Notes from the Road
There's a haunting scene in the middle of the Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona. A life-sized diorama depicts a family of forlorn-faced Dust Bowl refugees rolling slowly West along the Mother Road in a loaded-down pickup truck.
Pots and pans dangle from the side of the rickety rig and too many old suitcases balance up top. A baby pouts from under a torn blanket and a child in ratty duds perches on an overturned crate in the truck bed. Dad, suspendered, plods along beside them on foot. Blanketed in dirt, they seek a better life in California.
My family and I are headed in the opposite direction. We've driven from California to spend our spring vacation careening over this famous highway in a rented motor home. It's 80 years after the Great Depression and the current economic downturn hasn't yet incited the kind of desperation those hard-luck migrants faced.
And yet it's funny how many times during our trip we've felt like those rag-tag refugees in their rattle-trap jalopy.
RVs make a racket as they rumble and lurch down the highway, dishes clinking, metal blinds clacking, engine barking like a tubercular wolf. We pull into abandoned parking lots to throw together makeshift meals of toast and cheese, then eat them in our cramped cabin because it's too cold and windy outside to set up the folding table. We bump-thump over curbs, unaccustomed to the vehicle's exterior dimensions, and whack-smack our heads on low doorways, unaccustomed to its interior ones.
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