4,600 miles and two weeks later, I’m back. A landmark family trip with so many good times and treasured memories.
We had a great week in Logan with my husband’s family- lots of cousin time and Grandma time. We attended my husband’s 20th high school reunion (which was surprisingly fun from my perspective), Grandma made a gigantic slip-n-slide on her backyard hill with a roll of clear plastic, I took some young ‘uns bowling (I didn’t win), we visited family in town, we visited friends in Provo and Pleasant Grove, we showed the kids where we met and got married, we ate “Y-Sparkle” sherbet and Bishop’s Bash ice cream with good friends, and we barely broke a sweat in the dry, 100º heat. There were very few injuries, no sunburns, a few colds and one sinus infection, but nothing big to complain about. Finally, we reunited with the whole family at Bear Lake and played games, swam, flew kites, made huge meals, hiked, held a carnival, performed a play, and laughed together. And we wore rather smart-looking matching t-shirts, if I do say so myself. All-in-all: a really fantastic time with great people.
And that 4,600 mile drive? We drove about 13 hours each day (for 3 days each way), leaving after lunch. We drove for a few hours, stopped and ran around, then drove more until dinner. After dinner, the kids brushed their teeth and changed into pajamas, then we drove until roughly 3 in the morning. I took the late shift, where my over-active sense of duty was beneficial. I had a few other tricks to keep me awake, none of which sound particularly cool in the daylight. (It’s the only time I chew Double Bubble, drink anything containing caffeine, or sing while other people are in the car.) We made sure to get a hotel swim in before leaving each morning, which helped the kids enormously.
I love the western landscape; it still evokes those same feelings of freedom I felt when I was a child on cross-country trips. It is so wide and open that one might believe they could conquer and control all they see around them. But it’s a wild place, not a land that can be easily tamed. Towns can flourish, billboards can advertise all aspects of the good life (and some aspects of the seedy life), Little America can stand as a testament to one man’s determination to force an oasis on a desolate road, but that’s all. Where the irrigation ends, the desert begins… and still reigns.
We saw some truly gorgeous scenery. I wish I could have recorded it all through a lens, but there were some times when I had to put the camera down and just enjoy it. The most stunning sunset/rainbow/lightning combinations weren’t to be captured at all, just appreciated in all their glory. We drove through an amazing storm one night: three hours of constant lightning with two of those hours producing very serious rain. I’ve never seen anything like it- it was like being followed by a sky full of paparazzi photographers for three solid hours. It was intense. Since I took the late shift, I got all the back roads as we arrived at our destinations: dark, twisting canyon roads full of deer and rabbits in Utah, and dark, hilly, country roads thick with fog in Vermont. I also got to see the golden moon rising over the hills of Wyoming (in my rearview mirror), the late-night conclusion of a music festival in Kemerer, and cities quilted in grids of sodium vapor light.
I listened to Maura O’Connell’s song “Western Highway” more than once and caught glimpses of the part of me that used to live in that land- a “me” that was the product of a particular time in conjunction with a particular place and particular people. It’s a Maren that no longer exists. But I visited her, too, and she was still happy.
And some other photos are up on flickr.