Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Cross Country Trip

Disclaimer: I have a total of TWO photos for this post.  I have somehow managed to lose the album that these were in, and unfortunately my friends weren’t able to send me photos of the trip in time.  Oh well, enjoy this extravagantly long post!

The summer after my junior year in college, my friend Jon came up to D.C. to work for one of the Alabama Senators.  I was working for an environmental organization at the time.  We decided to take a cross country trip from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California for Jon’s Circle K convention.

The day we left we drove eight hours through the mountains.  Jon and I stopped at a little state park to eat our peanut butter and jelly lunch (the first of many).  We walked around on the hiking trails a little bit to stretch our legs, but the mosquitoes were bad, and we wanted to make some good time that day so we kept driving.  I’m not sure what part of the country we stopped in that night, but we stayed at a KO in a little cabin.  We were the only people there without an RV.  We were super excited about our adventure!

We got up the next morning and drove to pick Cassidy up in Kansas City, Missouri.  We were meeting her at the airport, and that night we would stay with her cousin.  We saw the arch, which looked the same as it did when I saw it as a child!  The next day our adventure continued.  We drove to Russell, Kansas and stopped to have lunch there so Jon could see Bob Dole’s birth place.  We joked about the bugs on the windows in Kansas, because the highway was so boring.  We didn’t stop to see the largest ball of twine, but I wish we had!  We had a long drive ahead to Colorado Springs where we would stay the night with “Wish He Was My Boyfriend.” (Remember him?)

We had a fun night.  We all went to a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a few margaritas.  The DD driver, whoever it was, drove us to a bowling alley next where we encountered a friendly brown bear of the blow-up variety!  We were living it up.  We went back to Wish He Was My Boyfriend’s apartment to sleep.  The next day we went to Garden of the Gods.  We were all a little bit tired, but the scenery was beautiful. 

Our drives from here on out became smaller, and we began to make more use of campgrounds.  On the way, we stopped at McDonald’s quite a few times, and I partook of the fish sandwich quite often because at that time I was vegetarian at the time. I know—fish is not a vegetable, but I would allow myself to eat seafood!  We also made much use of a certain Texaco card, much to my friends’ parents’ chagrin!  Do you know how much you can actually buy with a Texaco card?

The next day we drove to Steamboat Springs.  I remember on the road passing the exit for Littleton and talking about the Columbine shootings.  The incident had happened only a year before.  Steamboat Springs was a little town.  We stayed in a campground there, and we went to the rodeo.  Jon, Cass, and I were chatting as the rodeo was beginning and I looked down the bleachers and Blue Eyed Guy was  sitting right next to me.  Blue Eyed Guy was an acquaintance of my ex-boyfriend who lived on the 6th Floor of Leonard Hall.  I often saw him at American, and we always talked casually, but I never knew much about him.  Turns out he lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and just happened to be at the rodeo when we showed up there: strange indeed.  Reminiscent of running into Robin in Spain.

When we left Steamboat Springs we headed up through Wyoming and we drove through the Flaming Gorge National Park.  This was breathtaking, and was not even on the map we had.  The bright orange rocks were beautiful, and the gorge circling down to a crystal clear lake at the bottom was breathtaking.  I highly recommend exploring this area if you have some time.  I wish we had been able to spend more time there.

We drove through Jackson, and then we went through the mountains that separate Wyoming from Idaho.  I remember being terrified driving down the mountain with a huge Mack truck on my tail.  I kept imagining it running us off the road.  We arrived in Idaho Falls late.  It was a strange place.  We ate at a steakhouse, and the people all struck me as odd and quirky.  I think Cass and Jon felt the same way.  We went to our hotel late, around midnight, and we pull in on a fairly cold night and some girl is riding her bike around the parking lot in a bikini.  We all laughed at this, but it sort of creeped us out and made us feel glad that we weren’t going to spend anymore of our time in Idaho.

The next day, we drove down into Utah.  Jon had left his pillow at the Idaho Falls hotel, and we weren’t going back there, so we stopped at a rest area.  We asked the information guy where we could find a Wal-Mart.  His response, “That’s a woman’s store.  Perhaps I should call my wife.” This was my first encounter with a Mormon in Utah.  We found one on our own, and Jon was able to buy a new pillow. 

We drove through Salt Lake City.  We didn’t have time to stop at the Mormon Temple.  I regret this decision, as my parents went there this past year and said it was beautiful.  We were on a timetable though, and our stops were pre-planned with a certain number of days in between.  I loved the rocky landscape in Utah, but we all commented how we’d miss large Oak trees and grass if we lived in Utah.  I couldn’t even do a description of the red rocks of Utah justice.  They are beautiful, and majestic.  Driving into Zion National Park seemed to me like driving into another world.

The day we arrived in Zion, it was hot.  Very hot.  We were not allowed to build a fire to cook any food, so we resorted to our old standby for dinner: peanut butter and jelly.  We walked around and hiked a little bit, but we were rather unprepared for the narrow hiking trails and my fear of heights did me in, so mostly we just admired the scenery around us, talked, and played cards. That night, I insisted to Jon and Cass that since we were in the dessert the temperature would drop significantly.  We went to bed with our tent completely zipped up, and we almost died of heat prostration (literally!).  We woke up sweating, and Jon and I unzipped the tent to let some fresh air in, but we still woke up in a pool of sweat.  I didn’t take into consideration that we were at the bottom of a canyon and the hot air was trapped like a bowl around us.
Hot, and in bad need of a shave, at Zion National Park, Utah 2000

We drove down the back roads, the famous Route 66, and reached the Grand Canyon the next day.  Who would have thought that a giant hole in the ground could be so amazing?  Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon makes one feel infinitely small: a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.  The power of nature is forceful enough to cut through rock and carve a vast canyon into this earth.  In one word: breathtaking. Our visit to the canyon was the highlight of my trip.  We pitched a tent that night, and Jonathan insisted that we leave the screens, but I told him it would be cold since we were on top of the canyon.  He didn’t believe me, and in the middle of the night he had to rustle in the car for his larger sleeping bag and close up the vents in the tent because we were all freezing!
Cass and me in front of the Grand Canyon, 2000

After the Grand Canyon, we drove to Las Vegas stopping at the Hoover Dam on the way.  I was depressed in Vegas.  I missed the nature we had just left.  Cass and Jon enjoyed themselves there, but what can I say? Gambling is just not my thing.  Was it then that I went up in the mini-Eiffel Tower and almost had an anxiety attack due to my fear of heights?  It may have been my second trip to Vegas.  Heights are not my thing.

After Vegas we made our way to San Diego.  I LOVED San Diego.  It is beautiful.  It cracks me up how everyone calls the interstate, “THE 5.”  Not, take Interstate 5 to ________ road, but take THE 5 to _________road.”  Jon had convention stuff to do in San Diego, and I was interested in doing separate things than Cass, so I sort of had some alone time there.  Also, Cass and some other friends had decided to go to Mexico, and my mother told me (I listened for once) that I was not, under any circumstances, to cross the border and go to Mexico!  I went to the San Diego zoo by myself, which was amazing.  The pandas were incredible, and by far it is one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited.  I also explored the Mission District, and ate delicious fish tacos in a Mexican restaurant there.  We visited a haunted house too, although I didn’t see any ghosts.

After San Diego it was time to go home.  We drove straight through (almost), but we stopped to surprise our family in Montgomery.  They were happy to see that we had made it back safely from our trip.  Then we went back to DC to the real world.

1 comment:

  1. Lauren I hope to one day drive across have done so much traveling and adventure!


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