Sweet ride

As it turned out, my brother in San Diego had the perfect car for my 16- year-old: a ’94 Camry with 138,000 miles, minimal dings and a fading, dull paint job. In other words, a sane, reliable vehicle that greatly pleased me and slightly disappointed the kid. (She had the hots for a new Tracker. Interesting choice, but … no.)

This cozy familial arrangement did bring about a logistical problem, though. Car in San Diego; daughter in Denver. Who gets the butt-buster 1,200-mile driving assignment to link the two?

Said my ex, “Well, maybe you could get a column out of it?”

ANZA BORREGO STATE PARK, 100 miles east of San Diego—The desert here is in bloom. And I mean an enormous, eyeball-bathing, mega-blom of a BLOOOOOOM. What’s your pleasure, flower creep? Acres of asters? Hectares of heliotropes? Sections of sunflowers? It’s the kind of over-the-top showboating that used to kick off Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, should you be geezic enough to remember that one. You still have time to see it, if you’re florally fanatical enough to pull a 600-miler.

EL CENTRO, Calif. (the vitally important town that keeps the produce section of your local supermarket well-stocked during the winter)—A town with a seething musk one might well call Feedlot Stinkfoot, which, I suppose, is the price a place must pay when it grows food for a nation of urban ingrates.

YUMA, Ariz.—I drove through this gonzo little hellhole on the Monday of President’s Day weekend, where it was obvious a happening was happening. The Yuma area was filled with RVs, trailers, and OHVs (off highway vehicles). If you like tearin’ around in the sand, this is your paradise. These are your people. Yuma in February is to dune buggies as ZZ Top is to beards.

AJO, Ariz.—On this scenic route to Tucson, there are two things in abundance: saguaros and border patrol.

NEW MEXICO, between Hatch and Socorro—This region reminds me of I-80, between Winnemucca and Wells. Big, wide-open, drably monotonous, and drowse-inducing.

NEW MEXICO, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe—I paused for a stretch at a highly civilized rest stop, one that offers not just phones, rest rooms and vending machines, but free coffee and Internet access as well.

SANTA FE, N.M.—A city that remains staunch in its unique architectural approach. As I drove past, I couldn’t help but notice that even the homes in the subdivisions are tan, rectangular mud boxes. It’s the signature cliché of Santa Fe, and I can’t think of another city quite like it.

LAS VEGAS, N.M.—This place is not at all like our Vegas.

PUEBLO, Colo. — Two days and a thousand miles into it. Ass pain has begun to overcome the Advil, and I’m thankful the girls don’t live in Quebec.

Finally, the lights of the Denver metro area. This city is truly gigantic, the mile-high Los Angeles, descending from the hills, to be swallowed by its vastness.