We are home again. We hit a misty rain soon after crossing into Oregon, and my skin and nasal passages were thankful after more than two weeks in very dry air. We didn’t hit real rain until close to Portland. We didn’t encounter any enemy tanks as we headed north. And our house was still here – it hadn’t been shelled while we were away. We were grateful – grateful for a fun and safe trip and grateful to be home.
The trouble with writing this blog as we travel is that I do it after we check into our motel in the evening but before supper. If the day has been hard or long, I don’t have a lot to say. Now that we’re home, I’d like to reflect a little on the trip.
This was our first real road trip in over two years. We didn’t know what we would find out in the world or what we would find about our abilities to still travel. Although things are different – in the world and within us – we found we could still do it and could still enjoy it.
Although we encountered signs of the divisiveness that besets our country, it wasn’t widespread. We saw avid support for our previous president in southern Oregon and here and there in parts of California, but less than we had expected. Most motels had their TVs tuned to CNN.
And as expected, we saw fewer people wearing masks in similar areas, but as the trip progressed fewer and fewer people wore masks, regardless of politics. The film festival required masks and proof of vaccination status to attend, and a few other places required masks, but most mask requirements had abated by the time we got home. Surprisingly, the little community of Aneth, Utah (population 500) required masks. And many of the staff at motels, restaurants, truck stops, etc. had masks, but we saw fewer as we went.
We loved Durango and the film festival. It is a small town, but the festival had an enormous cadre of volunteers and a long list of sponsors. It was quite an experience. We were warmly welcomed and enjoyed our time there. We didn’t win any awards, but ours was one of the films selected. There were lots of films shown, but in our category 42 were submitted and only 10 were selected. We got a lot of affirmation from the audience and the festival people. It was very heartening.
And the local bookstore – Maria’s Bookshop – sold copies of my book from their store and even set up a table in the theater lobby after the movie showing. I met a number of nice people as I sat signing copies. One woman bought a book for her genderqueer child, another bought it to send to a friend, and others bought books for themselves.
I used to love riding my motorcycle across these wide open spaces. Now, in an air-conditioned car and 20 years older, the experience is less interesting. But I still marvel at seeing huge landscapes devoid of human alteration other than the road we’re driving on. I always wonder about the pioneers, and more than that the people who lived here before European contact.
On this trip we crossed the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts. By driving across all three, one after the other, I began to see the differences. The Sonoran Desert is the only one with saguaro cactus. The Mojave is the only one with Joshua trees. I don’t remember any distinct flora of the Chihuahuan Desert. Unlike the others, it is a high desert, often above 4,000 feet elevation. I remember only sparse, tufty grass, but perhaps I would notice more if we drove the reverse route now that I have an idea of what to look for.
We were very fortunate with the weather. Durango was mild until the weekend, when it snowed. But the roads were clear the next morning when we left. Before Durango, there was a little light rain briefly near Blanding, Utah, but otherwise we didn’t encounter anything until getting back to Oregon and its blessed moisture.
I like to have a clock on my side of the bed, so that when I wake up I can see whether I can get up or I should roll over and try to sleep some more. When we travel, there is a 50:50 chance the room’s clock will be on my side. On our way to Durango, it was always on my side. I was on a roll! As we started back home, it looked like it might always be on Andrea’s until it became more random. We spent one night on the timeline between Mountain and Pacific time. The motel room clock was on Andrea’s side of the bed, and we couldn’t figure out how to set it anyway. My phone had switched to Pacific time. When I saw in the morning that it was already 5:45, I got up to get some coffee while Andrea slept. It was only on my second cup that I realized the phone had switched back to Mountain time. We got an early start that day.
While on this trip, we tried to stop at as many new-to-us chargers as we could. Although some charger stations had only one or two slots available when we arrived, we had to wait for an open slot only once: in Needles, California. We’d been there before (in 2016 and several times since), but it is in the middle of a long stretch across empty land. It can only accommodate four cars at time, which is odd to me, since it is a well-travelled route and the closest chargers are in Kingman AZ (63 miles to the east) and Barstow CA (147 miles to the west). On the other hand, I-5 between LA and San Francisco, which is an admittedly much heavier-travelled route, has quite a few chargers, many of which can accommodate between 20 and 40 cars at a time. And they are building more all the time.
It was really good to find that we could still travel. We know there will be a time when we cannot any longer, but that time is not yet. Toward the end of the trip, we considered extending it. But as we got closer to home, we became more focused on getting here. As usual, as I drove toward home that last day, I started planning our next road trip.