This was my third "road trip," and this time it was from New Orleans to Castle Rock, Colorado. More than I ever, this trip has made me understand what I mean when I say that I want to go on a road trip.
It is not that the road trips I've taken haven't sufficed. In order to get here by today (which we did so we could help Aileen move, and more on that in a moment) we had to do the 21-hour trek in two days and one night. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I remember when Grant and his brother drove from Northfield, Minnesota to Walla Walla, Washington without ever stopping to sleep. There were moments of delusion, of course. But it was, at its heart, a road trip, which became readily apparent when Grant called and said, "You have to drive through Wyoming at night. You just... have to." Those are road trip words.
On this trip James has been pretty knocked over by the landscapes. "Isn't the sky HUGE in Texas? I mean... it is just... BIGGER here. It just is. Isn't it?" And he watched out the front window as if he was watching someone perform a magic trick, trying to get behind its secret. And then in New Mexico, "Wow, it's really beautiful." "Wow, the sky." "Oh my god, look at the landscape here. It's so beautiful." And it would be beautiful -- rocks or fields or tumbleweeds pushed up against live plants pushed up against antelopes. The sky certainly did things that skies will only do on road trips -- it unfolded and changed colors and blew blackbirds around like they were bits of chewed up paper. This is the part of a road trip you can enjoy from the comfort of your car window, finding general images to hang up along the inside of your mind and attach to words like "New Mexico countryside," or "Louisiana bayou."
This works for me, and it is the only version of the road trip I have ever known. But there was this one point in which we stopped in this little town in Texas (whose name I can't remember, so don't ask), where everything was rusting or falling apart; where the paint was peeling from the old signs and barns; where the backs were torn off of saloons and shops, and construction projects lay abandoned or in wait; and THERE I remembered the real reason why road trips appeal to me.
In Walla Walla, my freshman year of college, Alan and Mac and Cat and Kuzo and I piled into this red Subaru and started driving east, with the only requirement of the trip being that we had to stop in every single town we passed on the highway. And although we traveled for three days, we BARELY made it into Idaho. Still, the trip was immortalized, and we talked about it the way other people talk about scandalous frat parties, recounting every little restaurant we ate fried food in, and every time we met someone who told us a story about the history of the place we were standing in.
I love poking around those little towns looking for clues about what used to be there, or what remains there. I love rust. I love the photographs you find left on those walls, or the footprints cemented into the sidewalks. I can't quite explain in mere English words how much I love small-town public libraries (it's practically a sickness). This, then, is what I want to someday get out of my All-American Road Trip. I want to spend the whole summer on the road, stopping a downright obnoxious amount to explore the back roads.
The idea is not remotely unique. I know that people fantasize about taking that kind of trip all the time. But too often I think we get too preoccupied with The Next Thing, trying to find the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B, without stopping, talking, waiting, breathing, or exploring. So someday that's what I want. And I don't care what the cost of gas is.
Colorado is very high up. It's funny, because I think I can actually feel the altitude change, which people say that you can, but I have generally not believed. I am a sucker for the placebo effect. If you tell me I should be feeling something, I assume that I am feeling it. Oh, so THIS is what love is! Oh, I am terribly cold on a hot day, so I SURELY have a fever! And so on and so forth. Last time I was in Colorado I was like, "I am POSITIVE that I feel this altitude thing. Oh man. It is making me feel GROSS." But then I walked away and decided that it was all in my head; that someone had told me I might feel the altitude, and so I'd assumed I had. But THIS time, I don't know, I just have a more prominent headache/ light-headedness that I am relatively certain I am not making up. James just told me that the first time I have a beer up here I am going to feel it. Which I completely believe because I always feel it when I have a beer. I have an exceptionally low alcohol tolerance.
Colorado is very high up and it is very much like Oregon in a lot of ways. For one thing, there are some non-deciduous trees, which, let me tell you, is a little mind-blowing after living in what is essentially a tropical rainforest. Also, there is a wider selection of health food at the supermarket, and a lot more liberal bumper stickers and hipster glasses here and there, and people know what "vegan" means, and there are definitely MOUNTAINS. It's weird to be in a place that is not Portland after having not been in Portland for a long time and feel like I am in Portland. I recognize that that does not make a lot of sense. You may have to experience it for yourself.
We helped Aileen move today, which I was awfully bitchy about. I am not all that good at practical tasks such as moving. James, who has worked concrete before, can withstand enormous amounts of discomfort without ever whining about it. Here are examples:
- James played a game of basketball at the JCC (which I happened to also be at) and this guy started to give him shit. Then there was like a little bit of a fight or something, and the guy elbowed James in the face. Then James started bleeding all over the fucking place. Then we looked at his mouth and realized THAT HE HAD BITTEN ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIS BOTTOM LIP. And there was very little whining.
- James went camping in the woods. He got a tick in his leg. I will note that I had also gotten a tick in my stomach, but James had pulled it out pretty readily, so I didn't have to suffer all that much. James' tick got stuck in there, and then he got Lyme disease. And there was very little whining.
- James was teaching fourth grade, because that is his job. He took his students to the park to play with them, and his head got caught on the lip of the monkey bars (or something) and it got gashed open and he was bleeding all over his shirt and soaked an entire shirt in blood and he had to get nine staples put in his head. And there was very little whining.
And so we stay here until Tuesday, then off to Portland. Wow. Portland. My heart gets dizzy when I think about going to Portland, the way you feel when you know you're going to see your long-distance boyfriend who you're still totally in love with. Maybe you and I could visit when I get there?