I’ve Been Everywhere, Man
Crossed the deserts bare, man, I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,
Of travel I’ve had my share, man, I’ve been everywhere!”
The above is Johnny’s Cash’s ode to travel. In May and June, I think my husband and I gave Johnny a run for his money when we traveled from Arizona to New York to Virginia to Texas and back home.
After traveling through the Navajo nation of Northern Arizona, we drove Route 66 and stayed the night at a vintage hotel in Tucumcari, New Mexico with a prop airplane plunked out on the front lawn. (Why not!) After passing an enormous wind farm near Amarillo, Texas that went on for miles, we headed north to Oklahoma City where we viewed the memorial for the victims of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. (It will be 20 years in 2015.) The memorial is stunning. A wall displays the time of 9:01 when all was well. A second wall shows the time as 9:03 when everything was rubble and America had changed forever. The victims are memorialized by lighted chairs representing a time when they would have sat down with their families for a meal together. Heartbreaking.
Kansas City was a nice surprise. The parking garage for the main downtown library has a mural of some of the world’s most influential books. It is also the site of America’s only WWI museum where I found my great grandfather’s WWI and WWII draft registration cards in its archives. The main railroad station has been restored to its former glory and now acts as a science center where we saw a King Tut exhibit.
After stopping at a prairie-restoration project in the Flint Hills of Kansas, we toured the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. Three enormous hangars house planes from Wilbur and Orville’s time through Viet Nam and the missiles of the Cold War. I saw my favorite WWII plane, the B-17 Flying Fortress, and my husband climbed into the cockpit of a jet and pretended he was a fighter pilot.
Oh, how I wish the Pittsburgh Pirates had been in town when we visited their ballpark. Absolutely the best ballpark in the country! (I thought Camden Yards in Baltimore was until I saw Three Rivers Stadium.)
I returned to the family “homeplace” of Minooka, PA (now a part of Scranton) where my parents grew up and where I am researching a non-fiction book. We inched our way across my home state of New Jersey so that we could go into New York City to see the 9-11 Museum and Liberty Tower. From there, we headed out to Long Island and a visit with my husband’s brothers. On Fire Island, if you can ignore the surfers and beachball players nearby, you can almost picture what it was like before the Long Island Expressway opened up the island from Queens to Montauk to millions of commuters and vacationers.
We arrived in Virginia’s Piedmont area in time to see my granddaughter receive a medal to commemorate her first season as an outfielder for the Duffield Eagles. My daughter lives 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store, and if you want to do some serious shopping, you have to drive to Kingsport, Tennessee (an hour away) and listen to people from Virginia complain about Tennessee sales taxes!
We spent the next day in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids, going to Ripley’s Aquarium where Kaelyn and I got to pet Noel, a South African penguin. The feathers on its wings are so dense, they feel like paddles! This may have been the highlight of my trip.
After saying goodbye to Meg and family, with my granddaughter in tow, we headed to Texas to visit my sisters in Dallas and Austin (by way of a stop the National Park museum dedicated to the Little Rock 9, those young black teenagers who spearheaded the desegregation of Central High School in 1957). Twenty-four days and more than six-thousand miles later, we pulled into our driveway.
You are probably asking, what does all this have to do with an Austen blog? Here’s the answer: While I was traveling through all these cities and states, I thought about all the friends I have made because of Jane Austen. Although this trip did not allow time for “visiting,” I thought about Kara Louise in Kansas, Billie in Illinois, Jakki and Angie in Ohio, Lucy in Oklahoma, Anna in Maryland, and Janet in Texas, and so many, many more. I kept saying, “I know someone who lives in ________” so often to my husband that it became a running joke between us. (We were in the teeniest town in Arkansas, and my husband asked if I knew anyone there. For once, I didn’t.)
Because of our dear Jane, I have friends all over the United States. It was a great road trip, made all the more enjoyable because I felt good vibrations from Austen fans all along the trail.
To paraphrase Johnny Cash, Austen is everywhere, man!
How’s your summer going? I would love to read your comments.