We’ve been on the road for nearly forty-eight hours strait now. On Sunday we left after church (with many good-byes and well-wishes from our church congregation) and set out from New York on the trail headed west.
All eight of us are neatly packed into what we fondly call our green-covered-wagon (Suburban truck) and we pass the hours reading, driving, and making use of all our wonderful technological equipment. We fall asleep on each other if we're not too hot. We take much needed breaks at McDonalds and rest stops to eat our home-made chicken cutlets. (I think I could give a rundown on the states we’ve passed through based solely on the aesthetic of their rest stops).
I’ve watched as the rolling hills of Pennsylvania became the rolling hills of Ohio. The land flattened, cornfields state after state. Iowa was flat. So was Nebraska. We’ve had our share of mishaps already. In the night we missed the splitting of the Interstate 80 and 90 and ended up an hour or two north just over the border into Wisconsin. (Wisconsin was flat, too.) We are blessed to have five drivers – my mother and sister take the night shifts as they are capable of not falling asleep at the wheel (a trait I regrettably do not possess). Both of my siblings only have their permits so a licensed adult has to sit in the front seat next to them at all times (despite, for example, my sister having driven for three years). So it was of particular satisfaction to me when on my shift I took a look around and found my mom, dad, and sister all fast asleep (my mother calls my "smoooth" hand at the wheel "lullaby-driving"). My brother got his driving medal when he took a shift in Iowa and drove through a torrential downpour which (we later heard on the radio) took out half of the power in Chicago.
In Nebraska things got particularly interesting. We stopped at our favorite rest area so far- sporting an immaculate green lawn that would have been the envy of my whole street back home, lovely stone-surrounded picnic areas, a baby dinosaur in a sand-box, and bathrooms of artistic white and blue tiling. The Nebraska landscape has a very gradual up and down to it- barely visible in what was soon night-time. And we ran into another storm. A huge storm. The radio promised golf-ball sized hail and possible tornadoes (but we never saw either). We stopped at a gas station to wait it out but were informed by an employee that we really didn’t have anything to worry about so we decided to brave it. Dad was driving. The rain was fantastic (visibility was the real issue) and we ended up joining three other cars pulled over under an over-pass. We watched the storm with baited breath. The sky was a constant flicker- and at times we saw bolts of lightning streak down and meet the earth. Then every few minutes there would be a flash of light- lighting up the entire sky (impossibly big with so few trees), truly blinding, followed by a deafening clap of thunder.
Eventually we moved on- and as the storm passed us I took over the wheel in the leftover drizzle. There are no lights to speak of on the 80 in Nebraska. I drove with my eyes flickering from the fifteen feet of visible dotted line down to my left- and the red tail lights of the one or two cars far ahead of me on the skyline. All else was black. And as I drove through the darkness on the narrow and strait road- I had the sensation of continuing on into a horizon of eternal blackness.
In the middle of last night we woke and tumbled out of the car into a Wyoming rest stop. It was freezing cold. But there was something in the air that hadn’t been there before- a scent of a particular tree, perhaps. It smelled less like New York- and far more like California.
I woke this morning to vaulting mountain ranges- layered stone in grey, cream, and red tones- to cattle ranges and protruding rock formations and a sunrise of deep golds and purples. From Wyoming into Utah, we weave our way through the mountains- passed caves and trains and small clusters of civilization- ever west, ever west.
I can scarcely believe we're almost there. Home. Where I was born. California. My California.
Anticipation mounts. My heart begins to race.