I don’t know what it is about long car trips. On one hand, a road trip is exciting and adventurous, but on the other hand, it’s draining and sometimes scary, and you need another week of vacation to recuperate from your vacation.

I’m getting ready to make a road trip back to Tennessee, and although it’s not a route with which I’m unfamiliar there was usually something fresh and new about the trip.

There are some unique things along the road if you’re paying attention.

For instance, if you head east on 40 you’ll see one of the oddest sites you ever will see, just a few miles this side of Amarillo. Well, not that odd considering it’s in Texas. People call it Cadillac Ranch, a line of nine or ten Cadillac cars buried at an angle – nose down, fins up – in the middle of a field near the interstate.

Word-of-mouth legend has it that whenever this eccentric millionaire rancher would buy a Cadillac he would bury the old one, halfway down in the ground. That’s a great story but it’s entirely true, but as the old newspaper saw goes, if the legend is more interesting than the truth, print the legend.

Since inquiring minds want to know (after a couple of clicks on the mouse) I find that it was created in 1974 by three fellows who were a part of the art group Ant Farm as a public art installation, to show how the Cadillac fins evolved from 1949 to 1963.

Incidentally, Amarillo, besides being the subject matter of a great old George Strait song, is also home to one of those restaurants that advertise a 72-ounce steak, which is free if you can eat in one hour.

Anyway, I’m taking Interstate 40 all the way to Nashville.

I heard a John Hiatt song once where he sang about driving his daughter to college from Nashville to Colorado, marveling at the great expanse of the American continent, and somehow worked in the names Ward Bond and Rowdy Yates. Being raised on TV westerns in the 50s and 60s, I totally get the reference to show Wagon Train, a must-see for me every Wednesday night back then.

When you’re racing across the prairie at 70 miles an hour your mind wanders to the 1800s and tries to imagine how tough it was for those wagon trains and cattle drives.

I guess we’re a pampered lot nowadays.

We have rest stops and gas stations and convenience stores. We can stop and sleep at motels with clean sheets and lay our heads on soft pillows. I sometimes wonder how many different people have slept on those same pillows and wonder if other people’s dreams get mixed in with mine, or if I am dreaming someone’s leftover dream.

You also try to eat well on the road but it seems to always come back to a can of Pringles, beef jerky or a sandwich packaged in a plastic triangle, and even though you start out planning to have an extra bag handy for trash there’s a mess of crumbs and wrappers all over the front seat. As well as the front of your shirt, even though you think you’re being careful not to make a mess but every time you get out for at a rest stop you have to shake the crumbs off your front.

And forget about the back seat. After a few hundred miles, things just get flung back there.

The one aforementioned scary thing about a long road trip is heavy traffic on an unfamiliar stretch of highway, especially the farther east you go. And I’m mainly talking about the abundance of big ol’ Kenworths, Freightliners and Peterbilts.

There are at least three carved-in-granite rules of the road that I have come to learn.

  1. When you’re getting ready to pass a semi, another car suddenly appears in the left lane and you can’t pass until the other vehicle does so.
  2. When you are able to pass a row of semis, thinking you’ll have a clear road ahead, you immediately are behind another row of semis.
  3. When you are in an unfamiliar city, the green overhead highway signs for which lane to get into are blocked by a semi in front of you.

And have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

I’ve got my Toyota pony all saddled and spurred, and although I don’t have a plastic Jesus I do have a Día de Muertos bobble-head figurine on the dashboard of my car, so all is good.

At any rate, Music City, USA is fun, but in the end, I remembered one of the best reasons for living here in Socorro County.

Not too many people. Or semis.