On the road

truck packed for a trip

Rita with sunglasses and a neck pillow

long flat landscape

Sun setting in rearview mirror

wyoming butte

We left Portland on Friday morning, heading to Louisiana. We drove east on I-84, through Oregon and into Idaho, and then I-80 through the rest of Idaho and into Wyoming. I’m writing these words at the end of a second 12-hour day in the car. This is the first really long road trip I’ve taken since I was 14. It’s feeling a bit revelatory.

The most striking thing about the miles we’ve covered so far is how empty of humans and the detritus of our civilizations they are. Miles and miles of nothing but open land. The highlight for me was a small group of horses living their best life somewhere in western Wyoming, running free, eating grass, no fences in sight.

The low point was a small town that used to be the home of a state penitentiary, which was operational until 1981. The main drag of the town was pocked with shuttered motels and empty restaurants. There was a neighborhood of what might have been charming homes. We’d hoped to eat there, but we couldn’t find any place we wanted to enter, and, honestly, the whole town felt creepy AF (even before we stumbled upon the penitentiary, which is two blocks off the main street) and we got the hell out of Dodge right after filling up our tank. (Later, I googled the penitentiary, and it IS creepy AF. Operational until 1981, with a grisly history. Now it’s a tourist attraction? And apparently haunted?) It was clear that the town was once thriving, but whatever it had was probably built on the misery of that prison. The whole thing left me feeling sad and icky and unsettled.

Driving through miles and miles (and miles) of land so different from what I know, I had a lot of thoughts about our country and its divisions. I won’t share them, as I know I don’t really know anything about what life is like in the places we’ve driven past, and they are all just speculation. I can say that I found myself having an easier time understanding why so many of us have such different world views; we are living vastly different lives. I knew that before Friday, but in a more abstract way. Something about driving through all these places makes it more concrete.

I can also say that this drive has increased my appreciation for where I live. For evergreen forests, big salt water, glacier-carved rivers, marine air. It was hard for me to drive away from home, knowing that I will be gone for most of the summer. The raspberries in the backyard were just ripening, and the blueberries hadn’t begun to yet. I will miss them this year.

It’s nice to have reminders of how much I love what I have.

And on that note, I’ll share a poem that crossed my feed on Saturday:

And my last breakfast at home. It was so good, and I’m so thankful to have had it.

We still have three more days to go, hitting a lot of Colorado and Texas before getting to Louisiana. Would love to hear about any of your adventures.

8 thoughts on “On the road

  1. Kari says:

    I think we could all benefit from a cross-country drive to gain perspective. Each and every one of us.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more photos and reading about your adventures. I’d really appreciate your point of view from the road. I haven’t been on a road trip in a long time, and it feels good for my soul as well.

    I wish you love and safe travels.


    • Rita says:

      Thank you for the love and good wishes! I needed it today, for sure. I realized, writing this post, that I haven’t been on a long road trip since I was a teenager, with my parents. I am remembering why now! 🙂

  2. Kate says:

    Such great photographs, Rita!! You have a great eye and I love your selfie, especially.

    I agree with Kari, that we could all benefit from the perspective a road trip brings. I know even just going back to Michigan that I see things with fresh eyes – the juxtaposition of million dollar lakeside homes not even a few miles from migrant camps – the now dilapidated housing of manufacturing (or lumber) booms. The way things change and stay the same. Our whole country is made up of so many climates (both economical and ecological) and I appreciate you sharing what you have of what you’ve seen!

    Safe travels!! Look forward to hearing more and following along on Insta!

    • Rita says:

      Yes, the juxtapositions! And changes. I have seen so many shells of towns, and they all make me sad. You can see that they were once thriving, with beautiful buildings. Small gas stations, little restaurants, store fronts. And what’s left are ugly chains. I understand why a town of 1,000 can no longer support the kinds of businesses that were once there. I just wish they could.

  3. TD says:

    “I can say that I found myself having an easier time understanding why so many of us have such different world views; we are living vastly different lives.” Rita this above statement is true for me and this very understanding reached me last week as I had to make a very difficult decision. I believe that I made the right decision as over a week has passed and I’m feeling better.

    I appreciate the poem you shared and am going to try to share it with another blogger who doesn’t read your blog. She will appreciate it too.

    Look forward to reading more about your road trip to Shreveport LA.

  4. Ally Bean says:

    We’ve driven through parts of the country that our different than ours, but never all at once. I’m sure your cross-country experience will be overwhelmingly insightful. Hoping you’ve reached your destination safely now.

    • Rita says:

      We are here. 🙂 I don’t know if the experience was insightful, but I’ve had A LOT of thoughts. And feelings. Overwhelming is probably the key word for the whole thing.

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