On the Road Again

by Kieran Healy on July 23, 2004

After a year of leave in Australia (well, _someone_ has to act as a counterweight to all those Aussie backpackers), I just arrived back in the U.S. Three observations:

* It should not surprise you that making a c.1 year-old boy watch the in-flight TV system for six hours of a Sydney-to-Los Angeles flight would lead to emotional problems (viz, crying, screaming, kicking) for the following six hours. It seemed to surprise the parents of the c.1 year-old boy sitting next to us, however.

* A clear-eyed assessment of Los Angeles International Airport (e.g., by Martians) would conclude that it is a machine designed to produce unhappy, stressed-out people by means of multiple queues, unnecessary bottlenecks, pointless dumping of international transfer passengers out onto the sidewalk, and other more sophisticated methods.

* What the hell is “Hooters”:http://www.hooters.com/ doing with an “airline”:http://www.hootersair.com/? When I saw the jet trundle by on the runway I thought I was hallucinating.

After spending the next few days recovering from jetlag, I’m going to drive from South Carolina to Arizona, probably along I-40. (I have to do this, for various reasons.) Any advice? Apart from “Book a flight instead”, I mean.



cleek 07.23.04 at 7:47 pm

i had a friend who was a pilot for HootersAir. he quit in order to take a more lucrative job flying charters out of Saudi Arabia. lunacy.


J. Ellenberg 07.23.04 at 7:59 pm

I think you should see the Voting Rights Museum, one of the many plantation houses in MS or LA, and White Sands National Monument; all should be more or less on your way. Liendo’s in Hempstead, TX (about an hour west of Houston) and the Elite Restaurant in Jackson, MS are both worthwhile places to stop for a meal.

I haven’t seen the massive art installations in Marfa, TX, but they’re supposed to be pretty amazing, and driving between the East Coast and the Southwest is about the only reason you’d be in the area.


abb1 07.23.04 at 8:06 pm

Go see some canyons. Especially Bryce in Utah. Not on I40, but not too far.


Max 07.23.04 at 8:09 pm

Re: Hooters you’re obviously not keeping abreast of developments in the U.S.




arthur 07.23.04 at 8:24 pm

I-40? If you want lots of interesting conversations along the way, get a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker.


arthur 07.23.04 at 8:37 pm

On I-40, to create interesting encounters with the natives, I recommend a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker.


eszter 07.23.04 at 8:46 pm

Welcome back!

When I once drove from Tucson to Princeton (no, really, I did that once!) I started out on I-10. It was great, because I accidentally (read: not at all planned) bumped into the Chiricahua National Monument. I realize by the time you’d get there you’ll just want to get home so this is not such a helpful recommendation.. but if not on this trip, I highly recommend visiting it at some point. It’s not that far from where you live. And it’s absolutely breathtaking.

But regarding the route, it worked well to drive east on I-10 and then link into I-20. In Dallas, we switched to I-30 and then to I-40 in Little Rock. Depending on where you are in SC, you could just take I-20 across, but maybe that’s a really crazy idea this time of year. My drive was exactly this time of year as well, four years ago. As long as you have air conditioning it should be okay, and really, it’s not like Tennessee will be that much less painful. If you take I-20 all the way, I guess you’ll likely pass by more places that you’ll otherwise probably never visit. (I don’t know if that’s a pro or a con comment thought.;)

Regardless, I would definitely start heading a bit South once you get to Arkansas. There is a bit of a dip too South near El Paso, but otherwise you’re going unnecessarily North, it seems, if you take I-40 all the way across (assuming I was reading your note correctly).


Brey 07.23.04 at 8:54 pm

In Albuquerque you can visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, or National Atomic Museum. Oh yeah, New Mexican food is not like Mexican food. And, Green is usually hotter than red.


Stacy 07.23.04 at 9:07 pm

You should stop for a FREE 72oz steak in Amarillo, TX!

[small print: you have to eat the whole steak, plus an appetizer, salad, and baked potato in one hour, otherwise it’s $50]

[slightly larger print: No I don’t know this first hand. I have, however, seen billboards for it as far away as eastern Oklahoma and the website.


dipnut 07.23.04 at 9:10 pm

Go to Sandia Crest, elevation 10,678′. The turnoff is North Hwy. 14 (Tijeras), about fifteen miles East of Albuquerque. Follow the signs; the road to the Crest itself is 536.

Detour is about 1/2 hour one way (helluva lot closer than White Sands). The view is magnificent, and the air is 20 degrees cooler than on the prairie.


jgl 07.23.04 at 9:11 pm

Since j. ellenberg brought up Marfa, I feel compelled to mention the hilarious John Waters poster, “Visit Marfa” that is currently featured on the cover of Artforum. “The Jonestown of Mimimalism” is my favorite bit. Go to http://www.artforum.com/inprint/id=6937 and click on the image at left.


digamma 07.23.04 at 9:52 pm

I’m going to drive from South Carolina to Arizona, probably along I-40. (I have to do this, for various reasons.) Any advice?
It might be worth dropping ten bucks on Next Exit: The Most Complete Interstate Highway Guide Ever Printed – it’s basically a list of every exit on every Interstate in the US with the nearby gas stations and restaurants.


digamma 07.23.04 at 9:55 pm

I’m going to drive from South Carolina to Arizona, probably along I-40. (I have to do this, for various reasons.) Any advice?
It might be worth dropping ten bucks on Next Exit: The Most Complete Interstate Highway Guide Ever Printed – it’s basically a list of every exit on every Interstate in the US with the nearby gas stations and restaurants.


Hank 07.23.04 at 10:00 pm

I’ve never driven that route, but having done a similarly long drive from Minnesota to San Francisco, I would recommend staying off the freeway as much as possible. We drove freeway in part of Nebraska and between Sacramento and SF. Other than that it was 2-lane the whole way. All freeways are the same; see America from the backroads.


q 07.23.04 at 10:38 pm

Make sure you don’t fall asleep at the wheel – it is possible on those straight roads to get hypnotised into sleep – who knows where you will end up.


jam 07.23.04 at 10:46 pm

Yeah. LAX is possibly the worst airport in the US. I don’t think it needs a Martian to discern this. After a while, I refused to fly in or out of it. If I was going to the area, I’d go via Long Beach, John Wayne or Burbank. Next time you have to fly back from Australia, try going through SFO instead.


Chris Martin 07.23.04 at 11:02 pm

Having taken both I-20 and I-40 across the country, I would highly recommend I-20. On I-40 you have both potholes and truckers to deal with.


Sean 07.24.04 at 12:38 am

For long car trips by yourself, books on tape are great, especially old poems. Nothing better than hearing classics of the oral tradition read out loud. You can find the Iliad read by Derek Jacobi, the Odyssey by Ian McKellen, and Beowulf by Seamus Heaney.


Ben Hyde 07.24.04 at 3:58 am

http://roadfood.com/ and the related books.


J. Ellenberg 07.24.04 at 6:08 pm

Second Ben Hyde’s recommendation of the Jane and Michael Stern books; when we drove across, _Eat your Way Across the USA_ was our main guidebook. _Road Trip USA_ is also first-rate if you’re willing to venture off the interstate.

By the way, I didn’t read carefully and didn’t notice you were taking I-40; so sorry about my first set of recommendations, which contemplated a more southern route.


nick 07.25.04 at 7:49 am

I-40? Stop in Asheville. Or at least visit the Biltmore Estate. Asheville is an oasis of artsy Volvo-driving, yoga-stretching liberalism in… well, in the South. And it’s Bele Chere this weekend, so you get to see it in its full glory.


Darkwater 07.26.04 at 5:57 am

If you do the I-40 route, I’d second the recommendations for the Big Texan and Sandia Crest.
The food at the Big Texan is good, and they do a remarkable job of getting it to you in a timely manner, considering how large the restaurant and kitchen are. (Plus, you can stay the night there at the relatively inexpensive motel and partake of the cheap beer.)
Sandia Crest would be a great break between the boredom of eastern NM and the boredom of western NM. If you’re looking for a meal in ABQ, I’d recommend Flying Star for lunch and/or desert (4 locations, scattered around the city) and Sadie’s (West on Osuna from I-25, North on N 4th from I-40) for a great New Mexican dinner.
If you like very large arrays, I’d recommend leaving I-40 and heading through western NM and AZ on US 60 and visiting the Very Large Array radio telescope, west of Magdalena, NM. US 60 is also a nice way to get from Albuquerque to Phoenix without the truck traffic.
If you go on I-40 through AZ, I’d recommend stopping off in Flagstaff – it’s just about the highest (and therefore coolest) place along the way and the downtown has an amazing group of stores and microbreweries for a city its size.

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