It’s a big country out there, and I just reacquainted myself with much of it — traveling around by car, on a journey that took us from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Lakes, from the dusty deserts and craggily canyons of the Southwest to the lush forests and pristine rivers “Up North.”
We traveled from the oil fields and wind farms in Texas and Oklahoma, to the corn fields and hog farms in Illinois and Indiana; solar farms in the Mojave, wheat fields in Kansas, and cherry orchards in Northwest Michigan; across the plains and over the mountains, through crumbling cities and rusted towns, ghost towns and thriving communities.
We saw rejuvenated neighborhoods and revitalized blocks, on bikes and boats and bridges, porches, decks and docks, across the straits and out to the island, through city, state and national parks, ballparks, stadiums, halls — of music and art.
In diners, cafes and brew pubs, past monuments and memorials, through cemeteries and graveyards, familiar haunts and the old stomping grounds, where I saw that friendship can endure and overcome, that family ties are powerful and deep-rooted with a force that flows through our veins, bonding us and binding us, redemption and condemnation.
The driving days were each about a 1,000 miles, and took us through different light, different times, different conditions and different regions of the country, distinguished by geography, geology, culture, customs, crops, language, history and more.
As we drove …
I was reminded that most of the land in this country is open space — forests and fields, lakes and mountains, vast areas unoccupied by people — which brought to mind those red and blue political maps that show the vast majority of the country colored in red with scattered specks of blue which some people use to suggest that that’s how the country thinks despite the fact that 82% of the American population lives in urban areas and not in the wide-open, natural landscapes (represented by all that red).
From billboards that line the interstates in the middle of the country, I came to conclude that some people must think Jesus was a great American the way they wrap him in the red, white and blue on huge signs that also bear the name of the ex-President (as if to associate the two).
As we were heading into the homestretch of the trip, on a day that started out in Salina, Kansas and ended up in Salina, Utah, I was reminded of a very important lesson: magic often occurs when we go off script. It happened while driving across I-70 in the center of Colorado, when a mudslide poured out across the road, closing traffic in both directions.
It took hours to get off the road at the next exit, and from there the options were to either wait it out — which who knew how long that would be, drive north on a winding but paved highway — which would add 3 1/2 more hours to our crossing, or go south on unpaved roads that would only add 1 1/2 more hours.
We didn’t know when we chose option three that it would put us on a one-lane rocky, muddy trail of switchbacks and hairpin turns that had us hanging out over the edge while taking us over one of the highest mountain-passes in the state, which means one of the highest in the country. Though I have spent much time in much of that state, I had never been there before, or beheld such scenery.
The colors were a revelation, the currents were tantalizing, and at that moment, despite the threat of danger and the treacherous conditions we had come through, a prayer of gratitude erupted from my heart and bubbled out into the universe. I thanked the Great Spirit for our safety, and that it was not to be just some trip down memory lane, but instead would supply us with new adventures and new tales to tell.
While I cherish the memories and enthusiastically continue to relate the stories of old, I am, and I believe, we are, invigorated by new experiences and expanding horizons.