2000 miles on American Roads in 5 days
"I want to see America," I told Graham talking about going to see his family in St. Louis, a city one thousand miles from our home in New York. In the back of my head I heard the soft tones of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" and in front of me was a landscape seen through the lens of the photographic giants of the past - Robert Frank, Ansel Adams, and Richard Avedon.
A week later, I picked Graham up after work in a rental car and we left Brooklyn for the Midwest.
Not only was I to meet my boyfriend's family for the first time, but this trip held significant value for me in other ways. I had just finished three of the four books in the Emigrants series by the Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg. The novels tell the story of the Swedish emigrants Karl-Oskar and Kristina, who in 1850 left Sweden with their family. They both leave a starving, remote village to find a new future in the promise land of America. After three months on a schooner across the Atlantic, they reach New York only to continue on by boat and train further west to St. Louis and from there, north to the Minnesota Territories. They were trusting only in the letters from former emigrants and the dream of a new life.
Their journey out west took them two months and was riddled with disease and death. With stops and detours it takes us two days to drive the same distance. Relatives from my mother's side emigrated and I am filled with thought if they went in this line. The landscape is now transformed from a wasteland to one filled with fast food and rest stops and small cities. But as we drive across the ocean of waving grass (1) I feel the tide of history coming in as I look out the car window.
Driving across America means endless hours on the road, sometimes you have the feeling that you're driving in a circle when the same fast-food signs disrupts the view of the blue sky over and over again. But all of a sudden there can be a change in the landscape that offer variation. We pass the blue mountains in Pennsylvania in to Maryland and then venture off on a little detour in West Virgina where we see some sights (and over 7 states the sign tells us on the look-out point), then in Ohio the landscape starts to flatten out, the grass waves, the corn is soon ready to be cropped. Finally in St Louis we're greeted by the big arch - the connection between the north and south.
On our way back, we drove without rest, and after 1000 miles, 17 hours, 5 records on repeat and 8 coffees (one which was mere brown water with "lightener" as the rest-stop vending machine described it) we arrived to see the sun rise over Manhattan.