My initial reaction to the reality that I would be driving myself across country was not one of joyous celebration. Far from it, actually. I was angry that once again, I was forced to push through my fears and my desire to be “rescued” and simply get it done. Hot tears welled up threatening to breach the dam and a tightness settled in my throat. I was angrily wondering if God noticed or cared that I was going to have to do this alone. And somewhere, in the midst of my hurt and my fury I was overcome with peace…and absurdly, excitement. I realized that this could be an amazing time of solitude, reflection and adventure. And so, I not only made peace with my reality, but embraced it with delighted anticipation. Here are some reflections on my journey…
Mile: 0. 7:07am
I am finally making my way out of the driveway. Dawn is chasing me down Route 46 as sunrise bursts forth in my rearview. The sun climbs up, the mist on the river glows morning as I cross the bridge toward the highway and beyond.
Coldplay’s Viva la Vida makes an appropriate soundtrack for the beginning of this trip—a journey which has become known to me as my Farewell Tour through Texas. Spike, my potted palm, Pathos and Electric Lime ride shotgun. Stocked with water, string cheese, apples, wheat thins and some chocolate along with some books on cd from Cracker Barrel, I’m ready to make this sojourn.
I think about this Lone Star state as I close in the miles toward El Paso…
What can I say to thee?
I have watered your soil with my tears
I have been subdued by your storms
I have mourned treasures turned to ash
I have grieved daughters returned to dust
yet even so, Hope prevailed
like wildflowers in spring
bursting forth in my
to bring me
I found shelter in your church
and after death
after the pain—in the midst of pain…
you gave me life again!
you gave me friendships
you gave me music
you freed my soul to dance once more!
Goodbye Spirit Wind Java
Goodbye Junebug, Kissylee, and Javie
my dear ones laid to rest
Goodbye survivors—joy of my toil
Goodbye sweet memories
Goodbye Max and all who gave me shelter and love
I leave you behind
not to forget or to lose touch
but to start afresh
I will remember you, Oh Texas,
and your lessons of love and losing.
Mile: 147.8. Dairy Queen. Sonora, TX.
I’m bummed that I will miss out on the “Outlaw Pro Rodeo” happening in August as the banner which stretches across the road announces. Sounds like my kind of event! I am delighted however, by the ad for Thin Mint Blizzard—limited time only—at Dairy Queen and decide I’ve found my first rest stop. While dessert at 10:24am sounds absurd, I realize that I have been up since 5:30am and lunch—and this blizzard—hit the spot (and maybe a nap is in order too)!
Never been to this town but my fondness for it is growing between the Outlaw Rodeo and the banners on each light post each saluting a hometown hero by name! Go Sonora, way to support our troops!
I smile as it occurs to me that I might look more important than I really am sitting here jotting notes on this napkin…I left my notebook in the truck. But chances are, everyone is simply going about his or her own business and leaving me to mine.
All in all, things are going well. Truck gets pretty wobbly in the wind but I have good music and an interesting book to keep me company. Truth be told, it’s not all that bad to be an adventurous woman barreling west down I-10 in a vivid yellow truck; it has character! And there is something distinctly liberating and affirming about doing this trip alone. I may not be able to Eat, Pray, Love my way through Italy, India and Indonesia, but I have my own rite of passage to take and my own story to write.
- “Wow, the sky is just really blue.”
- “Why is it that ketchup from the pump tastes so much better than from the packet?”
- “I really need to change out my license plates when I get back—a final act on my Texas Farewell Tour.”
Mile: 501.2. Just east of El Paso.
Finally! Miles to El Paso are in the double digits—I’m growing tired and sore but continue to be interested in the book to which I am listening. As I drive across the desolate expanse known as West Texas, I look to my left/south and to my right/north and see no evidence of human civilization save for this bleached asphalt ribbon curling and winding its way through the wilderness.
I am filled with equal parts trepidation and awe as a see a storm in the distance, knowing that I will soon drive headlong into it. I am not sure which I prefer: to see the storm into which my path leads knowing what I will soon face and trying to brace myself; or to be caught unaware finding myself suddenly in the fury. Maybe I prefer the not knowing. If so, why is it that I always long to know? In the end however, I realize I am equally ill-equipped whether or not I see ahead what I am to face.
A man at a gas station asked me where I was headed. “California.” I said. And in my mind I laughed at how cliché it all sounded/looked—single girl loads up her belongings with her trusty plants riding as copilots. Only thing missing is a dog and a catchy tune played on a dobro and you have a CMT hit! Hahaha…but the difference is that I’m not some wide-eyed girl facing the unknown, or striking out to make it big in LA. No, I am more a veteran woman heading back to start a new chapter of my life, excited about where this one will lead, the characters that will enter this part of the story and the continued unfolding of the plot, the dream!
This is indeed an intriguing sojourn. I am finding the solitude and time for thoughts refreshing!
Mile: 703.4. New Mexico. Best Western.
Aaaahh…had a lovely and refreshing night’s sleep and am ready to hit the road again toward home. Felt pretty smug as I opened the hood of the truck and replaced the wiper washer fluid…hahaha…and also was thankful that that was the extent of anything needed tending to on the truck! As I head out for the morning, I see in the middle of flat nothingness a rock formation on which someone has had the courtesy (albeit impish) to label it: “Fraggle Rock.” Brilliant! I continue to take in the view and look around with awe and wonder—it is all like some surreal landscape right out of the imaginations of Dr. Seuss and Jim Henson!
Mile: 770.3. Arizona.
I am breathless to take in the scene as I chase trains across the plains that stretch out below the mountains bordering New Mexico and Arizona.
I missed Trucker’s Chapel this morning at this stop, but I don’t mind. God and I had church up there in those mountains; As I drove he bathed the landscape in golden morning sun, washing away the blues and purples of dawn. I look on this land fresh with new day—I made it through the storm. There is evidence as the long train is reflected in pooled water from last night’s rain.
Mile: unknown. Tuscon, AZ.
I’m not sure what prompted it, but I was weary of looking at the road and needed a brief diversion. I found a Wal-Mart and picked up some felt furniture feet that I would be needing later but then I meandered over to another section and picked up a few supplies. I found a Cracker Barrel and returned my books on cd, smiled at the Army Soliders there for a hearty meal and made my way on the highway again. I realized I hadn’t gotten gas at the last stop so I pulled off at the next truck stop and filled up. I then pulled around, parked and got out my supplies and right there, in the middle of no where I gave myself a manicure.
Yep, that’s right: trimmed, buffed, and polished. I laughed out loud in sheer delight at the juxtaposition of truck stop and me stopping to do my nails—not to mention an activity that is generally out of character for me. But it was a wonderful break, I found the second half of A Prairie Home Companion and listened bemused with the show and with my project. Every once in a while, a girl has just got to do a little something for herself!
Feeling very pleased with myself, and admiring my work, I put the truck into drive to make my way another few hundred miles down the road.
Woohoo! Los Angeles makes it’s debut appearance on a road sign—only 392.3 miles left!!!!
Mile: 1193.4. Who Knows, CA.
I never cease to be amazed at what monuments, memorials and attractions one can find in the middle of no where off the highway. For some miles earlier I passed signs advertising “The Thing.” To this day I have yet to discover what the “thing” really is—no doubt some trap in tourist rip-off land luring in weary and unsuspecting travelers. At another stop I found giant dinosaurs—life-size! Just there, at the rest stop, with no particular explanation about the reason for them being there or the vision of the one who commissioned them. Just a few dinosaurs hanging out in the middle of the desert.
Now again I find myself quite in the middle of no where just across the state line into California and there is a whole little museum commemorating General Patton. Tanks are scattered among cacti and palm trees and the museum looks to be closed for the day. I ponder in curiosity at the setting up of such establishments—who patronizes these museums? Not only that, but I am also struck by the reality that each time I stop at some forlorn place in the middle of no where, there are people who work there! This reality is so elementary and yet, where do they come from? How do they get there? I see no homes, no towns, no roads even, save for the highway and the road to the truck stop. Honestly, it is slightly baffling to me!
I enjoyed the company of a friend who called and google-earthed my location to see if she could spot my desolate location on the satellite map. We laughed about random truck stops, seas in the middle of no where and crazy road rage incidents. Thanks for your company, Lib!
Mile: 1358. Home.
Home. Whew, I made it! And with only little to-do! At one point in the vast expanse of desert, all the traffic stopped and a man in front of me got into a fight with a trucker behind me. In the end it was all very comical but in the midst I was a little concerned about where the whole row was headed! My favorite part was when the man in front of me stood on the running board of his van—passenger side—loudly declaring his grievances as we all inched down the highway.
Little else of significance happened on the way home. I was so thankful to pull the truck in front of my building and crawl into bed—my own delicious bed!
So now it is back to life, back to reality. I’m never really good at transitions from monumental journeys back into the routine of everyday. I struggle to hold fast onto the brilliance of that bright and shining experience; I don’t want to lose what I had, what I felt, what I knew out there when it was just me and the road. I wonder how I will return to what was before? I’m not the same woman who left; I’m a little stronger, a little braver, a little surer. When I listen to Coldplay again, I am immediately transported back to those mountains that served as my cathedral for Sunday’s worship, I think about the winding road through the Hill Country as I bid farewell to my Texas story, I dream about what this next chapter holds.
(Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert)