Neon Leaves, Burma Shave, Dodgers Fans

Published 9:13 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

BARSTOW, Calif. — As accomplishments go, maybe this one doesn’t rank on the earth-shaking, history-making lists.

Last week, Elizabeth and I finished driving the entire length of Interstate 40, from Wilmington to Barstow, 2,554 miles. It took us 12 years to cobble together our piece-meal endeavor.

No bands played when we crossed the finish line. No cheerleaders. In fact, there wasn’t even a road sign to designate the end of I-40 on its western terminus. There is a handsome sign in Wilmington. North Carolina is better at signs.

We went to see the grandsons, formerly of Illinois and now of Fresno, Calif., land of the fruits and nuts, sunshine and smog. California was different and wonderful. Police ticket drivers for merely holding their cellphones. It’s very hot, even in late October.

We had driven as far as Oklahoma City five years ago to deliver a car to the second born son, about 1,100 miles.

Why not finish the drive across America?

We flew to Oklahoma City, renewing my affection for that state, rented a car, and struck out on I-40, veering off  occasionally on the parallel Route 66. We had to post about 450 miles a day, but we took sight-seeing jaunts onto the slower “Mother Road” along the way.

We passed the Wiley Post Airport at Bethany, OK, named for the first aviator to fly solo around the world. He died in a 1935 crash which also claimed his fellow Oklahoman and friend, Will Rogers.

We spotted a statue of a longhorn bull in Yukon, OK, home of country singer Garth Brooks, and Yukon Flour, which has a grand sign on a granary.

We drove through the prairie and into the arid Texas panhandle, where we tried to distinguish among a canyon, arroyo, gulch, ravine, wadi and a dry wash. What we didn’t see was much water. We saw plenty of dry stream beds — washes — which only have water when it rains.

We spent a night in Tucumcari, NM, at the quaint Blue Swallow Inn on Route 66. The inn features a massive neon welcoming sign. The bathroom door didn’t latch, and I had to hold it shut with my foot, but the experience was delightful. The shower delivered a Niagara Falls quality surge of water.

We ate breakfast nearby at Kix, as in “get your kicks on Route 66.”

In Albuquerque, we drove to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain overlooking the town to see the city spreading out in the valley. We spotted mule tale deer, a western blue jay and a western bluebird. In Arizona, a road runner sprinted across the highway in front of me.

After disappointing fall colors at home, we saw neon yellow aspens and big leaf maples, pink-hued dogwoods and black oaks in brilliant colors.

We arrived in Barstow in time to catch the second game of the World Series at a sports bar beside the hotel. I found myself surrounded by fellow Dodgers fans and joined in their loud chants. “Lets go, Dodgers!” When the Dodgers hit a homer, we all slapped high-fives and I had a dozen new best friends, all well lubricated.

With the Dodgers seemingly safely ahead, Elizabeth and I, weary from three days on the road, rose to go.

“You leaving?” My new buddies were incredulous.

I had to state my Dodgers bona fides: “Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale.”

Those friendly barflies weren’t born when the Los Angeles hurlers from my youth ruled the mound.

The Dodgers lost in the 10th inning. My new friends probably blamed my early exit.

In Arizona, we left busy I-40 for a near-empty Route 66 and encountered a string of Burma Shave signs promoting traffic safety. Like these:

He didn’t stop

As the fast train neared;

Death didn’t draft him;

He volunteered.

Burma Shave

Passing cars

When you can’t see

May give you a glimpse

Of Eternity

Burma Shave