it better myself (mostly because it would come off as corny and you would all rightfully shame me for being so trite with my imagery).
Not all parts of a road trip are all rainbows (pun intended). My last stop of the day was to ride the Musical Highway, a stretch of Route 66 that, when traveled at the correct speed, would play “America the Beautiful.” I got to the area right around sunset and mentally gave myself a high-five for such perfect timing.
Except I couldn’t seem to find the Musical Highway. I drove up and down Route 66 at a precise 45 MPH for a half hour waiting to hear “America the Beautiful”. But alas, I did not. So, I did what anyone might do: I called my mom. Together, we (well, mostly she because she’s a saint and has more patience than me) found the right mile marker for the Musical Highway.
PRO TIP: Route 66 only plays “America the Beautiful” when driving eastbound. There is an strip of road that has a different texture than the rest of the pavement that your wheels have to drive over in order to “hear” the song. Had I known this before, the excursion would have been significantly less frustrating.
Jumping through hoops to actually enjoy the Musical Highway left me groggy and grumpy, and the sun was quickly dipping behind the mountains. With a deep breath, I blared my playlist of classic Disney tunes and psyched myself into the last hour of my drive to Santa Rosa, NM, where I had a meal of mini Chips Ahoy and sour gummy worms before drifting into a much-deserved sleep.
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown | Gal about Town