Not one person thought we should go.

My editor at the Houlton Pioneer Times took my husband, Marshall, aside at a party and told him he was ruining my life. Friends cried a lot with me.

On an August morning in 1973 we nosed our new Chevrolet Monte Carlo out of Houlton heading west. I looked away from my favorite farmers market. We left our house rented out and intact, thinking we would return in two years.

Our two young children were strapped into the backseat. In the trunk that moving day there were clothes, pots and pans and linens. Missing? Chicken
coops.

Boston was our first stop. We were tired, scared and pretty sure our hotel was a brothel. The flocked red wallpaper screamed illegal activity. A heavy meal of pasta sent us to bed with uneasy feelings.

In Hershey, Pennsylvania, our moods lifted when we smelled chocolate in the air. Marshall’s thick Maine accent in Georgia did us out of cheeseburgers at a fast-food place because they thought he was mocking them. That same night we discovered the pleasure of motels with cool, blue pools and kids out of the car.

I was terrified as Marshall the Mainer white-knuckled us through the spaghetti-like highways of Kansas City.

Driving through Texas one of our final days on the road (we were driving late to escape the heat), Marshall skidded to a stop on asphalt. A snake was laid out in state. Upon closer-than-needed inspection, Marshall deemed it to be a dead rattlesnake, and so he introduced himself to poisonous roadkill.

Driving by a busy drinking establishment, I had to explain to him that cowboy hats, boots and buckles are not costumes from Westerns. I was bragging like the born and raised Texan I am.

Rolling onward, I had the best chili rellenos I’ve ever eaten in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In New Mexico the kids went on strike. It was grilled cheese for them for the duration.

We were surprised at the size of the cacti in the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. Mispronunciations of “saguaro” and “cholla” almost caused
embarrassment until we learned how to speak Arizonan. Mirages turned to city lights as we entered Tucson.

What else surprised us? Stores open until late at night and every Sunday. Air-conditioning chilled buildings and potholders used for the car ignition.

Marijuana was illegal and offered at every college party.

The University of Arizona was our destination. In the winter the campus smelled like orange blossoms. A journalism undergraduate degree for me and a master’s degree in educational psychology for Marshall were ours in a couple of years.

Then there were the 33 remaining years of raising our children, working in our industries and Friday night enchiladas at Ochoa’s Restaurant.

Full circle, we’ve been back in Maine for 19 years and won’t ever leave again.

Cacti or roses? Barbecue or lobster? Desert or ocean? It’s the adventure.

I do, however, recommend flying.

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