The Amazon Trail
On the Road Again
By Lee Lynch
Photo: E. Mulligan
Twenty-four years ago I made the trek from Connecticut to Oregon. Last month I unexpectedly changed directions to join my sweetheart in Florida. The Librarian sent us off with a packet of munchies for the road. Our cupboards were otherwise bare, but the Handydyke and the Pianist treated us to a farewell dinner out that last night.
As romantic as crossing the country seemed when I read On the Road in my teens, Jack Kerouac didn't do it with four cats and a dog in winter. The weather was mostly kind to us. My poor sweetheart caught high altitude snow while I conveniently slept past the shrouded presence of Mt. Shasta. My sweetheart had flown out the week before and we'd packed non-stop 12 hours a day. We'd gotten on the road at 6:00 a.m. that morning, after drugging the kitties, and stopped five hours later to see friends. We met them at the Rogue River, that gorgeous, cool lifeline through tempestuous, conservative, anti-gay Jackson County where these women survive - I don't know how. They sent us off with a generous sprinkling of gifts and blessings.
We stayed with friends in Sacramento that first night. Their home was alive with rich colors and bold artwork, all evidence that gay women and their kids can thrive even in a neighborhood of manicured lawns in a state capitol. We left with hugs and even more blessings.
We'd registered as domestic partners before leaving Oregon, but this was not any honeymoon we'd ever dreamed of. We managed to skip L.A. because California dykes warned us to take "the 210" through "the grapevine," whatever that was - I think I slept through it. Any time we hit a city, we veered into the carpool lane and sped through. After a while, it seemed like we were skirting the same city over and over. If the rural landscapes hadn't changed so dramatically, I would have thought we were still in Las Cruces, New Mexico when we whizzed by Mobile, Alabama.
Rest areas are now designed to reflect their various heritages. The best rest area - and believe me, we visited most of them - was in Mississippi. It looked like an old plantation house right down to the furniture. You could spend the day wandering the grassy grounds, but most people spent their time in the big echoing restrooms - like the ones in old train stations - and browsing a major collection of brochures.
I wish I could remember more of the trip. The oddest things have become highlights, like the Courtesy Coffee Shop in Blythe, California. It looked to be a greasy spoon, but after we'd unpacked the van for the night, it fed us like an old style, generous diner. All across the southern United States we played weary travelers to weary waitresses.
One disappointment: in six days on the road, we only saw six gay people - the ones we visited. Oh, and there was that dyke in the San Antonio Starbucks. She pretended not to see me; I pretended not to see her. It was the old butch stand off. Then my gorgeous bride joined me. I was butch proud.
We got a warm Texas welcome from friends in a tidy, treed development whose streets have old English names. You wouldn't know you were in the same Texas all those shoot-em-up Westerns supposedly portrayed in movies. Shelley and Connie seem to be forever going to bar-b-ques and birthday parties at the homes of local lesbians. It amazes me to find dykes in such out of the way places. We truly are everywhere.
There may be lesbians in Texas, but Texas is no place for an Oregon license plate. I'm just glad we weren't driving my car with its rainbow stickers. We got stopped for going four miles an hour over the speed limit in west Texas. Officer Friendly, as my sweetheart called him, took one look at the cats in their carriers and the dog in her bed, our rental van registration, our wild and exhausted eyes, and let us go with a warning.
Officer Friendly-East saw the same sight a day later when we were more road-worn. I think we were in Houston. One minute he was on the side of the road with some other vehicles, the next, he was whooping and flashing his lights at us. He accused us of following a mega-tractor trailer too closely. We explained that the guy had just cut us off when he swerved away from the cops on the side of the road. We'd been, frankly, pretty shaken by the near accident. Officer Friendly-East said, in an offhand drawl, "Oh, they do that," and waved us on. I wanted to say, "Let me get this right. A truck the size of a strip mall nearly kills us and you stop us - the mini van with two women, a menagerie and out-of-state plates? Excuse me?"
It's a darn good thing we didn't have "Just Married" painted on our back window.
© Lee Lynch 2008
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books
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