When I was younger, my family used to take regular road trips from our home in Northern Virginia down to Florida. Not so much because we loved road trips, but because we were broke and you could stuff 3 kids, a dog (or two), your mother AND your grandmother into a mini van all for the price of gas (which was pretty much free back then). And not just any mini van, but a hunter green mini van with fake wood paneling. A hunter green mini van with wood paneling and the license plate "WR42N8." And yes, folks, this was also my very first car in High School. Oh, how fortunate I was. And you wonder why I wasn't prom queen.
My mom was always a good sport and loved these car rides (or so she claimed), always staying upbeat as she loudly sang "Country Road" out the window. But we, the kids, the backseat passengers, hated it. This was before every mini van came equipped with flat screen tvs, a wii, and surround sound (although once we did try to prop our mini tv/vcr combo between the two front seats and mcguyver the wires through the cigarette lighter in order to watch movies. This was back when cars had a cigarette lighter instead of an iphone outlet).
No, we had to rely on...wait for it...our imaginations to entertain us.
"Moooooom, I'm bored!"
"USE YOUR IMAGINATIONS!"
Basically, every kid's nightmare. I'm not sure any kid is imaginative enough to stay occupied for 3 straight days of being confined to the back seat of a mini van, no matter how "42N8" we were. And let me tell you, the Alphabet game gets pretty boring around mile 10. So this usually resulted in someone getting punched and someone else in tears while my mom decided that her way of coping would be to just sing louder.
Like I said, we hated these trips.
But for me, the redeeming quality of these dreaded rides was the holy grail of pit stops -- the one, the only South of the Border.
For those who have never been, get in your car and go now. And for those of you who have been, you can stop screaming "Don't Go! It's not worth it!" Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. And for whatever reason, this tacky, fake Mexican pit stop south of the North Carolina border made the 1000 mile trip completely worth it. Don't judge. I'm a sucker for kitsch.
To me, Arizona is like South of the Border.
Ghost towns and flea markets and rodeos, oh my!
The lights of the casinos are blinding in the middle of the arid desert. It's a state where you buy both bullets for your pistol and crystals for your chakras. Steak houses and vegan restaurants neighbor each other in harmony. You can even visit a meteor crater, dinosaur park, and Bedrock City (yes, home of Fred Flinstone). All in one state!
Even their town names are full of quirky awesomeness: Bumble Bee. Surprise. Happy Jack. Inspiration. Why (I don't know, but I plan to go here and find the answer).
To me, Arizona is South of the Border on steroids.
I keep being told to find the Joy. Laugh. Remove the stress from my life (Let's remember, I have cancer). Is it possible to live a stress free life with cancer? I can't think of a better place to try. Well, maybe Bora Bora. With The Hubby. And dog.
But Arizona is a close second. And I plan to see as much of this chintzy, eccentric state filled with juxtapositions, as I possibly can.
The 15 year old inside of me is constantly screaming at every attraction, "Mom, can we go?! PLEASE!"
And you know what? I think she just might pull over.
Because the joy I find in this crazy, weird place just might make this thousand mile trip worth it.
And at the end of it all, hopefully I'll look back and remember the kitsch instead of the pain of a long grueling trip where I got punched in the face.