The sign on a barely paved road, leading into the sagebrush nothingness, with the name of a town and “12 miles.”
The glimpse of a snowy mountain range just over the bare local horizon.
Walking into a cafe and everybody in the place stopping to look at you juuuussst long enough to realize they don’t know you and they don’t care, then resuming their chatter.
A rest area with a horse, not pet, exercise area.
Little kids on a walk from school, waving and saying hello while you eat fish tacos at a streetside table.
Coming to a junction with nothing around but a warehouse and some ranch vehicles, then realizing it’s the US Highway also known as the main street in your neighborhood where you started, 400 miles back.
Thinking your waitress is cute and wondering how it is exactly that people randomly get together.
Stopping in a gas station in a crossroads town, taking it all in for a moment, then realizing you stopped at this exact station about 23 years ago, the last time you were within hundreds of miles of here.
Asking somebody how long it takes to get the next town, even though Google Maps already told you, just because you want to talk about directions with people like we all used to do.
Asking the person at the hotel where to have breakfast in the morning, and where it is, just because you want to hear a local person give directions like, “It’s just past the tire place and across from the schoolyard.”
Seeing a western clothing store that opened sometime in 1956 but is closed now, and trying to imagine what the world was like in 1956 when this place was The Place.
The historical marker you didn’t stop at, so you’ll probably never know.
The state park you didn’t drive eight miles out of the way to check out, so you’ll probably never know.
The squeaky swing in the park across from your hotel, and the sound of a young girl yelling “higher” and then squealing with delight.
You realizing that tomorrow you’ll be driving into those snowy mountains.
You remembering why you fell in love with the road so many years ago.