Monday, June 15, 2009

on the open road thusfar part I

June 6th, 2009
I packed up. I finished work. And then I set out.

It was raining, and as Josh and I pulled the Rodeo out of Moscow I was beginning to wonder if this journey would be as beautiful as I had been hoping and expecting. I began to doubt the purpose, began to wonder why it is that I feel a road trip at this point in my life would set me free, would make me more alive and awake. The clouds felt dark, and I still harbored a bit of excitement in between my nerves and my exhaustion, but it was overcast slightly in my soul as I thought of all that could go wrong.

At the precise moment that we rolled down the hill leaving Pullman, the sun broke through the clouds and the skies began to clear. It may be cliché that we compare our emotions and our moods to the weather, to the sunshine and the rain. But at that moment in time, at 7:23 pm, the sun washed me in light and I bathed in it and took it all in. I cleared my mind and began to realize that I could choose to make this journey wonderful regardless of circumstance.

One thing that my mother is beginning to learn and teach to me is the art of being present in the moment that you are in. To fully realize yourself, right now. To take the moment and talk with it, roll it around in your mind like a flavor on your tongue, and taste the bitter with the sweet. I resolved that this would be the focus of my road trip. I would look forward to camping in Colorado, but it would not be the highlight. Every moment would be the highlight. I wouldn’t waste today being excited about tomorrow or worrying about how to get where I needed to go.

I would embrace childlike wonder, fall in love with the open roads, the mountains, and the dozens of people I would meet on the way. I would meet with this vast and beautiful world, and reintroduce myself.

So I let the sun shine on my face, and watched the clouds come back a moment later, but in that moment I knew. I would learn more in these two weeks, with these friends I didn’t know a month ago, than I have in a very long time.

I smiled and watched the world behind me disappear into the rearview mirror.

June 7th, 2009

I couldn’t sleep last night.

Josh and I pulled into Gerene’s parking lot sometime around nine or ten, the Rodeo packed to the roof in both the trunk and the backseat. We stayed up late, exhaling. This was it. This was really going to happen. I tossed and turned once we finally decided to call it a night, knowing that this was the day that all I had saved up for and planned was really going to pay off.

And today, we drove.

Gerene and I took off in the Subaru, with Josh close behind in the beloved Rodeo. We watched the rolling hills grow into mountains; we saw the beauty and the wonder instead of the destination or the miles. I spent the good half of an hour with my window down, throwing my hand out into the wind like I did when I was younger, letting myself be amazed by the physics and the way all of this works.

Beyond the scenery, there was also depth and conversation. I met Gerene one time before yesterday, and I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that we were meant to be friends. We were meant to take this journey together. The more I continue to learn about my new friends, the more deeply I believe this.

Gerene is beautiful. I don’t think she realizes how beautiful she is, or how heads turn when she walks past, but to be honest, her heart puts her lovely face to shame. She is deep and introspective, while somehow managing to be one of the most hilarious and generous people I’ve ever met. I’ve learned that she lost someone this year to suicide, someone who captivated her and made her whole. Gerene shared much of this story with me, and while some stories get old, I was fascinated by the strength in her heart and her desire to find out who she really is in the midst of this storm. This strength and desire is what drove her to answer my request for a carpool to Colorado in the first place, within just an hour of me posting it on the internet. I am moved by her, as I am moved by her story and her passion for writing and sharing.

Josh and I were instant friends when we met at the CouchSurfing barbecue that I planned, not even a month ago now. He is a self-proclaimed extrovert in the making, and has used our get-togethers as a way for him to be in situations that will stretch him and challenge him. I have completely fallen in love with his personality and who we are as friends, me letting him know that he should be himself more often, because he is a great guy, with a huge heart to offer anyone he calls friend. That’s when he gives me the look and tells me that when he tries not be awkward ‘things just get more awkward.’ It took me most of two weeks to convince him that he should skip a week of summer classes to come on a grand adventure with our new friend Gerene, who eventually made it down from Spokane to a CouchSurfing game night at my place.

During the two weeks planning the road trip, I found out that Josh recently lost a brother in a tragic accident. I drew a blank, speechless, moved beyond words by what he told me next. Josh wants to make the most of his life, wants to meet new people and hear their stories. He wants to learn to love being around people and learn to be himself in the process. He’s doing it for his brother. It’s what he would have wanted. Josh brought some of his brother’s ashes with us, and they sit between us on the consol of the Rodeo, every now and then reminding me how beautiful it is to be here and to be experiencing and breathing in this journey.

I know we have all loved and lost, and that this in itself ties us all together. But I never want to grow numb to stories, to open hearts and the opportunity to be a listening ear. I feel so challenged by these new amazing friends, by their openness and their willingness to transform what is ugly into something beautiful and life-changing. In turn, they are changing me.

Yes, there is music up loud, and sometimes we roll our windows down and let the wind play in our hair and over our faces. But there is a strong current of the Something Deeper that we were meant to find on this trip.

We arrived in Bozeman in the late afternoon, and our host Rose Marie greeted us with a barbecue and new friends. We met a couple from Switzerland, and a few other locals who made for great conversation over a burgers and pork ribs. We made our way to the local tavern to listen to Open Mic night. I got up onstage alone for the first time in years, and played and sang my heart out at a dive bar in the middle of Montana, with all of my new friends at a table nearby cheering me on.

Everyone went crazy, clapping and wanting more. It wasn’t their attention that made me so filled with joy, but the fact that I was doing something I loved and that complete strangers were loving it with me. I sat around afterwards, conversing with two nomadic musicians who play punk music and live on the road. One of them had several huge dreadlocks, but only in the front. Once you saw past them, there were deep and soulful brown eyes, and I could tell his heart was like mine… open, and ready for that Something Deeper.

I think we all are.

June 8th, 2009

Today’s drive seemed longer and more drawn-out than usual. The Bozeman group kept us up late with good music and conversation, so our sleep was fleeting and we woke up early to get started on today’s leg of our journey to Casper, Wyoming, about six hours away.

We picked up Seth this morning in Bozeman, another CouchSurfer who needed a ride to the campout in Colorado. He is reserved but insightful, and I think he’s a great addition to the group. I rode in the Rodeo with Josh for awhile, and in between singing along with some great music by Sublime and conversation, I had a lot of time to think.

We saw three rainbows today. I actually think it was the same rainbow, just from different angles, as it rose up and disappeared into the clouds that were hovering low to the ground. I chuckled at the clichés I always seem to come up with… we saw both ends of the same rainbow. We saw both ends of one story, both sides of the coin, regardless of what was in between. I hope that after this trip I am more well-rounded and aware, having heard more stories and opinions, more sides of the story than just mine. Maybe someday I’ll see the whole metaphorical rainbow, but I doubt it… I think life is about continuing to learn always.

We made it to Casper to our host Christine’s house tonight. She is a sweet lady with an adorable four year old named Christian. Christine, dubbed ‘Chris,’ is a travelling nurse. She has travelled the world, and has many stories for us. We were Chris’s first guests using CouchSurfing, and I was amazed that for her first time hosting she agreed to take in four of us. I am being constantly amazed by the grace and hospitality of our hosts along the way… I can imagine that this will only continue the farther we get in our journey.

June 9th, 2009

Oh the glory of sleeping in.

Christine let us stay in her home even after she left for work this morning, and showing that kind of trust to the four of us really humbled me. I’m not even sure I would be that trusting, especially as a woman who lives alone as a single mom. She was the perfect host, offering us anything she had to give, even though we really needed very little. She was one of those people you feel you could learn so much from, but just don’t have the time. We have to keep moving on…

I am typing this on the open road, while we cross the border into Colorado, headed for Denver tonight. We woke up to sunshine, and the ability to sleep in, which has proved to be VERY necessary to have a successful and happy day on the road. We took our time, lingering in Chris’s living room and checking our email, reading the books we brought with us, Josh doing homework to make up for the entire week of class he’s missing to come with us. I sat on top of the Subaru and ate half of a grapefruit, watching the clouds roll by and waiting for our caravan to finish preparing for take-off, so to speak.

We piled in, stopping to grab a couple cheap hot dogs at a convenience store to tide us over until we make it to Denver. Gerene and I found a great 80’s and 90’s mix, and danced in the car while the boys followed us in the Rodeo, probably wondering what the hell was going on up there. Gerene and I have decided that after the campout we will likely head to Arizona, then on to visit my sister in Los Angeles, heading up the West Coast for our route home. I’m excited to find a kindred spirit as free and wanderlust-filled as mine. We will drive. We will eventually make it home when we run out of money.

That’s all we know, and we like it that way.

We dressed in summer clothes, as it was hot this morning, but two hours into our journey, along the Wyoming/Colorado border we watched the storm come at us from the horizon, getting some amazing lightning from a distance, then eventually getting pelted by rain so heavy we had to pull off the interstate and wait it out.

We’re an hour outside of Denver now, and I can see the Rockies creeping closer through the clouds, their immensity too large for me to begin to understand. I see the snow on the peaks, the blue sky in the background, and signs letting us know our destination is coming soon… at least the destination for today.

The campout is tomorrow, and I feel far from prepared to sleep at 9,600 feet in the freezing cold in the Rockies. But that's okay. I'm sure it will be great.

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