Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 8

Tucson, Arizona (where we took a morning hike at Saguaro National Park, pictured below) to San Diego, California, our destination for this road trip.

Distance: 417 miles (3,198 of 3,198 total miles (100% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 6 hours

Temperature Range: 47°F to 77°F (then back down to 63°F and foggy by the time we got to San Diego)

Where we ate: At our temporary apartment (tamales, chicken with sweet potatoes and onions, sautéed green beans, chocolate ice cream)

Miles Remaining: 0

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 7

Las Cruces, New Mexico (where we took a morning hike at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, pictured below) to Tucson, Arizona (where we met up with one of my friends I haven’t seen since junior high and her partner)

Distance: 279 miles (2,781 of 3,198 total miles (87.0% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 4 hours

Temperature Range: 31°F to 79°F

Where we ate: Maynard’s Market

Miles Remaining: 417

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 6

Abilene, Texas, to Las Cruces, New Mexico (where chilies are a very popular ingredient and where they also have cool public sculpture, like “Eagle Man” pictured below)

Distance: 497 miles (2502 of 3,198* total miles (78.2% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 7 hours

Temperature Range: 30°F to 55°F

Where we ate: Dragonfly

Miles Remaining: 696

More notes about this leg of the journey:

  • We drove through El Paso and glimpsed the border fence and Ciudad Juárez on the other side.
  • Passed some high-density feedlots in New Mexico that put me off steak again, at least until my memory of the taste of steak again overpowers my memory of the smell as we went by those feedlots.
  • We visited the Las Cruces library, our first library of this road trip. My children were immediately in their element. There were a few titles I wanted to have on hand for the 24in48 readathon later this month, and I found myself thinking, “I’ll pick those up when we get home,” before realizing that we kind of don’t have a home right now. Home is where the library is for my children, and I made a mental note to take us on a tour of the San Diego branch libraries once we reach our destination. Our thoughts about the branch libraries might carry a lot of weight as we decide which neighborhood to settle in.
  • It’s exhausting enough traveling cross-country, but traveling with everything we think we’ll need for two months (and our cat and everything he needs for two months) is even more exhausting. And I packed one too few pairs of underwear for this road trip, and I’m down a shirt after the underarm seams of one of my shirts tore yesterday when I stretched. I am officially road-weary and in need of a washing machine.

*You might notice that this number is different than it was on days 1-5. Google Maps must have had some kind of argument with itself between Day 1 and today, and decided 3,198 was the more accurate number. If the total doesn’t match up when we get to San Diego, I’ll change the numbers until they do match. It’s a good thing I’m not an accountant.

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 5

Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Abilene, Texas (which is the Storybook Capital of America and in the downtown of which we visited a variety of fairy-tale-inspired sculptures (Goldilocks and the Three Bears are pictured below))

Distance: 477 miles (2005 of 3,156 total miles (63.5% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 7 hours

Temperature Range: 19°F to 55°F

Where we ate: The Beehive Restaurant
Miles Remaining: 1,151

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 4

Jackson, Tennessee to Hot Springs, Arkansas (where we visited Hot Springs National Park)

Distance: 273 miles (1,528 of 3,156 total miles (48.4% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 4 hours

Temperature Range: 5°F to 25°F

Where we ate: Bubba Brew’s Brewing Company Spa City Taproom

Miles Remaining: 1,628

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 3

Northeast Ohio to Jackson, Tennessee (where we had catfish, po’boys, and steak for dinner)

Distance: 634 miles (1,255 of 3,156 total miles (39.8% of the total trip))

Driving Time: 10 hours (including two rest stops)

Temperature Range: -2°F to 26°F

Where we ate: Redbone’s Grill and Bar

Miles Remaining: 1,901

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 2

Northeast Ohio

Distance: 0 of 3,156 total miles (still 19.6% of the total trip; this was a zero day set aside for visiting family, including my baby niece, for New Year’s Eve)

Driving Time: Not applicable

Temperature Range: -2°F to 12°F

Miles Remaining: 2,535

Corner-to-Corner Road Trip: Day 1

Central Massachusetts to Northeast Ohio (via Pennsylvania, pictured below)

Distance: 621 miles of 3,156 total miles (19.6%)

Driving Time: 12 hours (should have been closer to 9.5)

Temperature Range: -1°F to 23°F

Miles remaining: 2,535

For those who might have missed our previous cross-country road trip, here’s Day One of our move from Utah to Massachusetts in June 2011.

Crying in the Library of Congress

My family are library super-users. We manage holds, checkouts, renewals, and returns with a carefully balanced choreography. We love libraries so much that when my children go to bookstores, my daughter spends an hour reading portions of books, taking note of the titles she wants to check out from the library, even when we’re there for the express purpose of buying a book to take with us while we’re traveling.

When my children learned that on our recent trip to Washington, DC, they would have the chance to visit the largest library in the world, they were thrilled. “How many books do they have?” “Do they have translations?” “Do they have movies?” “Do they have the Warriors series [by Erin Hunter]?” “Can you check things out?”

Most of our questions were answered by looking at the Library of Congress website. 164 million items, including 38.6 million+ books in more than forty languages. They do have movies. They probably do have the Warriors series. You can’t check things out until you’re sixteen, when you can get a card to check things out within the library.

“How do you check things out within a library?” they asked. I assured them that was a question that we could ask our tour guide. Even not being able to check things out, they were excited to look at so many books.

The afternoon we’d set aside for our visit, we set out from our hotel to walk to the library. It took a little longer to walk there than we’d anticipated, and we found ourselves running up Capitol Hill, getting through security at the library, and arriving, breathless, just in time to join the tour group as they were walking up the stairs.

The tour was really cool. The library is incredible, with murals and statues and mosaics on every surface; you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an allegory. If security would let you bring a cat into the Library of Congress. And if you felt like swinging it.

My children waited patiently throughout our hour-long tour, learning all about the art and the history of the library.

Once my daughter pulled me aside and in a stage whisper said, “It’s been forty-five minutes, and we haven’t even seen any books.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “It’s a library. We’ll get to see books.”

And just a few minutes after, we did get to see books…from the Main Reading Room observation deck a couple of stories up and enclosed in glass. There were rows and rows and rows of books, and my children were practically salivating to get in there with all of them.

And then that was it.

As the tour ended, our tour guide, Harvey, said, “The greatest thing about the Library of Congress is that it’s for everyone! You just need to be sixteen or over and have a valid drivers license or passport to use the reading rooms.”

My daughter asked, “Is there any way someone under sixteen can go into the reading rooms?”

Harvey looked from my son to my daughter and then to me. “No, I’m sorry. Maybe you could ask Congress to make an exception.” Laughter from the rest of the tour group.

It turns out that not only can someone under sixteen not check things out, they can’t even go into the reading rooms. They can’t even, ironically, check books out from the Children’s Literature Center, the contents of which are held in the General Collections, which are only available to those with a readers card, i.e., those over sixteen.

For example, they do, in fact, have Erin Hunter’s books—like her Firestar’s Quest, but you have to request them from the Jefferson or Adams Building Reading Rooms, to which my children do not have access. Screenshot of what you get when you look up Firestar’s Quest in the the LOC online catalog:

My children were not prepared for this.

Crestfallen, we went across the entryway to visit the re-creation of the Jefferson library. There my son looked up at me and began to cry.

“Mommy, he lied.” (“He” meaning Harvey.) “He said that the library is for everyone, but it’s only for people sixteen and older.”

My daughter was more stoic, but still I found myself hugging and comforting my children in the middle of the Library of Congress, surrounded by books they could neither read nor touch.

Luckily there was a Young Readers Center, a room where my kids could sit around reading books that were great for middle-grade readers but lacking for those between the ages of twelve and sixteen. It was like margarine when you’re expecting butter, but it was down an echo-y and very reflective hallway, which they enjoyed. It salvaged the trip for them a little, but the injustice still stings.

At bedtime that night, I told them a story (shamelessly paraphrased from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) about two children and their mom who hid out in a bathroom at the Library of Congress and then snuck out after the library was closed to read books all night in the Main Reading Room. We talked a bit more about how unfair it was that they couldn’t use the library.

“I know Harvey was kind of joking,” I said, “but you really could write to Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey when we get home. And to our representatives. And we can ask all of our friends in different states to write to their representatives in Congress and ask them to change the rules.”

“Senators must get a lot of mail,” my daughter said.

“Yes, they do. But if enough people write, the letters will catch their attention. They’ll think there’s a groundswell of public support for allowing people under the age of sixteen to use the Library of Congress.”

“What’s a ‘groundswell of public support’?”

“Time for bed now, my darlings.”

Scenes from Utah

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, my kids and I traveled to Utah early in September, and we had a fabulous time. The trip reminded me for the second time this year (the first was our visit to Joshua Tree National Park this past spring) how much I love the western United States and how much I love the desert especially. Next time I travel west, I hope to visit some or all of the five National Parks in Utah. I’ve been to Arches, but it bears a return trip, especially now that I’ve read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.

But even staying in and near Salt Lake City, we had a blast. Some photos from our adventures, curated to remove anything unpleasant—like my son’s epic nosebleed and almost-very-bad head wound—because that’s what blogs are for:

Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City:

Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship, Midway, Utah:

Salt Lake City Public Library:

Around Salt Lake City: