We usually stay in Hampton Inns or Best Westerns. In Loveland we are staying in an Embassy Suites that is part of a conference center and offers amenities such its own spa that offers massages. The place is pretty full, with several conferences going on. For some reason they upgraded us to the premium floor. From our aerie we have a view across the grey plains sitting below leaden skies. This is not our usual digs.
The pace of our travel has not left a lot of time for reflection, but today we are staying in one place and can wait for a late breakfast. It gives me time to think.
I am generally up at 5:30 to get coffee and read the news of the day. Andrea likes to sleep later, but on this trip I’ve usually gotten her up by 6:30 so we can get going at what to me is a reasonable hour. We finish driving usually around 4:30 and settle in wherever we have landed. In the evening we are tired and go to bed even earlier than we do at home.
As we drive east, we lose an hour two times, going from Pacific time to Mountain the second day, and from Mountain to Central time tomorrow. Somehow I’ve gotten into my head that each day is shorter even though we only shift on those two days. I have been rushing ahead.
This is later in the year than we usually travel, and the weather has not encouraged us to stop and look around as we go. We take pictures through the car windows, too much in a hurry to stop. And most of our travel has been on the interstate highways, which were designed to limit opportunities to pause.
People at home talked about us seeing fall colors, and we may in the Midwest. But here in the Rockies and back in Idaho, the season has slid into late autumn or early winter and we missed the brilliant colors of fall.
There is something about Laramie and the steppe on which it sits that draws me even though I was raised in the Midwest. The open spaces of the treeless plain calm me. And the neighborliness of the small town warms me.
Laramie is now about 30,000 people, many of them university students. Some have told me that it is the biggest town they’ve ever lived in, but it is one of the smallest in which I ever lived. And the population number can be deceiving because the next town is almost an hour’s drive away. It sits alone in a sometimes-harsh environment, and that gives it a different feel than a similar-sized town in Oregon or Michigan or Maryland.
We have been visiting family and friends. We saw Andrea’s brother in Boise, old friends in Laramie, and now my brother-in-law in Colorado. Some of the conversations have inevitably included discussions of health challenges.
When I lived in Laramie I would meet Bill every Tuesday morning for coffee and a lively hour-plus discussion. I very much appreciated his clear thinking, his stories, his insights. He had an active mind that encouraged me to think. And encouraged me to be all of who I can be. I told him about my life-long gender issues and wondered whether, in my 60s, it was worth it to try to resolve them. After all, I’d done all right with my life up until then. His response was to ask me, “How many years do you have left? 30?” I replied that it was perhaps 20. He said, “That’s a long time to be unhappy.” And I have loved him for that.
Now close to his 92nd birthday, he is still much as he was, still sharp, still full of stories, still encouraging. But I don’t think he remembered me or our coffee dates or his helping me to become more than I was.
We are now in Colorado, visiting Joe. My sister died three years ago, and he misses her terribly. They were together 56 years, through good times and tough times. He is 86 and has many health challenges. Like Bill, he is the same as he was but diminished by age and loss. Like Bill, Joe was very supportive of my efforts to become whole. I’ve loved him for many years but especially for that. I’ve been very lucky to meet and be with some remarkable people.
From Loveland we will continue east. We hope the worst of the weather is behind us. We are starting to see patches of blue in the skies. It is forecast to get up into the 50s tomorrow. That will be nice.