Some observations on our 1,900-mile drive to Tucson, Arizona:
On I-70 in the heart of Illinois, it seemed that I was passing (and sometimes getting passed) by truck after truck. An 18-wheel convoy.
At one random point, I started counting the semi-trucks and cars coming the opposite direction. When I got to 100 trucks, I was only at 46 cars. The big boys were definitely winning on this piece of road.
I guess it is America’s economy on the move. And I’m very OK with that — except when one of those 18-wheelers pulls into the passing lane right in front of me and does one of those three-minute passes around a couple of other trucks.
I still think Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, has to be one of the most bizarre names of any U.S. town. The locals call it T or C, which certainly is not the same mouthful as the formal version.
It used to be called Hot Springs until 1950 when Ralph Edwards of the Truth or Consequences radio game show said he would broadcast the 10th anniversary celebration of the show at any town that would change its name to Truth or Consequences. And the former Hot Springs citizens did.
So it remains my all-time unusual name — until the nearby town of Elephant Butte drops its final “e.”
The big cities we had to navigate through were St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque.
So what would you guess would be the smallest of those four cities? Bet you are not going to get it.
OK, OK it’s St. Louis, the 75th largest city in the U.S. with a population of about 286,000. Oklahoma City now has almost 700,000 and is the 20th largest city and is followed by Albuquerque (32nd at 561,000) and Tulsa (47th at 412,00).
Most people think St. Louis is much bigger than it is, partly because of it having a major league baseball team (I forget their nickname), the giant Gateway Arch that welcomes you from afar and possibly Anheuser-Busch. Ironically, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the country before the 20th century.
And that is your history lesson for the day.
We walked into a Love’s Travel Stop somewhere in New Mexico to cash in the Subway gift card my younger son gave me for Christmas. The young woman who made our sandwiches had a name tag that read Tennessee.
“Is that where you’re from or your name?” I asked.
“My name,” she answered.
“Any story behind you being named Tennessee?”
“My Mom just liked it.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Do you by chance have a sister named Arkansas?”
She just gave me a puzzled look as she put too much mustard on my sandwich. I guess she never heard of the silly state song that includes: “What did Tennessee? Same as Arkansas.”
Hey, Perry Como sang it — in case you’re old enough to remember him.
Oklahoma is one of the cleanest states I’ve passed through — at least from the view you get from the interstates.
When you pass out of Oklahoma and into the Texas Panhandle, you don’t need a welcome sign. You just know it.
I hate to pick on the Panhandle again (I did last year as well) because Amarillo, in the region’s heart, is a pretty neat city. Yet the Panhandle shows off too many broken down businesses, too much road litter and a cattle farm right beside Interstate 40 that you can literally smell for more than five miles.
This was meant to be a compliment for Oklahoma, instead of me “panning” you know where. Go Okies!
When we finally made it to Tucson, we needed to stock up on groceries and went to a Safeway grocery. It’s a great store but we have avoided it in years past. It was like a dark cloud hung over it.
A little more than 13 years ago, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was critically wounded from an assassin’s bullet just outside this Safeway.
Six people were killed, including 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the granddaughter of former Chicago Cubs general manager Dallas Green. She was born on 9/11 and would be 22 now if she had survived.
It’s surreal to walk through the very parking lot where this massacre happened. I can’t help but be both mad and sad that this kind of tragedy happens far too often in our country.
Outside that Safeway, I’ve bought Girl Scout cookies from little girls the same age as Christina was when she died there. If only we could keep all the little girls — and little boys — safe from madmen with guns.
It’s pleasing to get back to the Land of the Saguaros, those giant cacti that only grow in in this part of the country. Some can get as high as 70 feet and live for 175 years. That means some of them pre-date the Civil War.
What stories they could tell — Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate, Geronimo and on and on.
They are also the homes to many birds and other critters. They can also prick the heck out of you if you try to get too friendly.
That’s all for now. Because you are getting pretty nice weather back in Indiana, I don’t feel too bad telling you it’s going to be 74 here tomorrow.