Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

The Far Horizon

Posted By on September 26, 2009

When I finally reach the west, in all its expansive glory, my soul breathes free.

When I finally reach the west, in all its expansive glory, my soul breathes free.

Paxton, NE to Denver: 291 miles. Two states: Nebraska and Colorado.
Denver to Green River, Utah: 346 miles. Two states: Colorado and Utah.

The news from Los Angeles is not good, and I must brush aside the thinly-veiled pretense that this is a pleasure trip. My goal is to get across the country as quickly as possible; if there is decent food to be eaten, sights to see, and a soft bed for Stella and I to rest upon along the way, so be it. On other trips, the journey itself was a celebration, here it is just a means to an end. Yes, certainly, I could have flown from New York to Los Angeles to be with my mother, but then I would not have had Stella (so far, I haven’t met an airline who could be trusted with this dog), my books, or my car. And, I reasoned, perhaps this time on the road would give me a healthy perspective with which to enter, again, My Mother’s House. This time with the intention to stay.

And so it is that the miles drag by, soundtrack provided by my latest book: The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. (This Aussie and Brit-centric book couldn’t be more location-inappropriate, but I revel in its knife-sharp evocations of lands not in my front nor rear-view mirror. Pure escape.) My original plans, already messed-with back in Iowa, had called for a sharp jog south from Denver to Albuquerque, to avoid that little thing called the Rocky Mountains. During my all-too-short visit with Fred and Kitty Koch in Denver (soon to be repeated, with more time for chatter), they advised me that it was ridiculous to worry about crossing Loveland Pass, on I-70, in September. So, mindful of the total of 250 miles this shift would shave from my remaining drive, I changed plans once again and headed due West out of Denver. Up past Genessee, where I had spent all of December—in, I think, 1974—camping in a house with no electricity along with my first college boyfriend. Past Vail, where in about 1980, I—a non-skier—had somehow hurtled down from the summit, twice, and lived to tell the tale. It sometimes seems that every road in this country meanders past my memories. Especially since C and I keep making more. But this time its only me, alone with Stella, the voice coming from the ipod, and the one in my head.

There. Purple Mountain's Majesty. And I am now on the other side.

There: Purple Mountain's Majesty. And I am now on the other side.

On the far side of Eisenhower Tunnel, signs flash “Ice on The Road!!” and I momentarily doubt my impulsive choice. We commence a 6% downward grade and I’m pumping the brakes so I won’t have to ride them, while semi-trucks thunder past me in a flurry of snow. Yes, snow. Not a lot, but it’s definitely sticking. And then, suddenly, I am through the hairy bit and stopping, thanks to my Facebook buddy Dorette Snover, in Edwards for a brilliant lunch at Sato Sushi (although they are out of the promised pork belly). This change of route was inspired and absolutely correct: Had I gone the other way, I wouldn’t have been able to marvel at Glenwood Canyon’s towering, striated rocks, witness the aspen trees turned luminous gold and yellow among the evergreens, and then been spit gently out of the Rockies into the familiar red-rock bluffs, peaks, and mesas of Utah. Another time, I really must come this way with nothing on my mind, or schedule.
In the absence of research, intuition comes into play.

In the absence of research, intuition comes into play.

I have done absolutely no dining research on Green River. At first, there doesn’t appears to be much choice. “Tamarisk” advertises “family dining,” always a bad sign. And as I drive past in the rosy mellow glow of a just-set sun, I see that the crowded riverside room is overly, even obscenely bright, perhaps trying to banish the out-of-doors that I feel so very at home in. Ray’s Tavern trumpets “Food for Everyone,” and I decide that that includes me. Inside the laminate-paneled, pool-table-equipped room, t-shirts festoon the walls: “Rafters Keep You Wet All Day,” “Go With the Flow,” and the intriguing—if mysterious— “Sclerosis of the River.” Soon, an excellent bacon cheeseburger, complete with hand-cut fries, is soon safe on the seat beside me as I head back through the darkening night, over the Green River, to Stella, our little home for the night, and the last of the Iowa chardonnay.


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