A few posts ago Stephanie wrote about summer road trips. My family wasn’t the road tripping kind, and I have to say that I’m not raising children who will likely relish a good car ride (say the word “highway” to them and you may as well be saying “dental drill”). But there was a time when a road trip seemed like a great idea.
I was graduating from college and had one month off before I headed back to school to attend Radcliffe’s publishing program. Basically I had half of May and half of June to kill and so did my best friend (who was graduating job-less). So we packed up my car and headed West to drop off all my college belongings at my parents’ house in Arizona before embarking on the classic post-college tour of the country.
We had about $100 each, a Costco-sized jar of peanut butter and jelly, two loaves of whole wheat and a box of Wheat Thins. The money and the food were supposed to buy us gas, keep our bellies full, and sustain us for 3 weeks. We also had a small tent, to provide us shelter.
Since we were already in Arizona, we decided to head to the Grand Canyon first. Only we missed it and ended up in Las Vegas. Yes, we missed the largest gaping hole in the country, but we did get to see Nudes on Ice in Vegas. A decent trade off. After Vegas we tried to find the Grand Canyon again, this time succeeding. We also saw the Hoover Dam, which was very cool. Then it was on to Utah, where we spent the night in Moab (which we later learned was the mountain biking capital of the country). It was beautiful. It was also quite hot, which is why I woke up in our 150 degree tent to the sound of my best friend panting.
We visited Badlands National Park in South Dakota, skied at Arapahoe Basin, CO in shorts and tank tops (my friend got altitude sickness and had to be brought down on a snow mobile), saw Mount Rushmore and slept in our car in Yellowstone lest the big hairy bison decide to snuggle us in the middle of the night. A few times we had to sleep in the car, which sucked for the person up front because my car was a standard and the person ended up spooning a stick shift all night. It was always on deserted roads in the middle of nowhere and thank god I was too young and dumb to worry about the stray serial killer (back then we didn’t have cell phones).
We locked the keys in the car in Eureka, CA, drove through a tree in Redland, took showers in public restrooms and searched a cemetery in Bozeman, MT for my friend’s great grandmother. Our greatest splurge was a foot long sub from Subway, which tasted like the most delicious thing ever, given our diet of PB&J.
We hit San Francisco and LA and Portland, but for the most part we were in the heart of the US, just small towns and lots of land and mountains. We hung out with strangers in campgrounds, wore shorts and t-shirts, went barefoot and had a blast.
While I can’t say I’d like to do it again today, as a 22 year old just out of college, it was perfect. After that I went back East to Cambridge and my friend went to New York City to start plugging quarters in pay phones in her quest for a job. We still talk about what a great 3 week adventure we had on less than $200. And I still have the map we used to navigate the country, all torn and faded with a single pink highlighted line showing us the way.