By Ellen Moyer

Who would have “thunk it?” While many of my age-of-wisdom group are giving up their car keys I was zooming down the Highway to Texas, California and back home across the USA.

Interstate travel is not my cup of tea. It is so anonymous, impersonal. Exploring the back roads where you can catch the soul of some of America is my preference, but I was off to meet an old friend and destination was the name of the game. Admittedly I paused and wondered what an 85-year-old woman driving 85 miles an hour on Interstate speedways for 550 miles a day was doing. But I made it to Texas, Galveston Island, that I had never visited before and calmed down.

The Southwest is desolate desert, dust storms that I didn’t encounter and I-10 a truckers’ paradise. But coming home to Annapolis via I-40 passes a bunch of national parks and excursions on U.S. Route 66, the “Mother Road,” and I explored driving 200 miles a day on the back roads.

In California I consulted Google for a road trip home. Google suggested an 8 day trip with destination points usually 5 hours of travel apart, and suggested interesting places to stop along the way. I modified the suggested trip home by detouring to the wondrous how-did-it-happen Grand Canyon and a host of other sites near Cameron and Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona, red rock country, is just awesome. I stayed for 2 days lounging near an outdoor heated pool, more my style than hiking at my age. This is a place to go back to for its art and culture and startling eye candy. I approached Sedona from Oak Tree Canyon, a drive I had experienced in 1945 with my family on a trip to California when undiscovered Sedona only held a gas station. Today it is a big visitor center, hard to miss. This was upscale after driving Route 66 from Kingman thru Oatman where the mules rule and where the most treacherous part of this route exists. How did they travel this route 100 years ago? I stayed in a refurbished motel had dinner in a fresh kill restaurant — “you kill it we grill it” — listened to a sole guitar player at a lonesome general store and learned how business owners in Seligman gave birth to Route 66 the tourist attraction we know today after I 40 in 1977 bypassed and created ghost towns of the small mining and ranching villages. No government subsidy, just 13 merchants stepping up to promote their town and grab our attention to the “mother road.”

So, don’t throw your car keys away. As long as you are able to, get out on your wheels, seek out historic hotels, and find the stories that have made this nation so great. This year I plan a driving trip through Utah and the Navajo Nation and along the Outlaw Trail in Utah. See America first or again or through eyes we oldsters have acquired in our age of wisdom.

Ellen Moyer is a former mayor of Annapolis. She welcomes comments and idea sharing and can be contacted at [email protected].

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