Long distance friendships can make you do crazy things. My platonic other half, Audrey, lives in New York, which in reality is not that far from me in North Carolina, but it's certainly not a day trip. This summer while chatting on the phone with her, pacing my driveway, the road trip idea was born. We didn't know when, how, or where, we just knew it was going to happen. A few months, many texts, and a Skype date later, we had a plan.
I left work one late November evening and found myself in Cincinnati, OH a few hours later which was where I was meeting Audrey who was there visiting family. Audrey picked me up from the airport and we went back to her family's home to sleep for a few hours. After a not-so-restful 3 hours of trying to muzzle my excitement, I was actually relieved to hear my alarm go off at 3:30am. The waiting was over, the road was ahead. We were into Missouri when the sun came up... except the sun didn't show it's face because it was raining. Missouri was a bit odious under a thick blanket of fog and rain, but at least we had Kansas to look forward to... ha! Kansas proved to be much more entertaining than Missouri, which was not a hard contest to win. We saw snow, windmills, and a smattering of hilarious (some hand painted) billboards. Most memorable, "2nd friendliest yarn store in the universe". While we did not exit to explore, our curiosity was certainly piqued. When we rolled over the border into Colorado we were stoked. Seeing the "welcome to Colorado" sign was just a cruel joke. After you pass that sign there are hours more of flat, straight, "might-as-well-still-be-Kansas" road. Signs for Denver evoked invigorating feelings as we knew we were close to our first stop, Boulder.
We pulled up to the cutest yellow house in Boulder and were greeted by three of the loveliest ladies - Kim, Cat, and Bay-dog. Homemade pie, snowy walks, yoga, biking, Waldorf school visits, and good conversation followed. Boulder also brought us many laughs and some much needed out of the car time. While there, we let the gentleman changing the oil convince us that there was a mouse living under the hood of the car. We later, crazed, somewhere in the middle of snowy Montana, named the mouse Dave Smith, and boy did Dave become a great road tripping buddy. Boulder has a piece of my heart, and I think it's because of the sweet gems who live there.
Driggs, ID is the funky, simplified, little sister of Jackson, WY. We drove straight from Boulder to Driggs (although we did stop to drool at the Tetons and Jackson) and upon our arrival immediately clipped into cross country skis and began a sunset skiing adventure through Teton Canyon. Our bodies desperately needed the movement. Afterward, we checked in with Mary, our Airb&b owner, who toured us around her glass blowing studio and gave us the scoop on where to get a beer and check out the local Driggs scene. Our beer venture later turned into an experimental evening where hot buttered rum was concocted and post-ski baths were had. Warm and happy, we set our alarms for 3:15am and started dreaming of Portland. We were heading to Portland via Seattle where we had to make a slight detour to obtain a piece of equipment for Audrey's Grand Canyon trip that she was embarking on at the end of our road trip.
The hot buttered rum got the best of me and impacted my plan to drive at 4am. Audrey took the first shift like a champ while I slumbered uncomfortably in the front seat surrounded by bags of clementines, corn chips, carrots, and hot sauce. The night prior we had devised a plan to travel through Southern Idaho in order to avoid the snow coming in further north since we were in a two-wheel drive vehicle. I woke up from my early morning nap and it looked like we had landed on a winter planet. Literally, not even three minutes after my eyes had opened and started surveying the scene, we passed a quaint "Welcome to Montana" sign. The game had changed, and more importantly, so had our route. While going through Montana was never the plan, it quickly turned into one of the best parts of our trip. Montana is a stunning place and it evoked a visceral reaction within Audrey and myself. We'll be there again soon. For more than just an unplanned detour...
Portland: after 15 hours we had high hopes for you, yet didn't show us any love upon arrival. It appeared Audrey's car ate her license and debit card and after a very long drive through horrific urban traffic, we were not in the mood to search for anything except a warm dinner. After ravaging through the car like a mid-west tornado, we still didn't have any idea of where those two important laminated cards could be. Our morale and sugar levels were both dismally low. A last attempt to awkwardly reach under the console of the car led us to success! Hands on and spirits high, we kept in our forward moving fashion.
We ate at the Broadside Brewery and then directed ourselves to Audrey's cousin's home in NE Portland. I fell asleep standing up against a wall while Audrey began to catch up with her delightful and charming family. I zombie crawled into bed and woke up the next morning in the top bunk looking out of a window on rainy Portland. I wish I could be there now.
Portland provided a lot of really diverse and unique experiences such as a nice Dr. Seuss-like forest hike, some killer meals, a few rainy runs, and lots of fantastic company provided by Audrey's family. December 6th was a particularly important day, being my sister Hannah's birthday, who now has not been a part of this earth for a year and a half. I had a wealth of grand plans in line for her birthday, none of which felt right upon awakening that day. A game of play-it-by-ear began. If you know me at all, you will know that having a concise plan is my comfort zone. If you knew Hannah at all, you would know that not having a plan was her comfort zone. So, in celebration of her, we moved on without a plan. I got a tattoo, ate a doughnut, and sang happy birthday in the middle of a sketchy alley-way on December 6th. I like to think Hannah was and is proud of me and that we celebrated her appropriately and memorably in Portland.
I had ambitions to see Bend, OR while I was nearby in Portland. I knew it would take some effort in the transportation logistics department to make this happen since Audrey needed to stay longer in Portland with family obligations. All that to say, I found myself on a bus heading to Bend which included a visit Scotty, an old WFR buddy who currently resides there. We didn't let the rain get in the way of our fun: I got whipped in a few rounds of bananagrams, sampled various kombucha blends, saw a double rainbow, enjoyed a rainy walk along the Deschuttes, and we made a killer stir fry to top it all off. Later, Audrey drove to scoop me up in Bend and at 6pm that evening we got in the car and started looking forward to the next 15 hours of driving through the night that would land us in Zion National Park in Utah.
There ain't no rest for the time pressed... that's how that saying goes right? Being up all night driving didn't stop us from heading straight to the most exciting trail in Zion: The Narrows. We walked upstream through the river, waded through clear, frigid pools, and explored the wonders of the slot canyon. Once we realized we had been numb for a few hours we made the decision to turn back and warm up before slipping into our tent for the night. We were able to go on a few more hikes in Zion before having to pack it up and move on. I could say a lot about Zion, but there are really no adequate words that can totally describe that place and it's majesty. Wonderful. Emotional. Awe-inspiring. Cold. Big. Gorgeous. Stunning. My advice: go there.
I reluctantly got in the car after camping overnight in Zion. It didn't seem fair that I had to leave such a magical place, such a dear friend who shares my weird food combos love, and such a fun-filled road journey. But alas, some good things must end and my good thing had to end in Flagstaff. Audrey, who was leaving for the Grand Canyon the next day, dropped me off at the remarkably small Flagstaff airport after a champagne toast and some mini sparkler celebrations. I won't lie, my eyes welled up as my flight started to take off. It felt like I was leaving home, not going back.