In that time the road smelled like gasoline and french fries at the gas stations and Circle K’s. When you rolled your window down and stuck your head out beside the cars whooshed past, it was hard to get a whiff. The speed made breathing difficult. Your nostrils couldn’t accept all the air at once.
Slower, on a scenic route, it smelled of heather and pine, trampled needles and early summer sun; open expanses and vast prairie, corn and that wide blue air scent unfound in metropolitan avenues; hot macadam and brown grasses, hay casks and descending evening. It smelled like youth, life and everything that mattered.
When you saw the green signs with white pimply lettering that read Sioux City 364 and you longed to be there already, find your room and settle down for the night, you tempered it by remembering that you still have to stop for lunch. Hundreds of miles of open grassland, red rim-rocks, striated purples, a propitious hawk overhead – so different from yesterday’s scenery. What’s next?
The chickenscratchy sound of distance-drowned radio led to the seek button and when they heard a good classic country or rock’n’roll song, they’d press it again to let it stop and play. It was a good station and they’d sing along:
“On the road again
Goin places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again”
Until it ended sadly and they hoped to recognize another. They kept it there until a commercial break, when they seeked again, and remembered that one, in case there were only three or four radio stations within a hundred square miles. If there were no other songs they recognized, they returned abashedly, and prayed for another good one.