The Cross-Country Road Trip (Summer 2017 version)

Well, this post is far from timely. It is hard to put it together, seeing as it’s about two very different places: Indiana and Las Vegas.

Back in early August I ended the post about the upheaval of my life with the beginning of the tale of my practice-run summer vacation. It’s time now to finish that tale and begin the next one.

On July 21, I hopped into the Ramirezmobile and hitched a ride across the country. At first, I told myself that I would take a photo in each state we passed through, but that didn’t happen. The best laid plans…

Colorado

We obviously started out in Colorado, pictured above somewhere outside Denver, where we stopped for dinner with our friends. I was obsessed with spotting license plates, although I had foolishly left behind my bingo game. Ace started a collaborative text chain for us to keep track, instead.

I’m not sure when we crossed into Kansas, but I know that it was dark and drizzling. We ate Arby’s in the Arby’s parking lot across from… I believe it was SIX…Tesla charging stations. Like there are six Teslas in Kansas! It was incredible. So, I didn’t get any Kansas photos, really, except for one of these inspirational signs for sale in a gas station on the state line.

Kansas rest stop

The clerk at the gas station was excited to tell us all about which roads to take to get to St. Louis and then Indiana. It’s pretty much a straight shot all the way from the Utah border to the Ramirson’s front door, but we got our snacks and got out of there. Then, we had an adventure, which will henceforth be known as the Legend of Mile Marker 67. I woke up from a nap in the middle of the night to a thunkthunkthunk sound and the smell of burning rubber.

You guessed it! Flat tire. In Kansas. At mile marker 67. Efforts were made. The car was unpacked. Lug nuts wouldn’t budge. AAA was called. Two hours after arriving at the now-historic mile marker where we could have died but didn’t, we pulled away on a donut tire and stopped at the next two or three exits inquiring about tire service. Of course there was none, except for big trucks with ridiculously large tires. Never having ridden in a car on a donut tire before, I was terrified, so I slept as we forged ahead to keep our appointment with Ace’s friend in Lenexa (outside Kansas City) in the morning. First stop: tire shop. Thus repaired, we enjoyed a picnic of Starbucks and vending machine food before careening into Missouri.

The Rocky Mountains were now far behind us, and if you’ve followed I-70 in the summer time, you are familiar with the terrain changes, and the temperature gradations as the cool mountain air turns hot and sticky. The next photo I captured wasn’t until the Missouri/Illinois border.

MO IL border

You should know the landmark. If you don’t, I’ll send you back to school with this short video. You might want to take the opportunity to watch anyway, because we are just getting started.

I was distracted from taking photos in Illinois by the signs for the large tourist things in Casey. Here‘s another video. We didn’t stop. It’s one of those things that sounds like superfun, but when you’re on the last leg of your trip, it’s one of those things that you put on the “some other time” list.

The final photo of the drive is titled, “Back Home Again,” so I think that means it’s Indiana.

Back home again

And there you have it – across the U.S. from sunset to sunset.

Ace drives at night, Jodi drives in the daytime, and I provide weird trade-credit audiobooks and snoring sounds.

Including the few days I spent in Zionsville/Indy, we spotted Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Colorado, California, Arizona, Utah, New York, Massachusetts, Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, Washington, Nevada, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Indiana, North Carolina, Ontario (Canada!), Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Oklahoma (OK!), Kentucky, Tennessee, and (drum roll) Virginia. That’s more than half the country, ringing in at 27 states and one province if I counted correctly. I might not have.

Somewhere along the way, we received the following in our license plate list. I re-discovered it while drafting this post, and I just have to share.

Screenshot_20171114-170212

Bahahahaha.

I was finally in the state of my birth. I got directly to geocaching with Jodi along the canal.

We celebrated Ace and Jodi’s nephew’s birthday, spent a day with Jodi’s cousins at her brother’s house, played Aggravation with Margaret, walked Zelda on a fruitless search for Sox (wherever she is, I hope she’s jumping from high places with wild abandon), and after a pointless trip to the ER, Jodi did what she always does and handed me off to my parents at an agreed-upon location. This time, it was at Coach Fulkerson‘s gravesite. It’s one thing to read that article about Coach, and it’s another thing to have seen him walk his daughter down the aisle five years ago earlier this week. On the side of the stone that you can’t see, there is a list of all the places to which Coach contributed during his storied career. The latest is “Friend of the Sparrows.” He can rest in peace knowing that he lives on in the adults that were once his kids, and in all of the lives that they touch.

Coach's stone

In this month of gratitude, I am very grateful for my parents and their willingness to go along with my suggested shenanigans. While in Zionsville, Ace tipped me off to the Greenways Foundation challenge, which I recruited these two to help me complete during my time up north in da Region.

greenways

You can see the topography typical of where I come from behind them. The location for the photo was chosen specifically to give you the opportunity to see it. After I returned to Colorado, they completed the challenge again.

I met this crazy yahoo and we became fast friends.

20170804_090925

You’ll get to see more of her at Christmastime. I also got to spend time with Granny, some of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and Caryn.

A high point of my visit was getting to spend a lot of time looking through a treasure from one of my dad’s cousins: a bag full of letters that my grandfather (Pappaw) wrote during WWII. I shared this same photo on Facebook for Veteran’s Day, but here it is again.

war letter

As my reporting date approached, I crossed the country again, via North America’s Most Beautiful Train Ride, the California Zephyr.

to the zephyr

A highlight of the trip was passing through my former home state, Nebraska, although it goes nowhere near Chadron.

Screenshot_20171105-220328

I was also happy to get this beautiful shot of a girl running down the platform in Denver, which I shared with her grandmother.

Screenshot_20170810-092805

I got off the train and walked two blocks home just in time for the solar eclipse of 2017.

That’s right, I said “home.” For those of us who are migrant workers, those of us who answer the call to meet extant needs wherever they arise, there are many places that are “home.” Hammond, Indiana, will always be home. Other places in Indiana, like Bloomington and North Manchester, will also always be home because I lived there during important times in my life. Pennsylvania won’t ever be home because I never liked it. Nebraska will always be home, because despite my short stay there, it was one of the most interesting places I’ve been. For 18 months now, Colorado is home, and I never want to leave it except for visits.

In my last post, I talked about how small my shack cottage is. In the intervening time, I’ve grown used to the space, and it truly is more than enough for just me. (Sorry, visitors, you still have to stay in a hotel!) I’ve also almost died again since Mile Marker 67, when the car I was riding in from Colorado Springs hit an elk. On my way to the homecoming game, I opened the front door of the shack cottage and found myself in a stare-down with a full-grown bear who was standing 30 feet away. I’ve signed myself up for more challenges, including two virtual 5k strolls that I joined because I like apparel. So this is home now. But so are all those other places, plus some where I’ve never lived, which are home because of the people who are there.

You  might notice that I didn’t mention the one place where I spent more of my adult life than any other. This blog post by some other author sums it up more than I ever could. I’ll tell you about what to do with a week there, sometime after I get back.

“Wonderful and difficult and eye-opening and life shaping,” indeed.

If I don’t see you before then, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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