Monday, March 21, 2011
The First Month on the Road
I never used to be impressed when I looked at a map of the United States. It was just home. This was, of course, prior to my vehicular adventure across the breadth of the nation during the worst blizzard of the year. Let's just say my appreciation for America's sheer immensity has changed. I have also learned that nothing stretches out a road trip quite like having a hysterical cat in a carrier for the first time, meowing his opinion to you the entire way.
Kurt and I set out from Seattle and headed east toward Idaho, where we spent a few days reminiscing with close friends and family and arranging our ducks in a nice, neat row. There is nothing in life as refreshing to me as familiar company after time apart. I relished in the moments we spent catching up with one another at The Garden Lounge, wishing more faces had shown up, but at the same time thankful for the small nature of the group.
Bozeman, Montana was next. Feet upon feet of snow covered Lookout Pass on either side of the road, and I clutched the steering wheel with white knuckles until we finally pulled into town at 11:30pm. Our host in Bozeman was Kate, a lovely woman in her 50's who was gracious enough to make us feel right at home. We discussed the fascism of Palin, the beauty of intercultural exchange, and explored the local Coop's selection of delicious hummus. Though far from a major city, Bozeman struck me as more alive than most places I have ever lived. It felt young, fresh, and awake. The streets were buzzing with activity long after I expected, and local shops beckoned with their unique facades and interesting window displays. I was given a lesson by Kate on making bread, and she generously sent us on our way with one loaf and homeade rasberry jam.
Following Montana we made an ambitious attempt to arrive in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the next evening. When setting out on our twelve hour drive it seemed plausible, though we realized in mid-Wyoming our critical error. Winter in the American Midwest will now and forever be likened in my mind to Siberia. Though my knowledge of Siberia is severely uninformed, I imagine (with my severely uninformed mind) that I am right on the money. Wind chill taken into consideration, it was -10 degrees (F) most of the way, and froze our antifreeze windshield fluid, speaking for itself. Wipers malfunctioned, ice built up so badly that it scraped the tires if we turned, the powdery snow would turn into a whiteout without warning, and we were the slowest car on the road by about 25 miles per hour. Once deciding to find a hotel room once we reached Gillette, Wyoming, sixty miles down the road, it maddeningly took us more than two hours to arrive.
A day behind schedule, we arrived in Sioux Falls at our host Pam's house. She educated us about where our blood goes once we donate it, and treated our weary tummies to some delightful eggs and toast the morning. We arrived in Iowa City on Fat Tuesday, staying up late with our hosts MaryAlice and Diego sharing videos, microbrews, and great conversation.
The entirety of our stay in Madison, Wisonsin simply cannot be covered here, as we protested with 200,000 people against the stripping away of union rights under the guise of budget cuts. I learned more about democracy and injustice in those few days than I planned. Our hosts Ralph and Alma were perfectly happy to come down the Capitol, fill us in on Lithuanian beer and Wisconsin cheese, as well as the illegal actions of the Republicans in the state. Though FOX News would have the public believe otherwise, there was hardly a soul in favor of Governor Walker. I knew the network was biased to an extreme, though now I know beyond a doubt that they blatantly, intentionally lie. There was not a scratch on the Capitol - no $7.5 million in damages, no violence, no vandalism. The protesters and security stood chatting and debating, while those wanting inside the Capitol waited in a calm, respectful line. There existed no protestors who "weren't leaving peacefully." Very sad, indeed.
We were met in Cleveland by Liz, whose groovy abode and great attitude enchanted me immedietely. As with all our hosts, it seems, our time with her was too short. She took us to a dive bar where a sign told us 'Please do not feed the crackheads.' Before departing the next day for New York, we stopped in at a local diner and I caught my first glimpse at the Great Lakes.
Just when I thought we were home free and almost to Long Island, I experienced Kurt driving us on the Cross Bronx through Manhattan. Suffice it to say that I wasn't sure we would make it. We did, however! I caught a sideways glimpse at the Empire State Building before deciding that looking forward was better than imagining certain death. Walking into Kurt's family home and dropping our bags felt fabulous.
Things I have learned:
-I hate toll roads/bridges/booths
-Do not travel with a cat
-If you must travel with a cat, get a muzzle
-Wyoming is intensely empty
-Gas prices are horrible
-Ohio really shouldn't charge so much to drive on their roads
-EZ Pass toll lanes on the Throg's Neck bridge are going to ticket us
-I like Cleveland
-Couchsurfing remains my favorite social networking tool