There are over 50,000 miles of American highway, crisscrossing the country like heartlines on the palm of the ground or veins under skin. Between the towns of Salina and Green River in Utah, there lies the country’s longest stretch of highway without services. It is an empty forest without trees, sand and grass and road and sky and you are alone. There are no gas stations or fast food restaurant chains or cell phone service. It is only you, the sky, and the road.
Two Novembers ago, my dad I took a 3-day roadtrip to the Pacific Ocean. It was made of last-minute Subway runs, empty coffee cups and crumpled Burger King wrappers in the backseat, strange radio stations, and Florence + the Machine’s then-newest album “Ceremonials” on repeat.
As we neared the end of Salina’s city limits, a road sign proclaimed a 106-mile long piece of highway, completely empty of civilization, and a friendly recommendation to fill up your car’s gas tanks. My dad looked at me. “Wanna drive?”
Windows rolled all the way down, speedometer dipping 90 mph, wind thrashing our hair and watering our eyes, the SUV raced down Interstate I-70. It was as if something had been freed inside of us, and we could hear the heartbeat of the desert around us, could feel the breathing of the sky, and we never wanted to do anything else, just drive and listen.
The sky was yellow-gold and the road was the color of dull smoke, cracked and gray. Around us rose stony golden cliffs and giant rock formations like they were constructed of asymmetrical Legos houses and uneven Jenga towers, earth-colored. Isn’t it funny how so something so dead can be so beautiful?
It was like that for what felt like hours, as if we had somehow spent our entire lives driving on that cracked gray road that cut through the desert like the full force of the Colorado River slicing through the Grand Canyon, slowly wearing its golden-ridged walls further and further into sandy oblivion. I considered privately that perhaps I wouldn’t mind being buried here among the sand and sky and rock, because as they are infinite, perhaps so should I be, not a yellow-boned skeleton silent underground but a piece of construction paper sky, a grain of gray-yellow sand, and a single slab of pale yellow-gold rock. And then I wondered if I would ever die, this way.
We drove all day and into the night, and even once we reached Green River, I couldn’t seem to get that 106 miles out of me, like I had learned an old secret and was expected to keep it.
When we finally reached the sea it was like cold feet in a warm bed but we didn’t care, just ran in with our clothes on, wanting to fill the empty with seawater and sand and the uneven breathing of the waves.
That night, we fell asleep to the tide crashing against the sand and we dreamed of yellow skies and empty roads.
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