As you all (or should I say, y’all) know, Sharell and I recently travelled by automobile to Kennesaw, GA from our ancestral homeland of Santa Barbara, CA. Here is the route we took. Something to keep us busy on the long, 2,333 mile journey was taking in as much as we could see from the interstate (I-10 and I-20) in each of the six states between California and Georgia.
While the Desert definitely begins in California, it doesn’t quite feel as “deserty” until you get into Arizona and see your first Saguaro. I can only imagine how hot it is there in summer, although it was pretty nice for us when we passed through. Coming from California, where water is certainly not in excess, the seemingly complete lack of moisture here was startling, and green landscaping was basically non-existent. I like to think the savings the people there have made in not having to cultivate any plants instead goes to pay for their really interesting stonework relief art on a lot of the bridges over the Interstate. While certainly not what I am used to, the harshness of the Desert and the barren, rocky mountains dotting the landscape had their own interesting character. I still wish we had been able to see Flagstaff, but perhaps next time.
Once the Yucca have taken over from the Saguaro, you know you are in New Mexico. While similarly desolate to their western neighbor, the landscape in the parts Interstate 10 cuts through in this state were pretty dull. And none of the interesting stone art was present here to ease that. To be fair, though, Albuquerque and Santa Fe (which I assume to be the nicer parts of the state) are nowhere near where we passed through.
Texas is a big freakin’ state. That being said, there seemed to be a big difference between West and East Texas. We entered Texas right into El Paso, and that was pretty disappointing. Dirty, trash everywhere. Although, even with how bad El Paso was, the contrast between the haves of this side of the Rio Grande and the have-nots visible just across the River in Juárez was pretty mind-blowing. Once we got out of Paso and onto the plains, the speed limit thankfully jumped up to 80 mph. Even in Davis, where the highest point for miles around is the bridge that takes Covell over the train tracks, you don’t quite get the same feeling of extreme flatness that you get in West Texas (at least the silhouette of Sierras and the coastal mountains are still visible in Davis). Once we got through the Dallas-Fort Worth area things started to get more interesting; sinusoidally rolling hills begin to cover the landscape, and the first naturally-occurring greenness since California shows its face.
Without any real abrupt natural marker, Texas ends and Louisiana begins. Nearing the Mississippi river, stagnant pools of water and vast marshes are visible from the Interstate. I was expecting the towns we passed through to have a more Cajun feel to them; instead it seemed for the most part that we had just passed through east-east Texas. Perhaps if we had ventured more off the Interstate we might have seen something more unique to the state, but I suppose that could be said for all the places we went through.
Passing over the Mississippi River was really neat. The American River is pretty wide, but the Mississippi looks like a really long lake. Once we got to the other side of it, we found the landscape to be much like the Louisiana side, although perhaps a bit less marshy. From here on until Georgia the Interstate was lined with thick stands of pine and deciduous trees. While Jackson was a seemingly nice, clean city, visible from the Interstate were some of the poor trailer communities that people unfortunately live in out in the more rural parts of the state.
The last state before we hit Georgia continued the same basic lots-of-trees-growing-everywhere motif as the rest of the South. Except here it seems the state is at a bit higher altitude, so the landscape is dominated mostly by pines. With all of its gently rolling hills covered in grass and the aforementioned forests, it really is deserving of its title “the Beautiful.”
So which states did we like best? Here’s how we rank them, in descending order:
5. New Mexico