Hitting the Road
Bags, upon bags, upon bags were packed. Plastic tubs filled and taped shut. Every inch of room in the truck was stuffed and the trailer was full. While water and caffeinated beverages filled all available cupholders, one hand was on the wheel the other was stuffing my face with all natural jerky. We headed one-way toward the east coast with plans to stop in: Burns Oregon, Las Vegas Nevada, Grand Canyon National Park, Albequercy New Mexico, and Charleston SC.
Yes, you read that correctly. We spent a night in Albequercy then hauled ass to Charleston. By hauling ass I have to say we had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. We took to switching drivers ever 2-4 hours and drove through terrifying epic downpours in Arkansas. It’s the road trip that rivals all road trips for us. I’ve tried and failed in my attempts to add up the number of miles we’ve driven over various road trips. Let’s just say it’s an ass-ton (keeping a theme going here). This one wasn’t the most scenic at times. We spent the second half of the trip on interstates. Smelling cow pies before we could even see the cows. Navigated our fair share of poorly placed construction cones, detours and one eager Texas Trooper that took a 5-minute interest in our trucks temporary tags. Why was this “the most epic”? Because it’s the mode of travel we chose to move across the United States.
Rural southwestern Oregon is a true wild west. It can feel as if time has stood entirely still. An entire day can pass without ever encountering another soul. Harney County was the place on a map of Oregon where you were more likely to find a legend than a useful geographic fact. It’s not because Harney County isn’t special. Harney County doesn’t need a large city skyline to make it beautiful; it’s lit up by the night sky. It’s weathered and rough due to its natural geography, not its poor politics. This place wasn’t somewhere I frequented. Actually, it’s somewhere I had really never been until we planned this road trip. My husband spent most of his time in the area as a volunteer archaeologist just outside Burns. Every summer for about a week he would pack up and set out to the dig site. He purposely planned this part of the trip so he could show me where he stayed. I had a first-hand view of this place he spent one-week every year for four years.
It’s what he had always described. A high elevation plateau, sparsely vegetated, sagebrush-covered landscape. The night-life was meant for none human life. Naturally beautiful and barren. The secrets of what this place holds lie with its locals, outdoor enthusiast, and road trip junkies. Driving through, I caught quick glimpses of the dilapidated buildings dotting a harsh landscape. At it’s highest elevation just under 10,000 feet the Steens Mountains stood sharply. Jetting out of the earth they stood in the distance as a farewell reminder. Driving down Hwy 205, I watched the last bit of this landscape fade in the distance; the exit from Oregon was official.
No Stopping ’til Charleston
Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe what it feels like to sleep in Albuquerque New Mexico one night then sleep again (officially) in Charleston South Carolina. After doing the classic Route 66 and Grand Canyon stop offs we headed to Albuquerque. If we were to repeat one part of this trip it would certainly be the southwestern portion. Like another world, it was without a doubt absolutely beautiful. Probably the most beautiful part.
The trip through the dry red-rocked southwest was too fast, but we had an agenda to maintain. After spending three nights in three different states we just wanted to make it to the east coast. Our surroundings didn’t go unnoticed. Texas smelled more then we thought – at least along I-40. Oklahoma City was bigger than we imagined. Arkansas was greener and wilder then we would have ever known. If not for this road trip, despite how slow and fast in parts it may have been, I may have never seen these parts of the country. Seeing it from the point of view of a passerby or tourist is, of course, a much different perspective then settling down and getting to know a place. But for me, this opportunity to “see” other parts of this country was just that – an opportunity.
From the small towns we blinked through to the larger cities we sat in traffic with, it was an introduction to a different perspective. A precursor to living a bit different. Why epic? Because I gained (we gained) so much more. A move, a road trip, opportunities, and a different perspective. Having been on my fair share of road trips, none gave me as much insight into how to think bigger than the one that propelled me into a new place.