I want to be remembered as the lady who rolled up to the kitschy Flintstones’ Bedrock Village roadside attraction in rural Arizona with a fancy L.A. bakery box filled with a red velvet bundt cake, paid admission, went in, ate one sliver on a piece of Fred and Wilma’s garishly painted rock furniture with a travel spork, went out, and gifted the cashier with the rest of the cake.
She was thrilled. I would have been digging through it for white powder and razor blades, or explosives, maybe, but she just beamed at us.
Most of the memorials I had been seeing were for hard, enduring things: bridges, roads, stadiums. They were named after men—fallen soldiers, policeman, politicians. I started wondering what a gendered public memorial for women would look like. The only things I would want to be remembered for along the way were non-specific and non-concrete: a vista, a sound, an experience, an act, an intervention, a spontaneous gesture that led to a story a young Arizona tourist trap cashier would recount when she arrived home from work with a decadent (partially eaten) cake from a big city bakery miles away.
Outside of Oatman, Arizona, someone remembered “Bullitt” on a rock.
My friend Chad and I had dodged burros in the middle of the road in an old mining town in Arizona, had dodged tourists gasping at the thin air at the Grand Canyon, had dodged elk in the road from the Canyon back to I-40, had dodged a near disaster by going too quickly over railroad tracks in Flagstaff (no, really, we thought we had scraped the undercarriage clean off the car). Whoever was not driving was snapping iPhotos of the landscape or making iVideos of the trains—the many, many trains—from the passenger seat.
We participated in a summer music festival on the plaza in Santa Fe, had the best ever brisket and green chile burritos in a blazing hot parking lot in Albuquerque, cursed the spotty cell reception in Hatch, began what would become a refreshment trope for the whole trip—Cherry Lime slushes—somewhere near El Paso, were stopped at a border check along the Mexican border (“Are you both US citizens?” “Yes, sir!” I leaned over from the passenger side to say to the obviously FEMALE officer in my flustered and irrational fear of being deported, as Chad fumbled with the contents of his wallet, looking for identification). We laughed, we sang, we tried to take a photo of the “110 degrees” temperature reading on the dashboard readout.
On the Texas Mountain Trail just before Sierra Blanca, Texas, “Mingo” and “Lupe” have their names spray-painted on a stone.
By the time we veered south from the interstate onto Highway 90 toward Marfa, I had unfurled. We were the only ones on the road, slowing to try (and failing) to catch dust devils on video, gauging how long the far-off horizon rainstorm would take to reach us (or would we overtake it first?), and thrilling to the silver dollar-sized raindrops when they finally came. The hairpin turns of my first few driving days had corresponded to the kinks in my soul, but now the west Texas landscape was laying it out flat, smoothing it: I was getting a soul-ironing by the time we saw the large billboard just outside of town: “WELCOME TO MARFA.”