Conclusion and pictures
So, what will stay with me from this trip? I am sure I’ll forget soon the sequence of all the states we have driven through, or the detail of what river flows through what city. I hope not, but I know my brain! The beauty of the land will not leave me, though. That will stay with me for a while.
I have always known, since I moved here, over 12 years ago, that America is beautiful and so diverse you will never miss any kind of landscape even if it were that you would never leave the continent. Every year that I have been here, traveling more and more of its vastness showed me the truth of that statement. And this trip crowns that, I would say. We have not seen the ocean on this trip, but we saw everything else in between.
There is a beauty of every form of relief! There is a calmness and a peace of the vast plains, and a quietness of every small town. You feel every stream and every rock bubbling with stories of times past. There is a beauty of the tall mountains, where you feel dwarfed and vulnerable, an awesomeness of every snowed peak! A higher presence is felt in everything that you know you cannot control – the winds in Kansas, the relentless rock falling in Colorado! You understand that you will have to let nature take its course. And then you’ll watch how She decides to re-arrange this land.
The green of West Virginia and Kentucky will stay with me. The aridity of The Plains, the never ending farmland, and the various vegetation between Kentucky and Colorado will stay with me – everything from oak trees, ash, fields of wheat and corn, junipers, pine trees and prairie grass to tall aspens.
The “funny” roofs of The Plains will stay. They have more “round” roofs than anywhere I have ever been. The active and poor looking coal mine towns of West Virginia and the deserted, closed, also poor looking mineral mine towns of The Rockies will stay.
The absence of planes and the constant presence of trains everywhere we drove through will be a permanent reminder that train tracks are what opened up The West, and will be for a while. They feel like such an intrinsic part of the landscape. The “ghost farms” and “ghost train stations” will live in my memory as my own experienced reality of The Wild West! I have seen with my own eyes the sets of many movies I grew up with about the making of America. It’s humbling!
Even if the location will be blurry after a while, the unusual names of towns, streams and streets, such as “Paris”, “Winchester”, “Quebec Street”, “Voda”, “Balta” (the latter are Romanian common nouns), “Grizzly Creek”, “Lick River”, and “No Name” will stay, for sure.
The knowledge that the state of Colorado is not all pine tree and mountain heaven will definitely outlast this trip! The mightiness of human construction, as seen in all the bridges that cross all our huge rivers (The Ohio, the Missouri, the Mississippi, The Kansas, The Colorado and Green River) as well as in the tunnels that we drove through, piercing through hundreds of feet of mountains will not be forgotten.
Although I have no picture document of it, the reminder that there is “free land” available out West will stay with me. The desperation of hundreds of empty billboards begging advertisers to buy space all over The Plains will always be a sad reminder of the status of our economy now.
I hope in several years this will be a national trend, but for now, it’s evidently a Western one: you hear about more sustainable sources of energy, but you’re not aware of how serious people are about it out East. I have never seen these many windmills and solar panes as I have seen from Missouri to Utah! It’s really a revolution, in my book. Quite a new thing for me, I’ll have to say!
One trend that connects all the states I have been in or through is the overt religiousness of folks. I thought the “Save your soul today” signs are a staple of The Bible Belt where I have lived for the past 12 years. But nope. There is someone looking to save your soul even in The Prairie!
And speaking of that. Most of you know about the “no alcohol on Sundays” rule, or at least “the no alcohol before 12 PM on Sunday rule”, as in NC – a rule that I have always had trouble understanding how it could prevent anyone from drinking, but that’s another story altogether and entirely. But how about this: in Colorado, you can buy alcohol on Sundays, but only a six pack! Not a single bottle, not a 12 pack, not a case! A six pack only. Now, you explain to me how is that meant to discourage people from drinking on Sundays?! “Sign up here for Eternity and you can have a six pack” – no, that’s not a real sign, I just made it up.
One thing that surely will forever stay with me, should anyone have had any doubts about it, is the love of the road, and the permanent propensity to get in the car and head for the open horizon! If this trip taught me one thing, it was that no matter how close the quarters, how dinky the hotel rooms, how stressful handling of the pets who hate to travel are, I will forever be in love with being on the go! I will forever love seeing what the next curve in the road has to offer, and what the lens finds to peek into next. This trip only stirred up in me the travel bug, even more than before.
I cannot wait to climb that next mountain or be amazed by the next sunset, or stormy sky. It’s such a blessing to come back home with the retina full of beautiful places and the mind full of memories.
As long as the car will have wheels and as long as I’ll have breath in my lungs and a relatively able body, the traveling will go on. No matter how far or how close I’ll have to go, I’ll soak into the wonder of every yard traveled. And that’s a promise!
One of my most favorite pictures from this trip is below – a house in the wilderness when we just entered Utah from Colorado. The light on it is just so serene and out worldly! Please click on it for the pictures from this trip. And please forgive the quality of some pictures – I can only shoot so clearly from a car moving at 80+ miles an hour.