Cross Country Day 23, 24 & 25 – Across the Heartland

This week we drove across the heartland of America, from Farmington, New Mexico through Texas, Oklahoma and into Arkansas. As we drove, we slowly descended back into the lowlands. If I didn’t know better, I would believe that the flat, high desert of New Mexico (el. 5,000 ft), the plains of Amarillo, Texas (el. 3,000 ft) and the prairie of Oklahoma (el. 1200 ft) all rest at an elevation lower than the rolling hills of Tariffville, Connecticut (el. 185 ft). Even the “valley” of Phoenix, AZ sits at 1100 feet above sea level! Another educational moment from this trip: we Farmington valley people are genuine lowlanders. 

Our stops across the heartland ranged from the silliness of the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, where we trudged through a field of ankle deep mud to spray paint cars stuck nose first into a grassy field, to the solemn Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial site where we quietly observed 168 chairs (19 of them child size) representing the lives lost in that tragedy, to the small town of Checotah, OK, home to country music star, Carrie Underwood.

We especially enjoyed our brief visit to Checotah, quintescential smalltown, middle America. We took plenty of pictures and ate at the Sonic she sings about in “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore.” By the way, Sonics are everywhere out here. And I mean everywhere! It’s like there is some “Get a Zip Code & Get a Sonic” deal going on. In certain towns, I think the entire population could pull up and order dinner all at once, and a few stalls might still be empty.

With our sneakers still covered in mud, we decided to dig for diamonds at the Crater Diamond State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. We brought home a bag of rocks worth about 8 cents and that includes the value of the paper bag. The good news: we had fun and our sneakers are now clean thanks to high pressure rinse stations at the park. Soaking wet…but clean!

Driving across the country and back is quite the experience. One of these days I want to give you a little “day in the life” post; maybe tomorrow!  We were cautioned by many people to fly or to fly and then drive part way, but I really wanted to drive the WHOLE country. Sure there are some BORING sections. One of our theme songs for the road is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”; we sing at the top of our lungs when we get to the line “it goes on and on and on and on!” But the boring moments, the exciting moments, the frustrating, peaceful, hilarious, exhausting and exhilarating moments are all part of the experience. 

Belief and experience are two very different things. I have always believed America is big, but watching thousands upon thousands of miles zoom past my window, marvelling at the landscape’s diversity and then waiting and waiting and waiting for it to change, visiting so many amazing sites that we wear ourselves out and regretting the zillion more we don’t have time to see, this is experiencing America’s vastness. Before I believed but now I know. My faith has become sight.

I could write you a sermonette on how this relates to life and God – how this illustrates the difference between our belief in God’s love, mercy, grace, justice and faithfulnees and our experience of all these things. I could tell you that maybe…sometimes…God takes us on a long journeys so we can do more than just believe in Him, we can know Him. And I would encourage you to think about what this means to you and the road you’re travelling today. But I don’t want to get all preachy on you, so I won’t go there  😉

Cross Country Day 21 – 4 Corners … Silly, silly mommy

 

Note the size of the houses and the road in the distance to get an idea of the size of the rocks.

A cross country road trip, ours anyway, is a vacation in the car. As we like to say, this is our “land cruise.” A sampling of America. On Tuesday, it was already time to head to New Mexico. Driving through the painted desert and Navajo Nation in the northwest corner of Arizona was stunning. The giant, unpredictable rock formations reminded us of the badlands, but with green desert plants growing on the tops. Some of the rocks were giant “mesas” that took miles and miles to get around. Others jutted out of the earth in all sorts of shapes. One looked remarkably like the Emerald City, (see it on my FB profile page), another like a greek temple.

Earlier that morning I called Four Corners Monument and found out that they were closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for construction. The only three days we are going to be in New Mexico. I can not express my disappointment, not only for me, but for my girls who have looked forward to this for a long time. And why in the world are they closed for construction during the summer season, even the week of July 4th?! My beloved coworker’s voice echoes in my head ” Ours is not to question why. Ours is just to do or die.”

Well, we decided to drive there anyway. We couldn’t even get close to the monument, but just as we were leaving the office lady pulled up and Doug convinced her to let us in to see it for five short minutes. He is quite the negotiator.

The actual monument, where the four corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona supposedly meet, was

Well, not quite what we had in mind. You can see a couple of the signs in this pic.

completely fenced off with a locked gate and several warning signs. I can not tell you how badly I tried to convince everyone that we could shimmy through the loosely fitted gate. (And we definitely could have fit!) Doug, and even the girls, kept insisting this was a bad idea. I can not imagine why.

So what stopped me? Nothing other than my conviction that I would be setting a bad example for my children. I must be getting old; some may call it maturity, but I’m not so sure. 20 years ago…maybe even 10 or 15 years ago, I would’ve been through that gate without a second thought. Oh well. Somewhere in the far, far, far, far, far…..far distance I hear a voice telling me I did the right thing. I think.

Closing up after we left - seriously, we had permission!

Tonight when Christina complained because we wouldn’t allow her to swim in a cold and unclean pool, I told her that sometimes we have to accept disappointment; sometimes we have to do what is best, safe and right, even when we don’t want to and sometimes we need other people to help us do the right thing…like not breaking into construction zones on private property. That got a big smile and no more arguments about the pool.

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