I love road trips. I love the freedom of packing bags with no regard to weight, loading them down with clothes and large bottles of shampoo and sharp objects. (Take that, TSA) I love packing a cooler with snacks and preparing playlists of music suitable for the road. I always take a pillow (because I am a sleeper) and a blanket (because my husband I have very different opinions of what "cold" feels like). I do not bother looking cute. Road trips are the time for yoga pants and sweatshirts. Very little makeup, if any, and a messy ponytail. I like to fit right in when we stop at truck stop restrooms.
There is something to be said for driving the same stretch of road over and over. I have traveled this road between Dallas and Nashville countless times. I love the familiarity. I love the way the flat blankness of Dallas landscape gives way to the towering pine trees of East Texas and then to the rolling hills of Arkansas and West Tennessee. I love that the trip is broken up into almost perfect quarters. Three hours to Texarkana, three to Little Rock, three to Memphis, three to Nashville... with lingering stops, anyway.
There are memories all along these highways. Soulman's BBQ, the barn-like restaurant with a red roof where I have always wanted to stop but never had the time. The spot in Mt Pleasant where I ran out of gas, and had to call the local police station for help. The rest area where I spent the night in my old mini-van, wrapped in a newly-purchased blanket from Walmart, because I was too tired to keep driving. Brown's Family Restaurant in Benton, Arkansas where I changed my nephew's dirty diaper on the table next to us because they did not have changing stations in the bathroom. I do bold things when I am angry. The motel in Hazen, Arkansas where I met my dad and brother to pick up my nephews from them. I left Tennessee a childless woman and I returned a mother of three. The exit in Jackson that leads to Union University where we visited Mary her first year in college. The Steak 'n Shake in Germantown that became a regular stop for me thanks to the double chocolate fudge sundae shake. Sinful. The hotel I stayed in with Mary and Elisa on our trip to bring baby Cody to join his big brothers in Tennessee. The weigh station on the outskirts of Nashville where Craig and I discovered (on moving day) that my U-Haul was overloaded and where we accidentally tore the bumper off of my old Ford Focus. That was a memorable trip. Dodging tornadoes and listening to radio weather warnings and sirens all the way through northern Arkansas with my mom. Hearing Kid Rock's Only God Knows Why for the first time and deciding that I liked it. Dozens of meals and experiences and memories and stops in between for water, m&m's (my favorite travel snack since childhood), leg stretching, restroom breaks, coffee, diaper changing breaks.
Today this trip looks different. I have no children to tend to. I have never made this drive with Jake before. We are driving the world's smallest rental car. So far, he has chosen the music, and my ears have endured hours of 90's rock. That's what love does. It makes you listen to Everclear, Tonic, and Counting Crows when you want to listen to Mindy Smith. This is where our age difference shows up, by the way. Here and on our birth certificates. That's about all. But we are stopping at new places and making new memories to add to my collection. And I am sleeping off and on, thankful that I am not the one needing cup after cup of caffeine to make it through. So I say goodbye to Texas and to being thirty-five. Bring on thirty-six... I am not afraid of it. Bring on the fun. Bring on Nashville. Bring on the road.
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Location:Somewhere on I-40