Monday, September 15, 2014

Road Trip, USA

It was on a Thursday that I flew from Utah to New York with a short layover in Denver. I was surprised when I went to the counter to check in.  I opened my backpack to pull out my ID and felt a sudden jolt as I passed him my New York state license.  This could be the last time in a long time that i'll go back.  When I had left, I left and never looked back.  But then I bought some last minute tickets to go back, I turned around to face New York and I felt the feelings I thought I ought to in the first place. The last time I'll be going back to New York, my heretofore home, my pride.  I put the ID in the front pocket next to my subway card holder which is a little plastic thing with a picture of Starry Night, that I had bought at the MoMa store in SoHo. Wow, let's see how many more portmanteaux I can include in a sentence. I'll try again:

After seeing a film in TriBeCa, I could have gone to a MoMa store in BoCoCa but there isn't one, so I went to SoHo, instead of NoHo (less cool), somewhat near NoLita which I'm surprised is a place since Little Italy is the size of my thumb.  I can't think of anymore. Anyone out there want to add to?

And when I saw my Starry Night cardholder, like the penny in Somewhere In Time, something that was now completely irrelevant to my current life, it sent a jolt in me and launched me back to another place, another time. But unlike the penny itself, for i am not sure i can ever let go of this thing. It will remain in the pocket of my bag, an object out of place and time.  So with that, and with the walking to a terminal going back to someplace for the last time, i felt the waves of emotion, I felt, a little too late. Delayed, maybe. But I'm glad I felt them at all.

I landed at LGA, took a cab to Sean and we set off in the car, the black honda or Black Taxi, as Julian has named it, headed West (somewhat due), where the skies are blue.

The road trip was difficult because I'm now at the age where sitting is hard. But I also really loved it. I loved getting an idea of how frigging huge these states are and thus, this country, and I could sort of put together in my mind a general lay of the land, which I love. We drove for 4 days and a few hours and I counted 11 states. I did not keep a log of any kind since I had to drive or stare out the window to take car pics and writing in the car brings the promise of puke.  So i'll do the best I can. A tribute to each state, with a desire that I could have seen more. One day I will do it.

Dear New York,

How could I say goodbye? After a delightful dinner sitting on stools in a French bistro in an open window eating salmon and mussels, and watching New Yorkers, my people, walk by, you made it hard. But then you made it easy when we sat for over an hour in traffic to go about 500 yards. This is not an exaggeration. Apparently all 8 million people were trying to get to the Holland Tunnel that night (silly us).  I will say, though, I felt very much at home driving there cutting people off in a friendly way instead of a totally unnecessary and therefore rude way, as in Utah (sorry).
I can't say goodbye. So instead I'll say, see you around, maybe.

farewell mussels

Sitting outside Sean's work, watching everyone pass by and wanting to give them a big hug.

Rule #1 of road trips: All pictures taken MUST be from inside the car.  Even if you're outside and want to snap a pic of something, go back in your car and take it there. You're on a ROAD TRIP. 

Dear New Jersey,
I don't remember anything about you other than what I've always felt was true: the closer to the city
 you are, the uglier your experience, but outside of that you get so much more pleasant and then it's over. You're done, because you're small.  It was nighttime, in your defense, but we had to rush to get to the next one...(hugs)

Day One

Dear Pennsylvania,

AKA Best State In The Union.  BSITU (Impromptu Acronym, a game I sometimes like to play, to see if anything good results. I give that one a C).  I love you, I love you, I loooove yoooou. I am convinced that Pennsylvania really is the best state of all the states. It has it all: lush, green rolling hills. Insanely beautiful farmlands. Proximity to cities and cool places, including PHILLY (holla!).  And of course, the Amish, last but never, ever least.  We were so torn, being on a time crunch but wanting to pause and see some sights.  After a delicious country lunch at White Horse Inn, where the outdoor barbecue stretched as far as the eyes could see, we drove through Bird In Hand and also Intercourse, of course. Along the way we saw my dream scooter:


Apparently, though I shouldn't be surprised, the scooter I've been dreaming about of late is an Amish scooter. This is how peeps get around and I immediately became more obsessed than I already was. "Excuse me, sir! Whereabouts did you acquire thine amazing scooter there??" i so wanted to shout out the window. But I did not.  Instead we stopped at a Mennonite yard sale where I found and purchased THIS gem:

Aaaghhh! A Mennonite dress! What's that? You want to see it ON me? Weeell, ok, twist my arm.

What? Oh, you wanted to see it WITH the apron and head scarf? Fine, i am willing to oblige:

(Sorry for breaking rule #1.)

Ha HA! Isn't it great? The apron is hard to see and i'm still trying to figure out the ins and outs of the dress but I have to say, I kind of love it. AND, as even more luck would have it, I spotted my dream scooter again at this yardsale. I asked the woman about it and she told me i could find them at the Esh General Store like 5 feet away.  So we stopped by and LO AND FREAKIN' BEHOLD:

I found it. It's yellow with a basket and I FOUND IT.  Do you know what it's like to come face to face with your dream?? And then purchase it? And have it shipped to you?? And I am officially two steps closer to my dream of becoming Amish.  Here are some more shots of us trying to catch a pic of the cute people perusing the wares. 

I sat here just now for a good length of time before realizing what this next pic was:
The pennsylvania barbecue. 

What a beautiful place. I wonder how pretty my laundry would look were i to hang it out to dry. Maybe I'll do it and then instagram it for everyone, hashtag amishlife. That reminds me, one thing we did while in PA was try to find as many songs about the state as we could and sing along with them. This short list included:

1. Weird Al's Amish Paradise
2. Fresh Prince of Bel Aire (obvs)
3. Bruce Springsteen's super boring Philadelphia from the movie Philadelphia. That song was easy to sing along with. You just have to barely open your mouth and growl the words. Pretend you're singing while sleeping, and a little upset.

In Pennsylvania there are many rolling hills that they just cut tunnels through for roads. I'm including this pic because it's bright and blurry and a good car pic: opposed to a bad car pic. Hey guys, we saw an Amish horse and buggy! Check it: 

Goodbye, Pennsylvania. Hello, West Virginia!

Day Two

Goodbye, West Virginia, hello Ohio!

We stayed overnight in Wheeling, W. VA just so we could hit the state on our route. We stopped at an Applebees for a late night dinner and had to sit at the bar for a while as we waited for our food. I have to say, it was most entertaining and I have resolved to sit at the bar more often. I felt like I was an anthropological spy, just sitting and listening to the conversations and interactions of the West Virginians. 

Ohio was quick and kind of nondescript. But my favorite activity was as we were chatting about accents. Sean, being from the state, tried to explain what a Southern Ohio/Appalachian accent was and failed to describe so I looked it up on Youtube and found all sorts of things. You should really check them out-- they're Accent Tags for various states/regions. Sooo interesting! Here's the one I listened to and quite enjoyed:

"pry go up to the bar" is when Sean crumpled and died in his seat. SO GOOD.

Also, if you're a linguistical nerd like me, check out this video of the Appalachian accent/language. Fascinating.

Something I loved was just seeing signs for places I knew but had never really been close to. "South for Memphis."  Tennessee! Fun! Exciting! I love visualizing myself on a giant map of the U.S. Knowing I was close to them, getting some kind of idea in my head, a mental map, of just how big these states were by crossing them entirely in a day, gives me a weird geography high. And I hadn't realized that we were brushing the top of the Bible Belt. Notice that big cross in the above picture. We saw a few more of them, including many, many signs about Jesus, God, and abortion.   Here's another big cross:

We stopped for a short visit at my brother's house in IN which allowed us to unfold our accordion bodies out of the car and see cute kids and chat a bit. I meant to take a pic but I did not so you'll just have to use your imagination.  I will say though, as we stepped out into the cloud of humidity, i think i physically recoiled. Too soon, humidity. Too soon. 

Day Three

Dear Missouri, 

I thought you were pretty pleasant. We saw the arch from the car as we passed St. Lou and I had a pretty fun time driving over rolling hills. Up, down, up, down--wheeee!

Lots of car-sitting. And seeing so much lovely scenery and not being able to actually capture a lick of it. I don't even know if those two pics are from this place. It all kind of blurred together in the middle there. 

And then it got flat.  Real flat. But I'll be darned,  Kansas, if you aren't just the sleeper darling of the Midwest. I thought it was just lovely. I loved all the farms and crops and marveled at the flatness. Getting out and looking around was a little unsettling but I loved seeing it as we drove through. I hear stories of people feeling claustrophobic in mountainous areas and agoraphobic in open spaces. My mom said she almost had a panic attack driving through flat land one time and had to focus on a single tree in the distance and she was ok. Crazy, right?  Along the way I had this pleasant text chat with my dad. He asked where we were:

...blindfold test for when we get home, i mean (gotta clarify my jokes.)  By the way, the storm of which I spoke was CUH-RAZY.  The previous evening we got stuck in a scary scary lightning, rain, and wind storm. Maybe there was a tornado?? Who knows?? It was a storm not quite like one I'd ever known and the sprawling lightning, constantly spidering across the sky at such a rapid rate scared me out of my wits.  We pulled off into the weirdest town--i don't even know if it was real. I was like, are we on a movie set? Is this real life? I sent these pics to my sister:

News and Times?? that cannot be real.

 "Insurance Store"???

I could not make sense of this town. To make matters creepier, a creepy slow train then rolled by, which just about did it for me and we moved to a gas station to wait it out and I tried and failed to get any decent lightning pics, but here you go. I also sent these to my sister, from the car:





We spent the night in KS. As we pulled up to the Super8, I tried one more time:

And these are the memories of that motel room I'll treasure always:

1. this note

(heh heh--*punch self in arm*

2. this wall...hanging? mural? I'd say hanging but the picture was flush with the wall 
like it was glued on with rubber cement and then a frame slapped on. what?

Whatever the case, I felt better knowing i was sleeping afoot a ribbony waterfall crashing onto some rocks. 

Day Four

The next day we were feeling anxious since we had 16 hours to go and it was our last day of driving. So we set out at 8:00 and ripped through the rest of KS.

 pretty sure this is the exact pic i sent in the text to my dad. if you noticed this, you get 10 pts.

I sent a text to my mom saying, "Mom, I think for windmills, KS beats ID."  She was not pleased.  Just kidding, she never replied. In fact, that text may remain unread to this day.  But look at all of them windmills!

At this point we were just kind of in a daze. Having lost all concept of the passage of time and location, as well as the feeling in our legs, we set off.  I sent my friend a Labor Day text and told her my butt was working hard enough for us all.

We finally crossed into Colorado and it didn't feel so different. It's really flat out there on the east side, you guys.  Flat, flat, dry.  We passed some towns that were so small and just sort of petered off. Like a few scattered houses and then one little house out on the end and then nothing else. It kind of depressed me, to be honest. And then we passed some strange rodeo ghost town (or looked that way) and then as we read about the state a few miles later, Sean shouted out that that town we'd passed, Dear Trail, was the home of the VERY FIRST RODEO in the WORLD. So, that was sort of exciting. 'ish.  All of this really made me think about what it was like to live in these tiny tiny towns. How do you get people to come to your town?? What are your attractions? And how do you keep a town viable? You have to have shops-- insurance stores, and news and times. And the people to run them. How do you do it? It sounds so hard to me, trying to keep a small town alive.

airstream classic. jealous.

I'm going to show you a bunch of boring Kansas/Colorado-- I'm going to call it Kansorado-- pics because you won't get the full experience without them. It's about the journey.

I'll now include a text chat with my sister Ashley. I would sometimes send pics to her to pass along to Julian.  Keep in mind, we had crossed well over into loopy land here so i'm not at my best here.  And because I know you wanted to see them one more time, some of those pics are included in the text:

like i said, not my best. can anyone think of anything better?

As we crossed the border, my thoughts turned into desperately hoping/needing to see some mountains that we were told exist in Colorado, but it had felt like so long since we'd seen anything of the sort, we weren't sure they were really there, especially since they were nowhere to be seen.  I mean, weren't they supposed to be big?? C'mon. I constantly scanned the horizon in earnest, thinking I saw them in the distance but it was just a rocky mirage. (band name?)

When our spirits were drooping, we stopped for gas and my third Wendy's salad in too short a time. Luckily there was also a weird gift shop that brought back some cheer to our hearts and blood to our lower extremities.

This may be the location of the single greatest moment of our road trip, if not my life.  We were standing in line at the Wendy's with two men behind us, conversating at length about how many times they'd been to jail and for what.  Counting all the times, making a list, naming them.  Ohhh my lands. It was marvelous. Sean and I just stood there, paralyzed with delight and i whispered to him,

"just remember it. turn on your mental recorder and choose to remember at least one thing really well."  

He actually tried to record with his phone but by the time he got it going they had gotten stuck on some other less interesting topic.  But one guy said something like this:

"Ah man, i been to jail so many times. the last time was like two weeks ago. i had gotten out on parole and i was working at the [some place] and it was late so i just slept in my car. I forgot to call my parole officer and he called me the next day and said, 'where were you? you have to call me' and i said, 'i was tired so i slept in my car!' and i had to go back to jail for a few days."  *laughter*

He had been in a lot but the details are now, sadly, sketchy. His friend, if you wanted to know, hadn't been to jail in four years--high five! But boy if that wasn't just a gem of an overhear.

After buying some knick knacks including postcards of these alleged Rockies, and country greeting cards, we set off again.  This would be the second to last time of getting out of the car before home.

Praise the heavens when we finally saw the shadowy silhouette of the mountains! So amazing to traverse so many different kinds of land and topography. It only adds to my mental map, and therefore, happiness. Now it was a relief map.

Turns out the I-70 goes right. through. the. mountains. And by "through" I should say "up and down" like a terrifying car-coaster, but maintaining a flatlands speed limit.  It was exciting but seriously scary! Uuuuup up up up up---c'mon, little car--- then dooooown doown dow--aaahhh we're all gonna die!  We passed by many a runaway truck ramp which is a safety road for trucks that lose control--yay? that makes me feel safer? look how high that ramp goes.

I stole that one from the internet but I'm pretty sure that's from our route. I had never seen this before. And all along the way were signs of encouragement for the truckers:  "hang in there, trucks! 4 more miles."  for real.

I didn't get too many pics of this since my white-knuckled fingers were too busy gripping the wheel and wiping brow sweat, but here are two:

After a while our eyes began to play tricks on us. We seriously couldn't tell if we were going up or down, just by looking. We had to go by how the car was driving, if it was trying.  Isn't that weird?? Sean brought it up and i was like, "pfff, we're going down, duh."  and then realized we were climbing. But it looked like we were descending!  Crazy stuff. I think there's something strange about those mountains and all the cute cozy towns tucked right inside.  I compared those towns to the sad, randomly placed towns in the flat areas where they just end and there's nothing else. I think i like a cozy surrounding.

We finally made it out alive and said faretheewell to CO and the plateaux:

Eager to make it home, we pressed on and on, with one more stop where our destination was to the right, and Arches National Park to the left. Once again, tempted to turn to explore an unknown land, we wistfully turned the other way and we made the painful last stretch home.  It was kind of awful and we were out of our minds with fatigue, car delirium, and physical discomfort.  We watched/listened to many episodes of Parks and Rec or 30 Rock and that kept us going until we pulled in, at 11:30pm, and Sean officially became a Utahn.  Welcome, my friend.


Ashley said...

This post was nearly as long as your road trip. J/k. I loved it and your take on things. And bravo for making Kansorado interesting.

)en said...

The only way you could really know was to travel with me every step of the way. Like bastian on neverending story

Valerie said...

I couldn't even get through the whole thing before I said the following things:

1. That scooter is ah-mazing. Like, amazing. I neeeeeeeeed one. To Pennsylvania.

2. You look like a natural in that Mennonite wear. You could totally pass.

Okay, now I'm going to go back and finish reading this.