Portions of the vast fields patterned with black cows, patches of waterholes every now and then, rugged terrains devoid of vertical objects except for the catenary power cables that line the sideways of the highway – the Nebraska terrain is a graphic description of what deprivation of structural development is all about. The radio hiss is reminiscent of an ailing snake about to die in the middle of a sterile land, unable to detect the tiniest free FM radio frequency around. “Smoke gets in your eyes” graces the rather flavorless local AM radio station; a yesteryear song that I had last heard when a Filipino friend got drunk and boxed by hoodlums for grabbing the microphone inside a karaoke slash ladies-dancing-topless bar.
My Ukrainian friend Val calls the Nebraska moment as the wild, wild, west endless torture for road trippers. Deprived of an iPod (how could we have missed that), seeking a radio signal becomes a necessity, and when finally something is detected, it only permits a short relief and then retracts to the silence that kills. Just when our smiles reach the ears and we begin to sing along, the bliss is cut short again by the sound of static behind the next bend. Crap, Val says. Damn, I say.
It was our first road trip. Early that day, we packed some clothes, containers of mineral water and snatched some overnight food from the fridge, then hit the road for more than 15 hours of driving. Val and I decided to do just that, bolted the often-times dreadful weather of Brookings and headed to Moab, Utah, for the National Arches Park. We thought of lazing the weekend in a place where the season of spring is defined by a pleasant temperature, hiking, and a breeze that one could only wish that everything will last forever.
The journey from Denver to Moab changed my perception of road trips. Forget about the Nebraska part – the sceneries that transpired right before my eyes as we traversed the slopes near Denver were essentials for neo-phyte trippers to seeing the bigger picture of what road trips should be. It is not always about the annoying traffic or the come-and-go radio signal or the frequent breaks at rest areas for bathroom runs, road trips offer natural lures that are undeniable and most likely perpetual. There is richness to navigating the landscapes an inch at a time that is lacking from the ordeal of climbing into a plane and climbing out at your destination.
The more than an hour climb and descent on the mountain ranges near Denver were purely scenic. However, warnings of a six or seven-degree grade bothered us both when the weather turned sour at high altitudes. Snow began to fall, making the roads icy. We did have few little whirls from time to time. As we didn’t want to wind up stranded on the side of the road, equidistant to the four corners of nowhere, Val exercised his motor skills to the fullest as our two-wheel drive car raced side by side with mostly SUVs. But it took only a couple of deep breaths for us to decide we were going no further. A quick rest in one of the towns was necessary.
Along the way, we drove between mountains of high rocks. The blackish valleys that were sprinkled with snow and evergreens that stood tall made the trek much more enjoyable. We tried to soak up the scenery from different vantage points while my camera shuttered to capture every panorama.
This summer, I would take to the roads again for a vacation. Road trips would certainly offer the best summer. I would rather accumulate all those zillions of little bits and pieces of memories that gather as the miles wear on than to head on to the airport only to be disappointed for a delayed flight.
There is endless fun in the immense highway system interlacing the United States. So for foreign students (with vehicles), it is better to get behind the wheel and grind forward. Make your own road trip memories.
By the way, going back home simply doubles the fun.
Where to stay in Arches National Park, Utah.
Find your hotel accommodation using this link: Hotels.com – Save big on hotels while you explore the beauty of America’s parks!
Or search for a hotel that is within your travel budget.
Enjoy your trip!
Note: The article above was published in my SDSU Collegian weekly column way back in 2008.