The song's journey plan proposes a presumably solo drive of a minimum of 700 miles - assuming a starting point not far west of Phoenix to the Oklahoma state line
somewhere in the panhandle
- in a period of about 24 hours. Less minimalistically the logic of the song's geography suggests that the starting point is probably somewhere around Los Angeles
, which means that with a crossing into Oklahoma
on route 66
you are looking at well over 1000 miles in that time, averaging a constant 40 miles an hour plus, without breaks. Remember that the car and the roads are those of 1967, and that we are talking about a driver in a state of serious emotional disturbance
planning two consecutive nights without sleep
. The road safety implications are quite horrendous. Indeed, I think that we can safely assume that he never actually reached Oklahoma City - he would have ended up driving into a bridge abutment
or, if he was lucky, in the caring hands of some small town traffic cop
However, the songwriter masterfully sets a context for this reckless journey plan at the end of the first verse. The protagonist is clearly deeply self-delusional. It is clear what happens next.
He drove far enough to see the sun come up over the Colorado River, parked up, smoked a cigarette, then turned the car round and drove right back home again, just missing her because she'd already left for work.