As a child traveling with my parents, I’d often think to myself, “What if we kept driving East?” I would want to keep going on the road past the North Umpqua National Forest and past Crater Lake just to see what was beyond.
That same thought kept haunting me throughout my adult life. What if I just kept driving East? What is out there? I wished I could leave everything behind and explore the unknown. Then one day opportunity struck. My employer announced that I could expect a significant reduction in work hours for the next month. My husband, who was self-employed, agreed that it would be now or never if we every wanted to drive across the United States before retirement in 20 plus years.
So we did the financially responsible thing. I contacted my manger to ensure he would not schedule me for the next three weeks, we bought a brand new bright orange SUV for the trip, and we asked the neighbor to look after our miniature donkey and pot bellied pig. We also left our pug named Gladys with my in-laws. Subsequently, they refused to give us Gladys back upon our return a month later. They had grown to love her so much!
Before we knew it, we were off on our adventure. I loved watching the landscape change constantly, sometimes very unexpectedly. At one point we drove across the very flat lands of southern Idaho. With not much to see, I settled back into my seat only to be shocked forward by the sight of the Earth opening up beneath me. I thought we were driving over a small bridge to an irrigation channel but it ended up being a huge ravine with a significant river running through it that was hidden from view until you were passing directly over the deep chasm.
That was not the only surprise along the way to the East Coast. We also drove pass the Sinclair oil refineries late at night. These dazzling lit plants looked like a city for fairies out in the middle of nowhere. On a different occasion, my husband Craig and I stopped at Cody Park in North Platte, NE. We thought it was just going to be just a pleasant place to enjoy our dinner. Little by little we started noticing different things. Are those peacocks roaming around the park? What are those fenced animals around the lake? Could they be buffalo?
This land of ours was definitely not ordinary. This was really brought home to us when we landed on the East Coast. Watching an American Bald Eagle soar over the battlefields of Yorktown, I was filled with pride. Yorktown was the pivotal battle of the American Revolution where with the help of the Marquis de Lafayette (George Washington’s surrogate son), we were able to ensure America’s victory over Britain. I was also overcome with a sense of importance while visiting Kittyhawk, NC. The Wright brother’s flight field has enshrined upon it markers for the first airplane flights in history. “Wow,” I thought, “This really is where the modern age began.” You could feel it in the air.
Of course when you make it clear across the country, you have to at least dip your toes in the Atlantic for posterity’s sake. While Craig and I were busy doing just that and documenting it with selfies, a concerned woman came up to us. She informed us that right in the rocky cove we were sitting at, there had been many water moccasins spotted earlier that day. We quickly and thankfully retrieved our feet from the Atlantic Ocean.
On the journey back home, we crossed different things off our bucket list. I had wanted to see Churchill Downs (site of the Kentucky Derby), Craig wished to stop and see Mt Rushmore. We did so in a harrowing helicopter ride. I think that was my first and last time flying in what I equate to a tin can. We also visited both the birthplace of Craig’s mother Elizabeth in Okolona, AR and the birthplace of my mother Patricia in Kearney, NE. After all, when were we going to get to do this again? Life is so very unexpected.
Little did we know that this much awaited for trip across the country was to forever change our lives. We realized that the lifestyle that we had yearned for was waiting for us in the Midwest. Not a year after our return and we sold everything and settled in a small Kansas town. The old desire to drive all across the United States is still present in me. The only difference now is the starting point.
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