They were right. I did hear the kids that morning, but I’m used to sleeping through noise. Eventually, I picked up my watch and looked at it. 8:00. I got up and started changing clothes as Tess told me through the closed slat doors what time it was and asked if I wanted to get up. I shoved everything back into my bag and saw Tess dragging her kids out the front door. “I’m going to get syrup for pancakes,” she said, “I’ll be back in ten minutes.” I told her I didn’t know if I’d be there that long. Tiptoeing upstairs, it appeared like Margery and Katherine we’re still in bed, so I left a note with a black crayon I found on the table, grabbed my bag, and loaded it into the car.

I found my way back to the highway easily enough and headed east. But the road I was on dissolved into a regular street. I got some gas and was about to turn around when I saw a McDonalds further down. I was just going to get coffee, but the sign talked me into purchasing one of those hash brown things and an Egg McMuffin for only 55 cents! Except I ended up spending like three dollars. How did that happen?

Pouring half and half into the little spout thing of my styrofoam cup, I made my way back down the street and found a sign for the road north I was looking for. Soon I was out of Dallas and on my way to Wichita Falls, listening to the far reach of Dallas’ cool alternative station. That died far too soon, and I was left shuffling between a classic rock and mix station. Then those were gone too, and scan on my radio would flip all the way around the dial to come back to the only station it could reach–and a country one at that.

The road from Wichita Falls to Amarillo is very lonely, but beautiful that way. Heading down the highway with my cruise control set on 90, sitting cross legged in my seat and watching hypnotically for non-existent cops, I decided what I’d do for the rest of my life: live in a trailer, maybe run a few head of cattle or write, and operate a classical music station somewhere between Amarillo and Wichita Falls.

Amarillo offered relief, as I knew it would. It has a cool college station that plays alternative and… well… weird stuff. But it was gone too soon as well. I stopped in a little town for gas and a malt and onion rings at the Sonic. “Be careful,” said the man behind the gas counter as I left. Maybe he meant, “Be careful to pay attention to where you’re going.”

I kept looking at the road signs, knowing I needed to head west into New Mexico on 89. But the road signs kept saying 289. The towns I hit seemed to correspond with my map, but why didn’t the road say 89 anymore? Then, I realized I had failed to make a turn. It wouldn’t be too far toback track, or I could turn at the next town and go down then over. But 289 headed straight north into Oklahoma and then Colorado. Flipping to Colorado in my atlas, I found I could go north and then head west to Pueblo just fine. And I’ve never seen much of south east Colorado. There really isn’t much to see. It was emptier than the part of Texas I’d been through. It seemed to be a truck route. I passed them constantly, discovering the Toyota has a governor at 100, though I did manage to get it up to 105 going downhill.

Suddenly, the truck in front of me was stopped, so I put on my hazard and pulled up behind him. Truckers were getting out of their cabs, collecting, and chatting. After several minutes, I figured I might as well get a stretch. A big trucker in overalls and a beard came up from the rig behind me, “Alabama, huh?” “That’s right.” “Where you headed?” “Colorado Springs. Just graduated from college and heading out to stay with some friends.” He was hauling an escalator to Aspen from Texas. “So what’s going on here?” I asked him. “Construction. It’s like this all the time. Did you notice that whole line coming from the other direction back there?” “Yeah, I wondered what that was all about.” “They waited on the other side for an hour or so.” “An hour?” “Sometimes.”

It was less than an hour. The flagman waved his orange plastic, and we all got back into our vehicles. But we had to wait for the trucks coming the other direction to pass first. Then we got to go over the dirt and bumps of the lane not being currently built. “Don’t be in a hurry,” the trucker with the bib overalls told me, “These trucks can’t go so fast.” So I spent the next hundred miles driving at 30 miles under my usual speed and watching the radio scanner go all the way around without picking up anything except one country station. On AM.

In Lamar, I turned west as it started raining. I didn’t go as fast because the Arkansas River is accompanied by a string of little towns and hills that are hard to see around in order to pass people. Finally, I got to Pueblo and headed north on I-25. Then I was in Monument in no time.

The Bremers were seated around the dinner table when I arrived. Michele came to the door and gave me a hug. Eli jumped up and shouted, “Jonah! Demolition hug!” and we rushed toward each other arms outstretched, stopping just short of embracing. I sat down in the place Spirit vacated and helped myself to homemade pizza and salad. Max was on the phone with Stephanie Stone and had been, from what I gathered, for quite some time. Eli took me out to the henhouse to seethe ducklings, who we took swimming in the water tank and then gave flying lessons. Nicole walked in and was very surprised to see me. She had to go back home to get a phone call but promised to come back. I gave her my number and asked her to call home and tell my family I got there, since Max was still using this phone.

Max finally got off and greeted me with an awkward hug, declared he was tired, and went to bed. Eli and Nicole and I played a card game Nicole had learned recently but wasn’t sure of all the rules.

I had Justin’s room for the night since he hadn’t come back from college yet. I fell asleep curled up beneath a down comforter.

—This concludes Jonah’s Trek Out West. If you failed to receive parts one and two, transcripts are available upon request at [email protected]

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