I'm a city girl. The America that I know is tall buildings, neighborhoods tightly packed with houses, the constant rumble of cars, nature experience only when you walk to the park, or climb the tree on the parking strip.
Road trips give me a small glimpse into the rest of the world, the America that exists outside of my city-bubble. Because really, that's what cities are. They're little bubbles or pockets of people, people everywhere.
Rolling hills of grass, yellowed by the August sun, not getting enough water. Green trees contrasting the grass. Old houses, old cars, big billboards advertising things that people probably rarely use or buy or go to. Big green highway signs, produce stands nestled just off the road, cherries for 5$, 'We have avocados!', u-pick blueberries. Towns glimpsed from the highway, signs saying wrong way, do not pass, exit next left, dirt roads, green street signs perched atop stop signs. Hot sun streaming into the backseat, fluffy white clouds ringing the circle of sky I can see from the ground To one side, mostly flat land, to the other, oxymoronic (?) tiny mountains, perhaps classified as big hills. Exit 20 M.P.H., tiny lakes, barns, identical houses all in a row. White siding, gray roof, brown fence. Power lines edging the road, a roadside Dairy Queen, a motor home parked in the parking lot. A rusty car, a beat up truck, a cool orchard of fruit trees, all in a row.
My reflection clear in the window, my hands shadow clear on the paper. Bizarre roadside contraptions I couldn't begin to figure out. Cool shade just for seconds at a time, speed 45, McDonald's next left, pickup trucks, motor homes, community college, movie theater. Cookie-cutter houses, roadside museums, clouds creeping in. Antiques, hay bales, winding roads, dirt driveways, brief forests full of green trees and blessed shade.
And then we're in the city again, but not my city. And it's full of tall buildings and people everywhere, and stores, and pay-to-park signs, and trees on parking strips. And people dancing in the park that used to be a parking lot, and pizza places that make their own fruit soda, and hipster colleges and famous bookstores. And an old man yelling about the end of the world while his dog looks resigned, and people clamoring about petitions, and frozen yogurt, and the farmers market and a street filled with food trucks.
And then we're off again, and we cross the border back to my state, and it's rush hour and familiar trees and yellowed grass. And then it's wondering about license plates and finishing books, and pink turtle window stickers, and bumper stickers loudly stating opinions, and no-parking-tow-away-zone signs.
And then it's home again, back to a familiar city, with familiar buildings. Familiar trees and road construction and businesses and cars and jokes. Home again, home again after a brief adventure in another state.