After having tasted the dusty trails on my tongue, my mind was hooked to the heat travel added to my soul. The 4,200+ mile trip with my sister was implanted in my head like an icepick. The longing for the road was there and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As a duel pet mom and a working one at that, it felt further away each day. Here’s where I discovered my mason jar and how important that method of saving became. Every time I made money, had a $20 in my pocket and only needed enough ones for coffee on me for the day, into the jar it went. Having saved for about 8 months, the trip was rotating heavily in my thoughts. This time I would embark alone and start and end my journey in Denver, Colorado.
Maps became my best friends, studying them, redrawing them, making them imbedded in my being. Mapping out my route was incredibly fun. Where did I want to go? What and who did I want to see? How many hours could I drive each day without going mad? How long would I be able to stand the sound of my own voice and the circle of my own thoughts? It was time to test these theories. Time to book rooms, yurts, reserve spots at friends houses, friends of friends houses, research costs of tolls (though I didn’t hit any since I was no longer in New York), gas, milage on cars, entry fees to National Parks, food money, spending money, back up plans, exit strategies. Deserts were on my mind, so I made sure I had what they require; A hat, sunscreen, snakebite kit, proper footwear, a decent water bottle, chap stick with SPF (i can’t express the importance of this one enough, you’ll know when it happens), my binoculars, an extra blanket, etc. The planning was getting exciting.
As the days grew closer, I got increasingly more nervous and excited. There was so much room for error, as a woman traveling alone people had more worries in that department than I had. My family had been in town, which if you know me, or any of us for that matter, is a lot of personalities to balance all at once and it can get trying at times. Like my last trip I journaled throughout the process and it really helped me capture some small details, but most importantly the mood I was in throughout the days on the road. Since this trip was such a huge part of my life, I will layer the journal entries with additions of my own along the way.
This specific road trip occurred over the summer two years ago in 2014 on the 18th of July.
July 19th, 2014
“Sore from travel, I lay here on Downing St in Denver pondering the trip so far. I arrived last night after a long weekend with the fam, at around 10:30pm, an hour ahead of schedule.
The travel was pretty much smooth, I even saw a miniature display of fireworks from the plane and I sat there wondering where they were coming from. Some town’s version of a Bison’s game? Nate picked me up from the airport with a hug, a choice of gatorade or water and a blunt. The moon as we left the airport hung huge and low in the sky. We unloaded, had a beer and went to bed. ZZZZZZZZZ……”
This was my first time truly dealing with the elevation beside just driving through for the night. Elevation issues are real, the adjustment period is different for me every time I’ve gone since.
July 20th, 2014
“This morning I awoke to the sun as it began to light up the sky. We laughed at silly deliriums and smoked. As I showered , I realized how difficult it was for me to breathe. I began chugging water, jar after jar. It took me just over three hours to level out my breathe and my heart.
Once I took deep, slow breaths on a good, solid rhythm, I felt up to heading to the dispensary. It was honestly one of the most cheerful and pleasant experiences I’ve ever had. It made me extremely relieved and happy to see a clean, beautiful city with fair and functional marijuana laws, fully accepting of ones personal marijuana use.
After the dispensary we, grabbed breakfast from Pete’s Diner and began packing for our hike. We drove out to Loveland Pass in the Rocky Mountains. After a quick and dangerous pee, we began to climb. Loveland starts at 11,990 feet above sea level. We scoured rock piles and tracked through snow and wind. As we got higher and higher onto the ridge, the air temperature dropped lower and lower. My feelings of slight vertigo began to set in. My feet felt like a loose pile of marbles and my thighs were just stinging. Each level we climbed helped me get into a rhythm with my breathing. Looking around, it felt more and more thrilling as we climbed.
Looking back down at the improvements that we’d made, how far we’d come sent us into a phase of mad smiling. After the ridge had been showing us signs of a possible storm brewing, we tailed it back to the car. We arrived just in time to be pelted by a hail storm as we reached the car. We dried off, drove down to a river that had overflown with snow melt and a inspected a pocket of trees severely affected by beetle burn. At a distance the trees had looked purple in the sun. On the trail I collected a rock for…”
At this point I trailed off into a dream, then wrote “kings of the wild..”
July 22nd, 2014
“It is technically Monday morning, as it is 12:35am, yet in my world, it is Sunday. So I have been slacking on my journaling the past few days. As I went to pick up the car in Englewood, dropped off with everything I needed for two weeks of driving, long story short I was refused the reservation and spent 4 hours trying to rectify an awful start to the trip.”
Point being never ever rent from Budget or Avis, two of the most awful humans I’ve ever dealt with (and I work at a bar 5 shifts a week), lying, embarrassing themselves and hiding from dealing with the issue. Enterprise saved my behind, I almost exclusively use them when renting.
“With four hours of negotiating and wonderful people, including my lovely mother, helping me so much deal with this issue another company was on it’s way to pick me up within 20 minutes of telling them my dilemma. My insurance was also able to overlap to this car, which was wonderful news. From that point on I was on the road alone. I started with an intense 9 plus hour drive to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The drive was long and indescribably beautiful. Going From Colorado’s deep, massive views to Wyoming’s vast windy plains and sprawling distant mountains was dreamy. The winds were over 35 mph on the plains for several hours of my drive. This involved me fighting the tiny car most of the way. The sun was incredible setting over the mountains, as the browns turned pink then to black. A train was passing in the distance on my left, it looked like a toy. Miniature and fake. As I neared the Tetons the sly grew black.”
Seeing this range for the first time was amazing. The lack of foothill surrounding them give them their vivd and sharp appearance; rough, raw and incredible.
“Brilliant sprawls of stars lay speckled above my head as I watched the eyes begin to line the sides of the road. At one point of the darkness closing in, I traveled around a bend and was face to face with a stationary jackrabbit in the road, eyeballing me from his peripheral. Swerving as quickly as possible to avoid him, almost losing my grip in the tight turns. My heart was pounding inside my chest for twenty minutes or so as it neared the witching hour and I fully closed in on the Tetons. The eyes surrounding the car grew denser and less afraid. The mountains rose like waves from the roadside as the pavement swerved underneath the tiny Mazda. I knew that the path I was driving was incredible and I yearned to see it in the daylight, watching the shadows of the mountain side I was cutting through towering above my head. This tiny insignificant nothing, wandering through it’s power, yet I felt totally connected. I began blinking slow with heavy eyelids, glancing to my right and back ahead and there lay a massive and dead marmot in the road. Swerving again, but not able to fully avoid the carcass, I was focused on not careening off of the railless roadside. Less than an hour to go, trudging on wearing a mask of exhaustion, I experienced one last animal incident. Rounding a pass, the Welcome To Jackson Hole sign flashed into view, letting out a sigh of relief I looked to my left and an elk stood no more than several inches from my passing car. His eye next to mine like a scene from Jurassic Park. As I got closer to the location of the Thai restaurant I was meeting my host Matt, I contacted him.As I approached the city, it reminded me of a sprawled out and densely wooded version on Church Street in Burlington, VT.”
Matt was from my home town, but I had never met him. Kind enough to let me stay there, I agreed to meet him at closing time to give me a route back to him place. The writing did not commence again until the next day.
July 23rd, 2014
“Jackson Hole. I met Matt at his work, now head chef at a Thai restaurant called Thai Me Up, at closing time. Not knowing who I was meeting, walking around a closed restaurant back parking lot pacing; I was shaken from my long intense day. We met, I had a delicious cherry beer at the bar. Matt was hysterical and I instantly felt comfortable. We drove back to the house, Jackson Hole has no stop signs. The town was completely immersed in the mountains. Totally gorgeous. As I parked my car next to his big truck, I peered at the house behind the dark and wooded yard. As I began to unload some gear from the trunk, I heard the sound of running water. A creek ran through his front yard, between my car and the ranch house, the porch aglow in the distance, it was magical. After the usual west coast welcome of smoking copious amounts of weed, we spent hours bundled up outside in hours of conversation. One of the keys to my trip was bartering whiskey. We opened a bottle of Buffalo Trace and conversed until the wee hours of the morning. It felt refreshing and relaxing, as his dog roamed the woods and eventually returned, we went in for the night, as he had a 5am flight and I had to be back on the road. I awoke a few hours later, showered and by 9am was pulled over talking to Pop while looking at the Tetons. Realizing I’d forgot my hat, I returned to Matt’s and was able to say a second goodbye to his pup. I was in good spirits to say the least, even though I was back on the road on three hours of sleep. Driving through Teton National Park, I stopped to pick up postcards, a button and a much needed cup of joe. I had acquired two things from Jackson Hole, an oversized Flannel work coat for my time in the woods and a matted image of Hunter S. Thompson, warn and ripped from years of abuse. Entering Yellowstone from the south entrance, the views were monumental. Only discovering a quarter of the park, it filled me with wonder. The elegant and whimsical forest wrapped all around me. The lot around Old Faithful was a mad house. After about a 20 minute wait I saw the geyser spew. A quick trip to the gift shop for goodies and gifts, I engaged in the novelty of pressing a novelty penny.”
Every morning that I use that Yellowstone mug I am brought right back to this day and the feelings surge through me with the caffeine making it impossible not to smirk.
“Feeling delirious and totally famished by this point, I ate my first and only bison burger. A chat with Mom and I was back on my way to Grand Prismatic. Stopping off too early, I hiked around a bit, I spotted a Bison sitting in the shade that I’d confused for a rock in my delirium, until I spotted someone photographing it. Back onto Grand Prismatic on my way out of the west entrance. It truly felt like being on another planet. The streams were like water from a hot kettle and combined with the breeze felt like a sauna. The only advice my Pop gave me before this trip was that if you’re ever playing games with yourself to stay awake that you should’ve pulled over an hour ago. My eyes were closing, I had been slapping at my cheeks. I pulled over next to a rushing river, in the presence of a huge black bird, lowered my seat and drifted off for 45 minutes or so, it was all I needed for my next push. Headed now to Missoula, MT and through a small section of Idaho, the views grew increasingly more incredible. Hitting a small patch of mountain weather about and hour and a half outside of town, the skies changed by the minute. The sunset against the wet roads, heading west was completely blinding. Each state I’ve been to, I still can’t fathom how they get prettier and prettier. Reaching out to Matt again, who went to college in Missoula, for a good pizza recommendation, he recommended The Brick. Preordered a pie on my way into town, grabbing gas and six pack across the street, I headed to my hotel for the night. Checked in, showered, ate pizza, drank beer, filled out postcards until I was out.”