A woman, her dog, and the open road.

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A western sky on the road to Tucumcari

Sunday, shortly before noon, my dog Clooney and I got into a rented van packed with an assortment of things deemed “fragile” or “important” and began our westward trek from Durham, North Carolina, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We had come to North Carolina at the end of April for a final two weeks of moving and packing that are part of a complicated multi-part move. My family and I were preparing for what comes next, and it has been a lot of work to sort through the bazillion things we have managed to collect since July of 2006, the date we moved into a rather large house which had lots of empty space which we proceeded to fill.

Our day of reckoning has reverberated for a little over a year now, but what remains of our things after multiple rounds of purging are now packed up and headed west; so my dog and I did the same.

Last August when my dog made his first cross continental trip, he was a dreadful traveler.

He panted and slobbered profusely. He refused to eat. I became that woman in front of you at the drive through at McDonald’s getting her dog a plain hamburger and a cup of water who then inconveniently forgot to pull forward while tearing the hamburger into bite-sized pieces for her dog.

But since then, Clooney has become a much more accomplished traveler which is why we were able to drive the 919 miles between Jackson, Tennesee, to Tucumcari, New Mexico in one very long day.

I have made this trip now so many times now that I have preferred routes and favorite stops in assorted states.

Going into North Carolina through Tennessee, I learned that traveling north from Knoxville to Bristol and across southeastern Virginia then down into North Carolina through Mount Airy is about 20 miles and 12 minutes longer than staying on Interstate 40 and going through Asheville, but it is also much easier on the nerves, and there are more options to get fuel and walk your dog.

I’ve also found that the Love’s Travel Stop at exit 200 in Prague, Oklahoma, has clean bathrooms, a good bold coffee blend, and you can get cut fruit in a plastic cups(2 for $5). There is a place to walk your dog, so in no time you can be back on the open road ready for adventure.

I have spent the night in Weatherford, Oklahoma, so many times, that social media sites now serve me ads for various jobs in the area. If I knew anything at all about heavy equipment repair, I would be tempted to apply for the jobs I get notices for. Weatherford is not a flashy place, but I have to say that from the times I have been there, it is pleasant in a way that sticks with you but is hard to describe.

I have also learned that Nashville, Tennessee, has substantial traffic most times of the day or night, most days of the week, but if you absolutely have to go through Nashville, mid-afternoon on Mother’s Day traffic is as relaxed as it is going to be.

Arkansas is usually smooth sailing, and the interstate rather than going through Little Rock, goes around the north of it. I am sure that the businesses don’t necessarily appreciate that, but as driver, I certainly do. They also have some very nice rest areas, so if you travel with your dog, it is easy to find a nice place to walk with them.

I am not the same person I was when I began this adventure. I am, in ways, both older and younger. Vistas that were once new have now become familiar, and I will have to see where the next road takes me.

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