Great Westward Migration, Part 3

I’m a fan of road trips. My family has been doing them since I was a kid. Let’s see what I can remember… Maryland to Florida, Maryland to Maine, Maryland to Denver. The first two were in childhood, so they’re a bit of a blur. That last is also a blur, but for more traumatic reasons. My father died of pulmonary fibrosis when I was fifteen, but first we relocated to Denver to be near a specialist and await a lung transplant. It never came. So it was back to Maryland. Then my newly widowed mother, with incredible fortitude, packed two teenagers, multiple pets, and all of our worldly possessions and moved us cross-country to Las Vegas. From there, we explored the West Coast, and college hunting took us as far as northern California. I ended up settling on New Orleans for school, and made the summer drive from Louisiana to Nevada multiple times. The last epic road trip was when my job moved me from New Orleans to Virginia, three years ago.

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When I was a kid, my dad had a giant map on the wall and he’d put pins in every city he’d visited. Maybe it inspired this wanderlust. Even with all my road trip experience, the trek to Oregon was the longest drive I’ve ever made. We even got to unlock some new map zones!

Thanks to Roadtrippers.com, we had a whole plan for seeing sites along the way, but we quickly realized that anything not directly off the highway wasn’t worth navigating with the Uhaul. Like, in Kansas, when Meg and I took the car in search of an elusive white buffalo, ending up on roads where Bobby couldn’t follow. It turned out to be rather sad in the end, an old and faded creature all penned up. We did get to see the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, IL, snap some pictures of the St. Louis Arch from the highway, and see Wyoming’s Giant Lincoln Head at a conveniently located rest stop. I still recommend Roadtrippers.com, though. You put in your route and it gives you food, lodging, and roadside attractions within a certain distance. Our intended plan is still up, here.

Great, grey beast.

Great, grey beast.

Trevor is not impressed by oversized condiments.

Trevor is not impressed by oversized condiments.

This stretch of highway monitored by a giant, disembodied head.

This stretch of highway monitored by a giant, disembodied head.

Meg and I debated who would get to sleep through the Great Big Nothing of the mid-west, but it wasn’t so bad. Lots of big open spaces, farmland, and more wind turbines than I expected. Anyone who claims that they “ruin the landscape” must not be paying attention. They’re glorious. And massive. We saw multiple trucks hauling blades and just… damn. Way to go, human ingenuity. I’d rather look out over a horizon of mighty, sustainable pinwheels than live under a cloud of smoke on a rumbling and broken earth. Why is this such a debate?

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As far as natural beauty, I was most surprised by Wyoming. Wildflowers lining the highway, dramatic rock formations, big puffy clouds casting their shadows over rolling hills. Had this been an old-school westward migration, I might well have stopped our wagons there. This was also the start of the wild sunflowers, which continued through Idaho, and are everywhere in Oregon. If I had the funds to commemorate this journey with a tattoo, it would be a sunflower.

Eastern Wyoming. 10/10, would totally live here.

Eastern Wyoming. 10/10, would totally live here.

Western WY is also pretty, in a yellow sort of way.

Western WY is also pretty, in a yellow sort of way.

Oregon proved itself the belle of the ball, Wyoming’s the runner up, and I have to give third place to my old friend Utah. Bobby was a Uhaul champ on the winding mountain pass down into Salt Lake City. It’s been years since I was there but – holy shit – is SLC huge. All those burbs in the valley. We ended up adding almost an hour of city driving to get to the only vacant Motel 6 in the area. It’s too much dusty sprawl for me, but you can see why people thought the surrounding area was their promised land.

Travel stop fashion.

Travel stop fashion.

Meg left us in Denver to fly back to L.A., but we fit a hell of a lot of quality sister time into our sprint. After visiting our childhood home in Maryland, we had a lot to download and dissect. We’ve never really had a good, adult talk about our childhood experience, especially about our father’s death. This has been on my mind a lot lately, seeing as how I’m writing a book about speaking to the dead. It made me realize how lucky I am to have a sibling like her, someone who comes from the exact same place, who shares more common life experience than anyone else. I also read her the new treatment for the Terminus origin story and she loved it – getting intrigued at the right moments, picking up on the threads of mysteries to be untangled. We really got all up in there. It was amazing. The fact that she gets it increased my confidence tenfold!

The canine crew also continued to be amazing. Apollo was resigned to his fate and slept through as much of the trip as he could. By about Day 4, he was even occasionally braving a glance out the window. Trevor took over the copilot roll once Meg left, also sleeping through much of it (useless, I tell you!), but he kept me company and didn’t try to nose his way into my lap as much as I expected. Cookie continued to cruise in the Uhaul with Bobby. At some point, Apollo caught on to where she was and started getting excited when he saw the truck at rest areas. We even switched the big dogs near the end and gave Apollo a turn to ride up high. Better view, but he was not pleased to be separated from Mommy.

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Trevor's first Puppuccino.

Trevor's first Puppuccino.

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By this time, we were running on coffee and sheer determination. Six freakin’ days! I’m grateful to live in a country where you can cross that much land, so many diverse regions, and still be in the United States. Sure, part of me expects it to fragment in the next few decades (or sooner, given all the shenanigans going on in the White House), but I want to see as much of it as possible. Now that we’re based in the Pacific Northwest (still can’t quite believe that), I’d love to hit those white spots on the map. Also, if the government collapses, we’re pretty solidly in the blue state bubble. Given how long we lived in the Deep South and what happened in Charlottesville right before we left VA, it’s a good change. Sure, there are Trump signs here in rural Oregon, but everyone seems fairly chill. Kinda seems like everyone around here is just doing their own thing, and maybe smoking some of that legal weed.

I’ll dive into the wonder and splendor of Oregon in my next blog. There’s plenty to say, especially now that it’s raining and hopefully getting some of the smoke out of the air. My old home in the South is under water, the new home state is largely on fire. No escaping climate change for any of us. Yes, yes, I’m a liberal hippie who wants scientific progress and equality for all. At least now I live solidly amongst my kind. Viva Cascadia!

That’s it for now. Stay wet – or dry – whenever you are. Love to TX, LA, and FL. Peace, y’all!

Candid sister shot, hitting the road from Topeka, KS.

Candid sister shot, hitting the road from Topeka, KS.