From the time I was eight years old, when my oldest sister was married and moved away, my parents would drive every summer to California.
They saved up all year and then paid off their gas expenses once the trip was over.
We would head west from Gardner, out past Stafford Kansas to Liberal and then south. The trip usually took about three days.
Of course early on, we traveled with three kids, two adults and a car with no air conditioning.
My dad would plan the route. We would look at maps. I would hope we could stop at Meteor Crater or the Grand Canyon.
He would also make sure we stopped early in the day at a motel that was clean, safe and sometimes even had a pool.
Our goal was to get up really early and pass through the painted desert and the rest of the desert before it got too hot to travel. 120 degrees, three antsy kids and no air conditioning kept us right on plan.
I love the desert. It has a magical quality to me. From seeing it in those early morning hours to the light just coming in the windows and the beauty and color of the rocks.
I remember hearing “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells just as the sun came up over the landscape. The huge cactus standing out on the roadside and the little gift shops at the gas station filled with Native American trinkets and beautiful turquoise jewelry.
The desert has a smell all its own. Plus it has the never ending heat coming out of every rock and bit of asphalt.
Later, once my brother and sister had also left home, I was allowed to take a friend on the trips west with me. I am sure it was to keep me quiet. You learn a lot about people spending six days in a car with them. I treasured those times. I still treasure those friends.
I made the last trip with my folks when I was 21. This time we stopped at Meteor Crater. I was totally impressed. They were much older, so was I. It was a great trip, but a little sad.
Later trips as an adult to Las Vegas leave me with a longing to pack up the Mustang and head out for California. Or at least New Mexico.
Or wherever the Saguaro cactus grow
Spring has arrived in Kansas and if I am not careful, the desert will be calling to me.
I have yet to see the Grand Canyon.
Restlessness arrives with spring, I hear the calling