Friday, March 25, 2011

Let's go riding way out west!

Tim adjusts a box as Ryan and Preston look on,
You can just see Nelson's feet in the upper right
corner of the trailer, hanging over a mattress. 
A year ago today Ryan and I bid Rhode Island a fond farwell, and began our drive to the west coast. I grew up loving the stories of pioneers making the long journey westward in their covered wagons, and the excitement I felt boiled away any nervousness. Our friends and us had filled a Uhaul trailer the day before with everything I owned, and we hitched it to my Toyota Matrix and hit the open road. The trailer had been jam packed between the amazing junk-coordinating efforts of Kaela and Tim. Kaela had an eye for what would fit where, and Tim arrived with his shipping and packaging experience just as space was getting tricky. Our slender friend Nelson crawled into the dangerous depths of the trailer to stuff the very last items into place. We slid the backseats down and stored the more delicate lamps, pictures, and breakables into the Matrix bed, wrapped in blankets and covered with cushions. Elvis, my Siamese cat, was placed in his carrier and the carrier rested safely on these cushions. We were able to fit the rat cage with Atticus and Gabriel beside him. As I drove Ryan reassured Elvis and fed the rats Cheezits. The rats, safe in their usual home, loved traveling. They slept in the sun and happily sniffed the air coming in from the open windows like two tiny dogs. Elvis was not as amused at first. That first night we ate dinner in New Jersey and slept in Pennsylvania.

Our modern day covered wagon!
Ryan and I start our journey, Elvis's
carrier just behind us.

It was a sort of prequel honeymoon for Ryan and I. We had been friends for years before our first date, having gone to the same high school and sharing a group of mutual buddies. He had settled in Washington after college, but sometimes visited home. It was one of these visits that he asked me to dinner. We managed to fall in love before dessert. We were immediately inseparable. Our first date lasted almost three days. Ryan asked me to move to the west with him the next week. (That's all a story for another post). It took about a month and a half to wrap up my life in New England, telling my friends and family, giving notice to my job at the bank, sorting and packing my belongings, and Ryan finding a place for both of us in Washington. My friends were thrilled for me, though most of my family thought I was crazy. Ryan and I just knew, we'd found something extraordinary, and nothing extraordinary is easy--or there would be no 'extra' in the word. Save for one week long visit, we spent our first two months together 3000 miles apart. Now here we were rolling down the highway, holding hands and making jokes.

Over the next six days we saw the country (spoiler alert most of the middle is flat). We ate in diners and  slept in hotels, checking in, waiting until the coast was clear, and then sneaking Elvis and the rats into our room through whatever back entrance we could find. As the days went on Elvis became quite the little traveler's kitty and was soon making himself at home in every hotel room. Ryan was able to point out the
Ryan and I, in a seemingly abandoned town in North Dakota.
skyscrapers in Chicago he'd lived in from the highway. We spent a nervous night in Gary, Indiana after walking into the world's seediest motel and encountering a desk clerk in with a gun tucked into his belt by  the light of a flickering television (we didn't stay there). We got lost in an endless graze of Ohio suburbs. We accidentally interrupted a town meeting of four wonderfully kind people in North Dakota as we searched for a bathroom and delighted in a cheesy alien themed restaurant in Bismarck. We had pizza in Whitehorse, Wisconsin and believed everyone in the place was a serial killer (middle aged white men with awkward five o'clock shadows and shifty eyes sitting alone in every booth. It was like a scene from a David Lynch film).

Though the rats were just tickled to be traveling,
Elvis was not a happy camper at first. Here he is
clinging to me in our first hotel room.
...However, by the end of the trip Elvis
was quite the traveler's kitty.

Montana was by far my favorite state we drifted through. The sky was just unreal. You drive long enough through flat enough country and you discover you've taken the sky for granted your entire life. The ground stretched for miles of gorgeous golden fields, but the blue sky and great, wide clouds ruled the landscape. We pulled over at sunset and sat in a field, stretching our legs, watching the sun sink further and further into the west we were chasing. We discovered the world's BEST (and I'm serious) tomato soup in 4B's Restaurant. Montana was beautiful, and I hope we return there some day.

As we hit the mountains snow began, and a snow storm kept us in the mountains only a few hours from Seattle. We snuck the animals into one last hotel, slept through the storm, and reached 'home' that afternoon, to the apartment Ryan had found for us weeks before. It was springtime in Everett and the cherry tree outside our living room window was in full bloom. It was a wonderful journey westward.


  1. Reading this makes me think of my trip down to MS. It wasn't as enjoyable sounding as yours was, I'm miserable when cooped up in a car (and I was cranky with Walter half the time because he likes to push my buttons and I hate it), but the way you describe how it felt when you first started out... that's EXACTLY how it felt! I felt like there was so much hope and promise ahead, like adventures were waiting on the horizon for me.

    My family and friends haven't been as supportive as I'd like. My mom and dad are always begging me to come home (they know how much I don't like living here), and I'm not very good at making new friends so I get lonely. But I'm not miserable. Things are still new, I'm still learning and growing accustomed to the new life. I still feel sometimes like it's an adventure, and while I've had some pretty hard times emotionally down here I don't regret it one bit.

  2. I don't regret it myself. Even when missing friends or family back home, like you say, it's an adventure and an experience! It's rounded my life in ways I never expected.


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