I always wanted to take a cross-country automobile road trip, having never taken one as a small child. It just seemed so glamorous to me, so All-American; at the time, perhaps the two were linked securely in my mind. I wanted to sit in the backseat and watch the country roll by, eat McDonald’s, crash at roadside motels, wear the same outfit everyday in the same car. take pictures. As I grew older, I moved my seating position to the front passenger seat, but ever other detail of setting remained the same: shorts, sunglasses, fast food, a cooler full of snacks, a camera. It bloomed into a Romantic vision. I.wanted.to.do.this.
When I was eight years old, I announced my intention to my parents. “When I grow up I’m taking a road trip!”
With whom? They asked. They were bemused, I now realize.
They were alarmed. It’s dangerous they said.
At the time I did not know why. I want to go, I said. I’ll go with a friend.
My father reassured me. You can go, just go with your husband.
I don’t have a husband.
When you have one.
Perhaps it’s no wonder I married a man who likes to drive, whose stress unwinds behind the wheel, the road unpeeling before him. He will drive for hours and hours and days on end.*
*Hrm. I just realized this trait and its link to a childhood goal. (Let me take a little time to bask in the epiphany).
But still–no mega-roadtrip for quite some time…until I was finally obliged in 2009. My husband drove. And drove. He drove through California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. He drove us to Yellowstone via Tahoe and back home to San Francisco the long way through Vegas. It was not technically cross-country (we fulfilled that dream of mine, later), but it was a roadtrip by every definition.
I was blissed out. We ate McDonald’s. We ate at old greasy roadside places, some very bad, some very good. I wore the same outfit the entire time. We ate food out of a cooler in the back. Our dogs slept the entire way. There were long and comfortable silences. Sometimes we had long and comfortable conversations. Good tunes on satellite radio. Everywhere we turned, the beautiful world was outside the windows. Sometimes there were cloudbursts. And sometimes there were places where the earth was so parched it had cracked. Wyoming was beautiful. The buttes in Idaho astounded me. At times, I saw no Asian people for miles, but I still saw Chinese restaurants with signs in
ching-chong wonton font.
I was placeless. The setting changed by the second, as Yellowstone neared by every second. It was like floating, like being in limbo, except not.
When people ask me about Yellowstone, I say it’s pretty much, alongside Yosemite, the most beautiful place in the lower 48 states. (I’ve never been to Alaska or to Hawaii, so I can’t speak for them). I couldn’t stop taking pictures. We saw a Mama moose and her baby moose. A bear. Bison. Bald eagles. Innumerable elk. And incredible light. And color palettes that stretched my imagination.
But it was also the journey there that I found beautiful.