Our road trip from California to Minnesota on the fringe of winter kneaded me like dough into an expanded version of myself. Travel has a way with transformation.
California has always been the promised land in my mind. I have traveled many places, but never taken a road trip across this many state lines before. Every day we moved with intention from one geographic landmark to the next; dry desert to striated red rocks to black hills to prairie lands and finally to 10,000 lakes.
What I came to experience, is that there is so much land out here in America. There is so much beauty and so many incredible ways to live, one not better than the other. Just different. My compassion and awareness broke through border lines and into the vast wide open spaces of states I never dreamed of loving.
San Diego, CA – St George, UT
While there’s something unsettling about a long trip ahead with no “home base”, the forward motion helped to keep the anxious part of me at bay. I was forced to find anchors outside of my window and within the canyons of my internal world.
Jaws dropped in the backseat as we drove through our first pit stop: the Las Vegas strip. Coura wanted to eat the big M&M while Maisley yelled out “I want to live here!!”
We quickly upgraded from city lights to constellations in the desert sky as we finished our first, surprisingly simple drive from San Diego to St. George.
St. George – Park City, UT
James Taylor serenaded us up and over the majestic hills of Utah while we belted out: “In my mind, I’m going to Minnesota…”. Every time we hit a pot hole or felt our tummies drop down a hill, Mara squealed out, “Weeeeeeee!” from the backseat.
Rusted sandstone mountains with deep creviced shadows lined our pathway to Park City, UT. We swam at Homestead Crater hot springs when we arrived and stayed at a farm just outside of the city where we fed apples to horses in the brisk 15 degree air.
Park City, UT – Custer, SD
Maisley sat me down before our longest day – 9 hours of driving – and said that she was done with all this driving and not doing it anymore.
So, we learned a lesson that day about being able to handle more than we thought was possible.
When we crossed into Wyoming, a part of me sighed in relief. Have you ever watched a frozen river get lost in the prairie lands? Looked in every direction to find nothing but land and a few passer-by?
The road continued to rise up and meet us at every turn as we cruised through never ending solitude. Thankfully our “no flat tire” prayers held us through to the next morning.
Over-shadowing the anxious thoughts of aloneness was the sun setting over Wyoming’s endless rolling hills. A sequential cascade of pinks, purples and blues before true darkness settled in for the night.
Custer, SD – Sioux Falls, SD
Waking up the next morning in a tree house in Custer, SD restored my energy tank and excitement. Custer exceeded all expectations; the craggy mountains and pine trees, the buffalo on the ridge and big horned sheep on the road-side. Fresh mountain air.
As we set off for Sioux Falls, SD we found a nail had punctured the outer wall of our tire. After a few phone calls and grim outlook from the auto keepers of this tiny town, we finally found Anderson Auto to fix and patch the tire. Three generations of Andersons sat idle in the tiny office with us while we humored them with our questions and tales.
Our final long drive lay just ahead.
As we drove past a lookout in the Badlands National Park, I abruptly asked Ryan to pull over. The kids yammered on and screens played tired stories in the backseat while I ran toward the opposite. I laid my body onto the earth and melted into the utter stillness below me. I felt like I had traveled through time, if only for a few moments.
Sioux Falls, SD – Eden Prairie, MN
One of the main factors for road tripping rather than flying to Minnesota for Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, was to stop in Sioux Falls, the birth place of dad’s mom, Grandma Joan. As I get older, I crave to know more of who I am and where I come from. Particularly with the absence of my dad here on earth.
We walked past her old home site in the quaint historic district of this now trendy downtown. I loved being on the sidewalk where she ran to school and the city where she came of age.
While much of this road trip was actually fairly smooth, it is of utmost importance to note that the last hour of every drive was pure misery – we were almost, but not quite there. Everyone needed a snack and had to pee. I had my head on a swivel, throwing food and entertainment around like a ring master. But we did it, we survived, and I guess that’s what I will remember the most.
We pulled into the driveway of my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Eden Prairie and were met with a welcome sign and the most beautiful smiling faces.
(Our time with them is for another story, but we enjoyed 6 magical days of fun, playing, exploring and extraordinary hosting.)
Eden Prairie, MN – San Diego, CA
On the way back, we were smart, and flew home.
**My mind’s memory bank bridges the gap between these words and the photos we took, never quite enough to paint an entire story. **