Part of this long road trip with my family was about the journey around the United States. But part of it was a good time and space to disconnect from the life I was living before, and figure out what to do next. Another part of the figurative “journey” was also to abruptly change our family dynamics. My husband and I were living “non-traditional” roles in the traditional way that people do these days. Except we were not very happy. We each wanted something more in our lives. We had to search for that more. We had to find it for ourselves. Rather than sit and dream about it one more day, we went looking.
It’s been both comforting and disquieting that at the end of our road trip I found myself in Portland where I’m now realizing my journey had just begun. Until March of 1993, my life was going one way. My dad drove me to Lewis & Clark College. I was on an expedition, of sorts. An expedition in a foreign land called Portland, OR. I met new people and had new experiences. Then I got homesick. Everything changed after that, and my dad drove me home from Lewis & Clark College.
Standing in front of my dorm with two littles by my side, I realized I had been feeling like a quitter all this time. I always urge them to persevere, but somehow the lesson of perseverance skipped a generation, and was coming back to haunt me. I’m the one who didn’t stick it out. I’m the one who came home for no good reason. The one who crushed under the weight of homesickness. With my heavy heart we walked around campus and I remembered all those times. I stood on the bridge crossing the shadowy ravine, I could hear them laughing. I could hear their voices tell our made up stories – with Minnesotan accents. Those girls, those characters from the story of my early life, their words still ring in my ears.
Keeping the entire LC Posse in my back pocket, we walked around the Bone. I started to notice how small everything was. I was aware of the dark, drizzly, damp surroundings. Looking around as a fully functional adult I knew for the first time that I had not been prepared for that place. It was the furthest out of my comfort zone I had ever gone. And like a rubber band that has been stretched to it’s greatest length, I snapped back to my resting state. And I stayed there for many years.
I know I was meant to go back to Portland to see how far I had come. This part of my journey has taken so long. And in so many ways, I’m at the same place I was all those years ago. I’m standing on the precipice of something big in my life. I can feel it all the way to my soul. I have the knowledge and the choice to go forward bravely. It is exciting to have been given an opportunity that I can use and not squander.
Maybe perseverance isn’t measured in the short term. Maybe it’s value is the sum total of all the ways a person tries, fails and learns. Perseverance doesn’t mean sticking it out at all costs. The power in perseverance comes from having the courage to try again. It’s the difference in waiting for something to happen as opposed to choosing for it to happen.
And then we go home.
We made it to Seattle and spent a wonderful week there with our family. For most of our trip we avoided large, urban areas because of our parking challenges. Let’s be honest. We just liked to avoid large urban areas.
We visited Pike Place Market and saw the proverbial fish toss. We watched magic tricks at the magic shop. We lunched at Lowell’s for the sole reason that as we looked at the menu, someone walked up and said it wouldn’t be a mistake to eat there. Then we got to business. We picked up fresh herbed pasta at Pappardelle’s, then headed across the street to Beecher’s to watch the cheesemaking process, and to buy some cheese. From there we started wandering in search of dessert and found Metsker’s Maps which was really the coolest travel store. Our final destination: Trophy Cupcakes. I know we didn’t hit the mothership. We just went to the mall location, which was kind of disappointing. I’ve heard that the Wallingford Center location is in an old school house and it’s super cool. Nonetheless, the cupcakes were pretty great. As we walked back to our car we found the Seattle Antiques Market which was a must see before we headed home to make scratch Mac & Cheese.
Our second day in Seattle we spent all morning at the Seattle Aquarium, and did the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. We spent too little time at Magic Mouse Toys, the most amazing toy shop ever.
Next, we went to the Pacific Science Center, and we spent a whole day there. When the kids were worn out from the inside of the museum, they played and climbed and made music at the park outside.
On our final day in Seattle proper we hit the EMP Museum which was pretty fabulous. It was all things pop culture including newly designed games, a Hello Kitty exhibit from Japan, and hands on music opportunities. I’m certain the boys could have stayed there all day. Instead, we enjoyed our last hours in the city walking around finding the most amazing shops: Pike Street Press and Ugly Baby, and riding The Great Wheel.
We spent the weekend with friends, and somewhere between gingerbread houses and Hallmark movies they asked where we were headed next. In true form, we had no idea. Suggestions were bantered. The idea of going to the place where my first travel adventures began put a little spring in my step. That and being refueled by family and friends. We decided to spend our last week enjoying Portland, Oregon, the Coast and the California Redwoods.
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Preparing for our push up the west coast, we received news that had been painfully anticipated. To try and explain the significance of the following days would be trite. A close family friend passed away and her death was slow and unfair. She fought a long hard battle with cancer. She was loved in this life by more people than I know. Loved faithfully by her family. And loved by my husband. We would make the trip to Idaho Falls, there was never a question. These people are our people and we care for them the best we can.
The unanticipated trip to Idaho brought on feelings of homesickness that I hadn’t yet encountered. I believed the next time I stepped foot in that state it would be to pick up my car on the way to Colorado. We were in Idaho, but my heart was traveling elsewhere. I was longing for home cooked meals and my own bed. I wanted my dog to sit on the couch next to me in front of the fire. I needed a coffee with friends. I was aching for exercise not afforded by long car rides. These feelings gave me an all new appreciation for my baby boy’s strength – he was homesick from day one.
As much as I wanted to throw in the towel and head for home, we had two solid weeks left and the Pacific Northwest waiting for us. Then there was that other, opposite to homesick, feeling that I was feeling. For all the times on our road trip I wished for independence and privacy, the trade off for those luxuries was losing the intimacy of constant companionship. This trip showed me all the ways I had been missing from my family. All the ways that we were not close and cared for.
We have learned so much about perseverance. We have learned what happens after the really hard times and how often the reward is just getting through it. I sorely fail at modeling good behavior for my kids, but this was a chance to model perseverance. Everyone knew by the time we got to Idaho I was imagining myself cozied up in Colorado, they did not know how I was going to make another two weeks on the road.
We stopped in Boise to round out week 10. The boys watched football and Aunt Sara made us breakfast and lattes. I am writing this after the fact. Mostly to remember all the greatness that happened because we persevered (we meaning me). We were blown to Seattle through the Tri-Cities and right past Prosser, WA (the home of my college roommate – little known fact). For much of December we stayed with family or friends, freeing up our budget, and settling my heart a bit. I knew one thing for sure, I did not want to miss one moment of the weeks to come. Next up: Seattle, WA.
So, we were sitting in the middle of Death Valley on Black Friday when we realized that the drive back towards Los Angeles and then Sequoia National Park were really far. And going backwards seemed like a less than good idea. So we made the decision to push on towards Yosemite. Which in the end was an even worse idea.
We stayed in a minuscule town outside Mammoth Lakes called Bishop, CA. There was one room. It was a smoking room. My entire childhood came flooding back through my nostrils. All those years of inhaling second hand smoke. The many hotel rooms we shared with my dad who did not give a hoot about our potential lung health (and I might point out that he is currently and forever deceased). I woke up in the morning with a headache, sneezing and coughing. And I told my dad, “See I told you I was not imagining all of that as a child.” But he can’t hear me now, much like he didn’t hear me then.
We learned something in Bishop, CA. We learned that in November the eastern mountain road crossing the Sierras through Yosemite to the west closes. For the season. Ugh. And also, when there is a winter storm crossing the Sierras, all the other mountain roads close too.
While we missed most of our bucket list California National Parks, this story ends well. We pushed up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lake Tahoe, where it is a lovely winter wonderland. As we were sitting at lunch pondering our next steps, we found out Aunt Katie was not using her time share in, guess where? Lake Tahoe. So for the next few days we will be sledding and snowshoeing from our digs at the lake. Thank you, Aunt Katie. Those words are not nearly enough, but we are so thrilled to get to spend time here.
All of this to say, that we spent an amazing week in Arizona. Flagstaff was pretty fabulous. We went to Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert National Park, Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano and Wapatki National Monuments, and of course the Grand Canyon! We caught up with friends near Phoenix and spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. And I repeat the sentiment…what makes you more thankful for the things you have than Las Vegas? We spent the most memorable holiday looking out over the lights of the city eating a delightful meal made mostly in the microwave. A to the Men.
Next week: The Redwoods then Oregon. Bend, Tillamook, Mt. Hood, and Multnomah Falls. I’m excited to relive the LC Posse days in Portland and spend some nights in Astoria. Those were the days…