Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"On The Road Again...Turn The Page"

I had my tunes on for energy, reflection and more as I begun a 2,600 mile transplant across our beautiful and large nation. Flying is quicker, more convenient and cheaper, but you can't bring your TV, bed and stuff on the plane. In addition, you can't get a pulse of the country from 30,000 plus feet. From the ground you can see the differences in towns, cities and states. Pictures tell a story and in the length of my trip, I have a catalogue, full to the brim along with enough caffeine to talk about it in this blog.
One thing I came to realize is that some states do not offer rest stops that are so common along the I-95 east coast. When this highway enters Florida, you are greeted with a lovely building with many perks for the traveler along with a park-like area to walk the pet. Once you pass the Mississippi, you will be hard pressed to find such amenities. Could be cut-backs in budgets?
You will also have difficulty in navigating the interstates. The even number interstates go east and west while the odd numbers go north and south. They are in fairly good condition. However, if you are traversing in a northwest route or a slicing pattern, these vast highways offer poor connections from even to odd numbered roads.
Then, there are those differences that I mentioned above. Yeah, there are thousands of hotels to rest, clean up and grab a hot meal, but if you are on a budget unlike our federal government, those are options that my wallet can't afford. I like to point out that all the fast food places like McDonald's were doing good business. I rented a truck and although the agent said it would get around 12 miles-per-gallon. It was closer to six. This new found info put a hurt on my finances. Anyway, I figured that I could rough it by using rest areas and eating cold sandwiches.
A New Corruption
Kansas is setting new levels to steal from citizens that even New Jersey would admire. When you travel north along I-35 and enter Kansas, the theft begins. You see, Kansas started a toll road turnpike, but it begins on the same road as I-35. Now, the interstate road system is a federally paid and built network. It is paid by taxes on gasoline in every state. This is why there are no tolls to use it. It seems however, that states have found a loophole either under maintenance or some dated clause to place tolls like for bridges or whatever. Now, back to Kansas. Picture yourself, driving all day as the sun sets in the west. You keep your eyes open for a rest area, but all you see is this new adaptation called, "A parking area." It is nothing more than a side road off the interstate. It has no facilities, no lights and no security. This revelation along with the changing weather has given me a new found respect for long distance truck drivers. They too are on a budget not to mention the need for a restroom after twelve hours of non-stop driving.
Continuing. It is getting dark. I enter Kansas and a moment of joy as another state is crossed off the list. The joy fades fast as you enter a Twilight Zone. Suddenly, along the darkened road, did a sign just say this is the last toll free exit? You have no time to think and no place to stop and check your map to see if you missed an exit or something. You proceed another mile. You enter the toll plaza where there are no workers. It is all automated. No one to help as a machine pushes out a ticket that is based on mile usage. You are trapped. You can't even do a crazy New York thing like trying to turn around across the highway and go back to the last toll free exit and find an alternative route to I-135. You ask yourself, how can they do this as you exit around twelve miles later and $2.25 poorer. This is only the beginning. There are communication breakdowns to follow.
Enter Oklahoma
America is not the biggest country, but crossing Texas sure feels that way. I was happy to exit Kansas, but the Sooner State is even bigger. By the way, there is no chronological order of states, just the events. Oklahoma is very similar to Kansas in the aspect that there are very few, if any, rest areas. After driving another long, non-stop day and seeing lightning flashing in the west, I decided to compromise and rest in a parking area. I knew this region of the nation was called "tornado ally." I tried to imagine how fearful it must be for one of these storms to strike in the middle of the night. Personally, I couldn't live that way. Suddenly, the western lightning reached I-35. Fortunately, at the same time as the rain started, a parking area appeared. I pulled into it. It was crowded with over-the-road haulers, but I found a space on the right side of it. It was on a slope that had a sharp drop, but I was off the highway and very tired. I made a cold sandwich and turned on the radio to the Thursday Night Football game. The rain came hard on the windshield, but it didn't hold my attention. This is good I thought. A sandwich with some water and I found a station with the game.
A Miracle in the Parking Area
Then, a lightning, static sound came over the radio as the whole sky around the interstate turned white from a bolt directly above. I looked to the west and I could see a tower being illuminated by the lightning. The radio went out. A tinge of fear began on my nerves. What could I do if a tornado came? I couldn't even see it. Suddenly, my SUV began to rock from the wind and rain. I put my foot on the brakes, hoping that it would add stability. I looked around. Lightning flashed all around. A freight hauler going south was pushed by the wind into the center meridian. He came to quick stop in the center of the highway. Another driver stopped to offer help, but he waived him away. My car shook more violently and I became fearful that the wind would push it off the slope and destroy my car. I prayed to Notre Dame(Our Lady). The rain stopped, but the wind blew even harder. I looked toward the truck in the meridian. A tow truck arrived along with a police car. I thought that although this state didn't have rest areas, they respond to emergencies very quickly. The red and blue lights of the police car illuminated the sky. I looked toward the tower again, but instead I saw a huge wooden cross hovering in the sky. I rubbed my eyes. I looked around at the other vehicles in the parking area and the truck in the center of the highway. No one did anything out of the ordinary. I looked west again. The cross appeared even closer and now had a shroud draped over the cross. The police lights gave a purple look to the shroud. Mary, God was answering my prayer. Lost in thought and hope, I looked toward the cross again. It was gone as both the wind and rain moved eastward and away from the interstate. Did I see what I saw? Should I try to rest for awhile? What if another storm comes? No, this is the doubt of the devil playing with my head, trying to rationalize my faith. To make it all my imagination. After a few more moments of doubt and indecision, I pushed myself to reenter the highway. About three miles later, a sign read, "Next exit one mile, Stillwater." Yes, it was real. "He lays me beside still waters..."
I didn't have the tune in my collection, but something bought me back to Harry and his great work, "Taxi, 'It was raining hard in Frisco, I needed one more fare to make my night, a lady flagged me down...There was not much more for us to talk about, whatever we had once was see I was going to learn to fly...she took off for the floodlights and I took off for the sky. I fly so high when I'm stoned...' "
There is not much more to tell of this journey. Wyoming has nice rest areas and Utah is very scenic. I'm safe and happy in my new state and home except I forgot to add that I saw many wind farms off in the distance in Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma and also oil wells in Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wyoming as well as the known southern producers and corn fields everywhere and everywhere they grow tall.