[Disclaimer: Memories can be faulty, even after only six days, if those six days are filled with only one activity (i.e., driving). I bet you forget if you’ve brushed your teeth; well, how can I recall everything perfectly? I forgot to bring a journal to write such down in. Darn. Apologies in advance, anyway.]
Day 1: Issaquah, Washington – Missoula, Montana
Driving Conditions: Foggy across Eastern Washington, then clear through Idaho and Montana. Clear roads, with light to moderate traffic.
General Impressions: Off we went! Crazy us, according to everybody, driving across the country through the dead of winter. Washington was hardly bad, though it felt rather like we weren’t getting anywhere at all since fog socked us in as soon as we got across the Cascades all the way to Spokane. In Spokane we ate lunch at Senor Froggy’s, which, despite its name was completely decrepit. Our table was falling off the wall; I caught glimpses of dead spiders in the cracks between windows, etc. We loved it, especially as it was the only Mexican place we could find after wandering Spokane without much of a map for 35 or 40 minutes. There seem to be some lovely residential areas there, though. The rest of the drive was beautiful, through tree-covered mountains topped with snow. Listened to ipod a lot, all sorts of stuff. Generally this was only an eventful day insofar as it was our First Day, and it involved saying goodbye to our parents and prying ourselves away. Stayed at a Best Western in Missoula. Oddly, Missoula felt rather like a stretched-out Bellevue, with an enormous Old Navy (where I bought a $5 pair of gloves to replace my old ones), Lowes, Target, Albertson’s, etc. There were also three taco places! – Taco John’s, Taco Bell, and Taco Time, of which only Taco John’s was new. We opted for a Johnny Carino’s, which was pretty strange “Country Italian” food. Slept well, though Jess reports I talk in my sleep.
Day 2: Missoula, Montana – Dickinson, North Dakota
Driving Conditions: Bright and sunny, clear dry roads, very few other vehicles.
General Impressions: I drove quite a bit this day, getting us through Montana and into South Dakota before finally giving Jess the reins. Listened to some of the Silmarillion on “tape” (ipod) while Jess slept. This took us through the Rockies, which I was apprehensive about, but all went well. The only major problem I had was that, due to an unfortunate and inopportune cold which attacked me the day Ian left, my ears couldn’t cope with the pressure differences as we changed altitude. Still, seeing the vistas of mountains soaring left me breathless with wonder. When I’ve gotten all the pictures arranged I’ll post them… yes, yes I know I haven’t posted any from Christmas break either. I promise all that is coming, but right now I’m trying to write everything down correctly. And probably am not, anyway. I did enjoy Montana, especially the mountains; the Rockies are to the Cascades what the Cascades are to the Adirondacks: huge. Craggy. Gorgeous in the rising sun. Small, perfect towns nestled in the valleys, illiciting much amazement – what do those people do for a living, anyway?! Also, I didn’t really eat very much all day: felt sick, and plus, I don’t like fast food or even resturaunt food at all. Not twice or three times a day, that’s for sure. I do believe we got a car wash this evening, though it may well have been on the 12th. Jess chided me on my poor eating choices, for I’d been spurning food as a result of my rather persistent cold – and because with Ian gone I’ve just somehow lost interest in eating. I wonder why that is? We tried to make it to Bismark, but alas, humans can only drive so far. Stayed in a Best Western which was far, far less nice than the last Best Western. Slept alright, and again reports of strange behavior while I’m asleep. Maybe I’ve been bitten by a vampire and am trying to sleepwalk to him. Or maybe I just feel restless without Ian beside me to hold me.
Day 3: Dickinson, North Dakota – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Driving Conditions: Sunny, dry clear roads. Traffic somewhat increased due to increase in population density.
General Impressions: Another long, long driving day. Jess is an amazing power driver, as evidenced in Day 4’s drive of ridiculous proportions. This day was possibly the least exceptional of all. I have very little interest in the plains, though they have their own type of beauty. Long expanses of sky don’t serve to make me feel secure; rather, I always feel as if I’m going to be swept up off my feet and away forever. This day has, apparently, completely vanished from my memory. I thought of Luke often, as we travelled through his state. Oh wait, once we stopped in Bismark at a winsome coffee place which also provided internet access for $2/30 minutes. Jess checked up on her classes and found stuff was due. Or was that the day before? They all do rather blend in, so I apologize for my vagueness. I swear that all the things I talk about DID happen, even if not in quite the order which I set them down. When we got near Minneapolis, we began hitting our first traffic since we left Spokane. I’d like to say this: Minneapolis and St. Paul, though home of Garrison Keillor and possibly other things, completely flummoxed me. The freeways were crowded and completely incomprehensible and we drove around in search of a place to stay for quite some time. Finally we found our Motel 6 and went to check in – but NO! The girl at the counter, who probably wasn’t 21 herself, refused us because neither of us was 21 or over. WHAT!! Isn’t that age discrimination?! We had the money, we weren’t bringing guns or bombs or anything else illicit into their motel, and for Pete’s sake it was a Motel Six! Frustrated, we left to wander Minneapolis for probably two hours in search of both a place to sleep and, more pressingly, a place for Jess to do her homework online. No luck, no luck no luck; so finally we stopped in a Best Western there, a fancy and strange one. They had a white baby grand piano in a garden of beauty bark and fake trees, waddle & daub interior walls, Medieval implications, and marble countertops. Lots of leather furniture downstairs, though the rooms were just normal. The kind lady at the desk with a distinct Minneapolis accent suggested we try going to Kinko’s for internet, as it was open 24 hours. We did, and for 20 cents a minute Jess did her work. Slept.
Day 4: Minneapolis, Minnesota – Toledo, Ohio
Driving Conditions: Sunny, dry roads; heavy traffic through Chicago; first day of toll roads.
General Impressions: This day went quite long, and Jess drove most of it. She did the majority of the driving and I was OK with that because driving isn’t anything special to me. This took us through Wisconsin, which I enjoyed very much – lots of rolling hills and picturesquely quintessential farms. I wonder if we drove past the Baird’s farm? (Friends of our family from years ago) Saw lots of signs advertising cheese and fireworks and generally enjoyed the drive. I may well have taken some pictures. Generally have good feelings about the beginning of the drive, until we reached the Illinois border where toll roads began. I shudder to think how many tolls we paid, but then we WERE using the roads so it’s fair that we pay to maintain them. Our major slowdown occured as might be predicted in Chicago. There we toodled slowly through traffic for over an hour, but I still enjoyed that because Jess drove and I was seeing downtown Chicago for the first time ever. Big, big city and I felt duly impressed. Instead of stopping, however, we pressed on and according to Jessica’s dad’s advice decided to avoid stopping in Indiana at all. I took over at about 7:00 when Jess finally tired – some 11 odd hours of driving will tire a body out! – and carried us to somewhere near Toledo, Ohio. Stayed in a Howard Johnson Lodge, by far the most questionable of our hotel/motel stays. We were in five states that day: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
Day 5: Toledo, Ohio – Rochester, New York
Driving Conditions: Snowy upon entering Pennsylvania with increasingly poor visibility and dangerous conditions as the day passed.
General Impressions: This was, if I may say so, the most wasted day of the whole trip. Most days we skimmed along fast, knocking over major cities like bowling pins before a pro bowler (that simile was for you, Ian). Well, Day 5 started that way as we zipped through the rest of Ohio, but once we got to the border of Pennsylvania everything slowed down. First, the snow began. Not too bad, since the temperature was distinctly below freezing, but big trucks tended to throw up a dazzling volume of the sparkling, obscuring flakes. This was when I learned that driving in the snow is distinctly more tiring than average driving. The whole time I drove – started in the morning, took a break, then drove to Rochester – I kept my eyes peeled, worked hard to stay incredibly ready for anything bad to happen. Jess figured that since our Trip Tick directed us through Buffalo anyway, why didn’t we just take a quick side trip up to Niagra Falls? Why indeed! Here’s why: 1) It takes a long, long time to drive through small towns on snowy roads; 2) We weren’t dressed or even mentally prepared for how frigid it would be; 3) The wind seemed exactly like ice-knives; 4) You can’t actually see the Falls that well due to enormous columns of spray. I could go on. So we got there, parked illegally in a Quality Hotel parking lot, and started our search for the actual Falls. Oh, we found them eventually, and even took pictures. But I’ll tell you what: you couldn’t pay me to go back to Buffalo in January again. When I say it was freezing, I mean our legs actually began being difficult to move, fingers completely numb, mouth immobile. So now I have a personal experience in what is (as I learned later) considered to be The Coldest Place in the United States during these months. Wow. BUT, the Falls were amazing and the ice floes and snow were all very pretty. Also, seeing the phones devoted exclusively to the Crisis Hotline was quite amusing (I’m gonna jump! I AM! -No, wait, here’s a phone booth with a phone to the emotional Crisis Hotline, why don’t I use that instead?) and we were guided by God on our way out of there. About Rochester I just felt so headache-y, heartsick, and all-round awful I said I just needed to stop by Rochester. Well, Rochester’s rather far away from I-90, but Jess had me drive right downtown (through, as we quickly found, stop and go traffic) to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Cruelly, they refused us shelter because, as with the Motel 6 in Minneapolis, neither of us was over 21. Jess politely inquired why this might be, and the fat cow behind the desk just said, “It’s hotel policy.” We drove to the Hyatt and stayed there instead, somewhat to my dismay. Thankfully Jess said her dad could pay for that night’s stay – I couldn’t very easily cough up half of the $135+ for one night’s stay. It was a very stiff evening for us because earlier we’d had some disagreements about what price of place to stay in, and this was quite obviously above me. Even with the knowledge I wouldn’t pay for it, I couldn’t just enjoy the hotel because … well, I felt outclassed. I’m a Holiday Inn type person, a Motel 6 person, not a Hyatt or Hilton person. *Sigh* It was, as I said, a very long evening. Also, all day I felt Ian’s lack terribly. This was the day I realized that no matter how fast or far east we drove, Ian would not be there when I got to our apartment. A terrible, lonely realization.
Day 6: Rochester, New York – Worcester, Massachusetts
Driving Conditions: Initially overcast and snowy, becoming clear and less snowy as we crossed NY. Roads initially treacherous, then salty.
General Impressions: This was a long day, not so much in terms of driving as emotionally. The morning was a bit… uncomfortable, though we slowly warmed up to being normal and not too awkward. Frankly though, I’ve been feeling quite awkward with just myself – with how I’m dealing with Ian being gone, the drive, the transition of having Jess here and of never being by myself. I never really noticed not being alone when Ian was around; being with him is better than being alone, because if I need to I can cry and that’s OK or if I want to not talk for hours that’s OK too. Anyway, speaking of warming up, when we got into the car my water bottles had frozen completely solid, as had the windshield wiper fluid. This was a problem because all day trucks and other vehicles kicked up gunk onto our windshield and turned it essentially opaque. We kept stopping at every gas station and using their windshield cleaner. Even after driving for 5 hours the fluid never thawed enough to get beyond a pathetic little squirt. Today’s drive went slowly, at first because of weather and then somehow when we got within 35 miles of Worcester we seemed to stay there for a ridiculously long time considering Jess was going at least 70 the whole way. Happily I remembered my way around Worcester when we got there and we arrived safely in the apartment at about 3:00 in the afternoon. All day after I’ve struggled to reconsile being here in the room and apartment Ian and I worked so hard to get into liveability – the apartment we’ve made Ours, with not having him here. With having Jess – no stranger! – feel almost like an intruder to me because I can feel Ian so strongly here. Everywhere I look I see his things, his touches (messes), his love. The quilt even says Ian and Katie, August 9th, ’03 on it. Even when I don’t want to I weep because I hurt so badly, ache for Ian. Even his voice. I called home just to hear his voice mail say “Ian Ferguson,” because it was him.
And that, in a nutshell, is our road trip.
Once my new computer is up and running I’ll focus on posting the pictures I’ve taken of Christmas and this trip. Currently, however, I have a pounding headache and burning eyes (possibly from crying and trying not to cry) which demand I sleep. Right now.
Maybe this is sappy, but here goes: Ian, as always, you are the one human force my heart beats for. I love you completely, I love you until I cry, and I’m sorry if Mr. Whale is kind of battered by the time I get him back to you. He’ll get a lot of hugging and tears between now and then. Carry on, love, but I’m only alive with you.
50 days until I see Ian on 3/5/04
– KF –