Adieu Denver, Again

Well, I'm leaving Colorado again. The best part of the drive is the stretch on a little-known road between Elizabeth and I-70 that cuts through rolling farm and horse country. Once you escape the sprawl of Parker, you start going over snow-covered crests dotted with the shadows of cows, silos, and yellow grainy pokey-upeys. There's something about the ground in Colorado that I've never seen anywhere else. It almost has a pinkish hue, or maybe just a movement, like the land is someone lying down and continuously stretching under the mountains. Whatever it is, this hour and a half of the drive makes me feel something less touched by tires and tired, and more peacefully absorbable than the ordinary surprises nestled in the nooks of small town America. Then you hit the asphalt highway and it's straight on till Kansas City suburban morning.

There are other ways to get to Louisiana. I think I've driven there 28 times (at least twice a year, seven years, back and forth, like most things, a coming and a going, without being sure which one is which).

Through Northern Texas: small towns like Kermit, Goodnight, and Happy (I love whoever named these), are havens of bad coffee, far-too-reduced speed zones, and overweight overly-friendly diner/casino staff members who serve you rubber eggs when your car breaks down on the two-lane curve between Dalhart and Dumas and the only beacon in sight is the yellow letters spelling out "RESTAURANT" in dusky nothingness.

Through Tulsa: cheap deals on places that house your hound for a night, mediocre Mexican food, strip malls galore. (For the reputation that preceded it, I really don't have much to say about Tulsa, and I only drove through there once, without regards to returning.)

Through Stuttgart, Arkansas: geese like the eleventh plague coming up over wet rice paddy fields, a Thai restaurant to rival Tommy's, and an outfitters store so huge, I literally took a nap in one of their tents before seeing the whole store and checking out.

Through Austin: where if it's a summer without a flood, you can swim up and down a dammed river, clear as Cerulean cellophane, called Barton Springs/Heaven on Earth, but then it's a looong fifteen hour drive till you see the wink of snow on Pikes Peak and know you're almost home. Cerulean. Cerulean. Cerulean. Comes from Latin for sky. Lovely.

But I like this way, down near Elizabeth, where you rarely see another car, and you forget for a little bit about nostalgia and how it hurts to leave someone behind, because you've also left behind the banality of parallel yellow and Park Meadows, and you're keeping company with the lines of someone's else's labor, the small shoots of corn or wheat or whatever it is, inching upwards with life through white as far as you can see.

This is my winter road trip order: a piece of Colorado pie on the eastern skyline, with my pup, coffee cup, and the mountains pulling me incessantly back.