Southern Nevada, after several hundred miles, was not fabulous. Nor were stretches of Colorado, most of Kansas, or the oddly long-seeming chunk of Illinois we travelled between St. Louis and Kentucky.

Monique's car was stuffed to the hilt, with just enough space in the backseat to afford a view out the rear windshield and side windows. The side mirror on the passenger side spent most of the journey doing its best to fall off completely (despite our ministrations with duct tape and pleading), and the back end of the car rode perilously close to the ground.

I won't even mention the food we had to endure for much of the trip, being unwelcome vegetarians in very non-vegetarian lands.

But overall, the trip was amazing. I'm still reeling at the splendor of southern Utah, with its otherworldy landscape racing along with I-70. I'm in love with little Paonia, Colorado, site of our first really good meal in hundreds of miles. I'm amazed that we actually stayed and ate in Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and I'm so happy that I was able to find my way back to the Mad Platter in Nashville for another awesome meal there.

It was somewhere just east of Asheville, coming down the mountains with a madly beautiful sunset behind us and Winston-Salem somewhere ahead, that I thought again of the maxim I'd seen once in a snowboarding ad: "The more you live, the less you die." And I thought, what could've been a straightforward drive from California to North Carolina became so much more because we were willing to go astray and take some chances with our itinerary.

Isn't that always the key, though--turning away from the path? That practice can be anything from mildly inconvenient to a wild pain in the ass sometimes, and it isn't worth it every single time, but in the end it leaves you with a balance sheet with much more in the black column than the red.

That, to me, is worth driving for.

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