Road Trips

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

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Here’s to You

Sometimes, I worry about development – about our houses and our gyms and our stupid super stores taking over the planet. Yes, this trend is concerning and I want to rip developer’s “FOR SALE” signs out of those open fields. But then, I take a road trip to the Mid-West. It is when I drive through parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin with miles and miles of corn, and I think “Ok, we’ve still got plenty of open space.” I am so snobby that I fail to remember that lack of things to look at on I-90 means food on the table, corn in my belly, orange soda in my hand. I’ll admit it, I’ve got some Colorado elitism in me and I carry some opinions about our neighbors to the east. I am, after all, a Colorado Buffalo. Sorry Husker fans. Did you know there isn’t a Starbucks within 200 miles between cities in Nebraska? I looked.

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This road trip helped me to identify a few growth areas within my personality – say some acceptance for slower ways of living, a respect for those who don’t sport my same coffee addiction, and a questioning look into my privilege of honestly craving carrots and hummus on the road rather than fast food. This trip, too, gave me an appreciation for roots, and for tradition, for open spaces, and for love that families create.

Dylan’s grandfather passed away last week. It wasn’t expected, and he was fairly healthy at 84 years old. It was less than 48 hours between finding out he fell, to finding out he had passed on. News like that is never easy to absorb. It is easy, however, to mobilize, and within a few days we packed up a car and ordered snacks, and loaded our Kindles to make the 15 hour drive to Wisconsin because nothing else in that situation would make sense.  Seven adults in a Ford Excursion is a lot different than a road trip with the cousins when you are ten or eleven. We still had fun, still made the most of it.

It can be, at times, hard to find beauty in tragedy or peace in the midst of suffering. My experience participating in Dylan’s family as they began to grieve was very different than that of when my own grandfather passed away. We all handle emotions differently and my family is known to be, well, “over processors” when it comes to emotion, so I wasn’t sure how to act or what to expect.

Tears were shed, and stories were told, and laughter was more common than silence or weeping. I was exposed to a Catholic funeral, a viewing, a rosary – cultural experiences I had never had before. We ate a lot of cheese curds, our sandwiches had butter on them, comfort food was shared.

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This is Grandpa as a kid – an original Cheesehead I suppose

 

What I found to be most beautiful in this experience, however, was pausing to reflect upon all the lives this man created and influenced and impacted. Gerald had six children, and a few married or committed to someone, and a few of those six had their own children. As the grand kids grow new additions get added on – me included. He has three great-grandchildren. Gerald served in the Army and the Navy so many men from the VA, or VFW or Knights of Columbus came and shared their respects. What a powerful thing it is to honor someone who has served our country.

I feel so blessed to be a part of their story – that I could hold some tissues, and hold Dylan’s hand, and give support to a family that has long ago accepted me as one of their own. It is never easy to lose someone you love, and even harder to think about what they will miss in your own lives. A part of me is really sad that the wedding did not come sooner – had we not postponed, both of our grandfathers would have been able to attend.

While I did not know this man very well, I have been blessed to be exposed to the beauty of what he created. A family of expansive love that gives freely, and ask questions, and has fun. So here is to you, Gerald Sullivan. Thank you for what you have given this world, and by extension, what has been given to me. Please know that you are loved.