Last week, we left Lawrence, Kansas, heading straight south on Highway 59 to Highway 56 West. We love taking anything but an interstate. The landscapes are varied, and seeing small-town America is impressive.
We left town around noon, and heading west, we shook off the business of our visit. We started May with a birthday party and a class reunion that we helped organize, and then we found ourselves in a big grading project at our son's house that was pretty challenging, and I'm glad to say the results are excellent. It felt good to get on the road, sip some coffee, and head west toward Moreno Valley, New Mexico.
Driving across the country has become a genuine love for me. We've always made road trips as a family. When our kids were growing up, we loaded the station wagon inside and out with gear and headed out almost every year. We visited the Dakotas, Utah, Colorado, The Grand Teton range, and more. But those days required way more work on my part, and we always had a schedule to keep. Now, the driving position is more responsibility, but we have all the time in the world. And, no kids. For instance, we planned four days to get to Moreno Valley. That's twice the time we would have allowed compared to back in the day. We drive our rig no faster than sixty miles per hour, compared to an average of eighty-two or three when we were in the wagon.
We drove until Hutchinson, Kansas, stopping at a Walmart to spend the night in the parking lot. We ran in, picked up some things, and had popcorn for supper. Sometimes it's just more fun that way. Walmart parking lots are convenient to stop at when traveling on the road, but they can be full of traffic noise. Thanks to the radiant barrier window shades Christina made, the surrounding lights are no problem. It's impressive how dark it is inside Luna with the shades down.
Driving further west, we spent our second night at No Man's Land Regional Park in the Oklahoma panhandle. We stopped early in the day, so we could time our final drive into Moreno Valley and arrive at noon. The pasture we stay in can be a little overgrown; we wanted time to clear our parking spot. We drove from the Oklahoma panhandle west into New Mexico, taking Highway 64 into Cimarron Canyon, a long steady climb with many twists, turns, switchbacks, and eye-popping rock walls on both sides. A cascading stream runs at the bottom of the canyon and several campgrounds can be found with hikers and fishermen/women enjoying the space. The canyon is a two-handed drive. No chilling in cruise control sipping coffee. This drive burns a lot of fuel and requires constant attention to the narrow road. Add to that several trees grow out over the road precariously close to Luna's roofline. The little van pulled like a champ, and the temperature needle never left the normal mark. Rolling out of Cimarron Canyon, Moreno Valley came into view, with Eagle Nest in front of us. Home away from home. We drove the seven miles to Squash Blossom Road and parked up the hill from the pasture gate. Walking down to the gate, we immediately felt the effects of the thin high, elevation air. We were happy to find our parking spot in great shape, and the pile of extra firewood I left here two years ago was still there.
We've been here four nights now. It's magic. Highs in the mid-sixties during the day, freezing at night. The wind blows like crazy, so hard we don't even put the awnings out. It rains almost daily, but usually only for a few minutes and not hard enough to wet the ground. The views are vast. When we sit outside and finish our day, Mt. Wheeler is our evening view. Walking with Indie means we wear a jacket and hat, and the air is so dry we seldom break a sweat.
Our life together is full of good fortune. This journey has always been challenging, more work than you would imagine, but the landscapes and drives are full of wonder. We'll stay here until late August, when we drive back to Kansas, so I can lead the Donderdag! Program. But for now, our little house is quiet, cozy, and in a spot meant for living free. The best feeling ever.