Wedtrip 2016: How Chuck, Bucky & Ron Kept Me Moving

‘Out battered suitcases were piled high on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.’ -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Topping off at 6300 miles round-trip, this year’s ‘Wedding Roadtrip’ was by far mine and the General’s most extensive excursion yet.

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Inside the General–probably the most common setting for my snapchats

I was so thankful when I heard the three weddings I wanted to go to this summer all happened to be in an eight-day span–I did not have to consider choosing.

 

midwest15Seeing college buddies again after a year of separation brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Thank you to all the happy couples for gathering everyone together again! I also stayed with friends en route–Matt and Maddy in Portland, The Sean Berry outside Denver, Mitch during one of my four treks across the state of Nebraska. In St. Louis I had three days ‘off’ from driving, and stayed with Emily & Tommy, experiencing St. Louis and relaxing by the pool. I also explored St. Charles with college friend Brittany and Arizona-childhood friend Kristen, the latter of whom moved to St. Louis and strangely enough met Brittany at their mutual church.

midwest12I could not even begin to list all the beautiful people with whom I reconnected at the weddings and during Seward NE’s famous Fourth of July celebration. I love making friends wherever I go, but relaxing in the presence of dozens of people you love and who love you back brings a peace beyond words. We reminisced old memories, made new ones, listened to a lot of country music, shared a few drinks, talked about tractors, and danced the night away. Country people and their gracious communities will always captivate me.

midwest7The mechanical issues on this trip were a bit disheartening, but each situation was better manageable. I left Seattle almost directly from the shop after replacing a severely frayed throttle cable. After 2000 miles, only 100 miles short of my first destination, the bearings in my A/C compressor locked up and snapped the fan belt while I was on the highway at 9 p.m. on a Friday. (Nothing ever breaks during normal business hours, does it?) I tearfully called Dad in Montana and he immediately had a tow truck take me to a mechanic who was open late, and I drove away two hours later. In addition, I knew plenty of people in Omaha NE, and the Doerrs opened their home to me, complete with air mattress, until I could finish the final stretch the following morning. On the return trip I ran out of oil in Kimberly ID at 10 p.m., but a helpful country boy and his sister added oil to the thirsty General, directed me to my campground, and gave me the name and address of a mechanic who opened early the next morning for a proper oil change.

midwest5In regards to timing, I broke down in all the ‘right’ places and without major readjustments to my schedule. The bigger damage was, of course, to my wallet. I had budgeted generously for the trip and even portioned out a few bucks for a tune-up at Chuck’s Auto Repair before the trip, but did not think I would have two more trips to–you guessed it–Bucky’s Express and Ron’s American Car Care Center before returning to Seattle.

midwest3Financially there was one major thing that kept me from complete disaster: an app called Roadie. Roadie, the self-termed ‘On-the-Way Delivery Network,’ allowed me to compare my route with people who needed stuff hauled across the country. Kevin C. wanted his motorcycle hauled from Portland OR to Millcreek UT, and I happened to be going that way. By using the app to contact Kevin, I met his brother outside Portland, who loaded Kevin’s bike into the bed of my pickup, securing it themselves with their own equipment.

I was off! I drove 13 hours with what felt like half the gold of Fort Knox in the bed of my pickup. ‘You’re paying for this trip,’ I whispered continually to the red machine in my rearview mirror. ‘Please don’t get stolen. Please don’t bounce out. Please don’t break.’ I even slowed down around mountainous corners and did not drive more than four miles per hour over the speed limit (vast improvement, for those of you who are unaware of my safe yet cop-infested driving record).

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Castle Rock NE–I also spent time in Castle Rock CO on this trip

Since I was pulling into Millcreek late, Kevin and his wife Katie offered to swap me a night on their couch for two six-packs of Oregonian beer. Another trade in the books, and I not only saved on money for lodging, but got paid enough cash to cover my gas money from Seattle to Omaha! Thanks to Roadie, and Kevin, I was able to finish my roadtrip only $25 over my original budget, which includes expenses paid to Chuck, Bucky and Ron. My diet for the past couple weeks has consisted mostly of rice and Top Ramen-esque meals, and the General’s A/C is permanently condemned–but this trip was worth every penny for the sake of mental clarity and emotional fulfillment.

 

Joining a national gym (24-Hour Fitness) last December turned out to be one of my better ideas in regards to travel plans, because I was able to lift in Denver and Portland to supplement my running and burn off some extra drive energy. I ran around three lakes, in Storm Lake IA, one outside St. Louis, and one outside Lincoln NE. Regarding diet, this was also my healthiest trip yet: I only ate out twice, and bought everything else at grocery stores to pre-make meals in St. Louis, the halfway point.

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St. Louis: penguins, pool time, and a museum exhibit that possibly inspired a future roadtrip…

This year I only spent one night in a campground (sorry Mom) (she hates when I do that) (but it’s cheap and I love falling asleep under the stars while surrounded by the comforting sides of the General’s truck bed) (sorry Mom), as opposed to the four nights last year on a shorter roadtrip. I was also travelling through areas where I knew more people, and to my benefit (?) my friends have spread out more, allowing me to see more people on a given route rather than only at a destination.

 

There was a moment, while crossing the desert north of Moab UT at 84 mph, that I thought, ‘Even if my truck is disintegrating around me, perhaps I can make it just a little closer to home before the inevitable happens,’ and I laughed a maniacal laugh. My windows were rolled down and half my current driving outfit was lying on the passenger seat while I tried in vain to beat the heat, and my left arm became more sunburned with each passing minute, and my hair was tangled and my face was grimy. I was high on hugs and love from all the people I had seen in the previous two weeks, and I laughed. I was rocketing through hundreds of miles of burning sand on a tiny strip of pavement inside an inanimate machine which was the closet thing to a best friend an inanimate machine has ever been to me, and currently my only friend for as far as the eye could see, and I laughed. For a time I did not know if I would have enough money for fuel to get home to Seattle, but I just kept laughing, because my mind was at peace and there was still road ahead of me, so why not laugh?

‘But no matter, the road is life.’

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‘Always’ Is a Strong Word

For indeed now it feels not like going, but like going back.                                                   -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

The last few weeks I feel as though I have been always on the road, always travelling, always moving. In a week and a half at the beginning of July, the General and I spent 32 hours flying over the familiar highways of Wyoming and Montana, like a time machine taking us back through flashing memories to the Home Place and old friends.

drive1My big farewell from living in Seward NE for four years was finally spending Independence Day in Nebraska’s Fourth of July City. After two big roadtrips it was fun to see so many familiar faces on the streets of Seward. Many of these streets were closed off to house a massive car show, carnival rides, dance performances, and hundreds of vendors and craftsmen spread out across the lawn of the city courthouse.

I walked around most of the day with newlyweds Matt and Maddy, watching our friend Brandon in a pole vaulting competition and viewing the extensive parade from a professor’s lawn with scores of other Concordians. In the evening many local friends threw house parties and barbecues, so I bounced around from one to another until it was time for fireworks.

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Cousins visit the Bitterroot

The fireworks show was incredible–perhaps the best I have ever seen. Lasting over 20 minutes, the lights flooded the sky in large flashing booms above thousands of people lying on blankets in Plum Creek Park. They also shot off an impressive ground show, sending out a simultaneous wave of radiating light from below.

After the professional show, Maddy, Matt, and I lit off a few of our own fireworks before I party-hopped again until the wee hours of the morning, bidding everyone farewell. It was everything I had imagined for a Seward Fourth, the perfect sendoff.

Bucket List: Participate in a Seward Fourth, check!

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Rodeo in Sheridan WY

My inspirational nomadic friend Bridget surprised me by asking if she could crash on my couch on the night of the 6th on her way back home to Montana–interestingly enough, I was planning on leaving the following morning myself for our Home Place in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Welcome to Part 2 of the Jarvite Gypsy’s caravanning experience! This trip went smoothly, mainly because we agreed on a GPS route to use at the beginning of the excursion. Florida lesson learned–the beauty of piling excursions atop one another is the rapid rate of acquiring knowledge about such essential details.

We were also excited about the 80mph speed limits all the way across the state of Wyoming!

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Rodeo with Bridget

We happened to be staying in Sheridan WY the night before the opening day of the largest rodeo in the Mountain Circuit! So before driving out on the 9th, Bridget and I took an short detour to watch some calf roping.

Bucket List: Watch a rodeo in Wyoming, check!

All of this placed me in the Bitterroot in time for the Missoula Half Marathon, which I have run for the past four years. I think I’m going to make this a tradition!

drive15After a brief stay at the Home Place with the cousins who flew in the day after I arrived (I was able to squeeze in a hike between my arrival and theirs; it’s impossible for me to be in Montana for more than a few hours without hitting the trails), our family packed up the speedboat and headed to Bigfork MT.

We spent some time with my grandparents the first day, and then took the boat out on Flathead Lake the next day, though it started out cold and cloudy. It took us a little while to find a spot that wasn’t too choppy for wakeboarding, in Woods Bay on the northeastern side of the lake. Nearby were the Raven and the Sitting Duck restaurants on the lake, complete with boat docks for parking on the lakeside.

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View of Flathead Lake from the Sitting Duck

The weather warmed up when the sun came out later in the afternoon, and my wakeboarding was perhaps some of my best ever, even though I haven’t been out in two years. Of course we broke out the tube for a while before the day was over. We had an awesome stay at the Marina Cay Resort, on the mouth of the Swan River where it flows into Flathead Lake, and includes a pool, outdoor restaurant, tiki bar, and often live music, as well as a giant chess set!

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Happy birthday, bud

On the 15th I drove from Bigfork to Bozeman, which I have recently termed the Promise Land. My friend Elias was turning 21 that day, and I made it in time to go to Bridger Brewery with him for lunch.

drive12The rest of the weekend included a barbecue and Bozeman’s Music on Main on Thursday and a concert on Friday, as well as going downtown three nights in a row.

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Palisade Falls

No trip is complete without some time in the great outdoors and catching up with a few friends: Will took me on a hike up to Palisade Falls near the Hyalite Reservoir. Naomi showed me her new gypsy van which she will be taking down to New Mexico in a few weeks.

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Hyalite Reservoir

I also went for a few morning runs on some of my favorite paths: Pete’s Hill, which offers a gorgeous view of the city, especially at sunrise or sunset; the Sourdough Trail, which cuts through a few neighborhoods and Graf’s Park south of town near the Museum of the Rockies, and feels like a tiny patch of untouched wilderness; and the Gallagator Trail, which cuts across the city from Kagy in the south by the museum to the public library on Main Street, and is dog- and cyclist-friendly.

drive7All of these places, Sheridan, Hamilton, Bigfork, Bozeman: all are familiar, either because they were past homes or favorite stops on past roadtrips. I have been going to so many new places recently that I almost forgot what it was like to see a place for a second time. New memories are made, not to replace the old ones, but to layer atop them and make them richer. Old places do not get used up: there are always more experiences to be had.

‘Always’ is a strong word: but when you get itchy feet as often as I do, that strength is enticing, drawing forward in the crisp novelty of the moment or back in timeless memories to the place where it all began.

On Motion: January Roadtrips

“To me–a blank fortune is…an open sky on the horizon. Fill in the blank. A fortune no one’s ever written up ahead of time, because no one could imagine a life as strange and as beautiful as the horse you’re about to jump on.”  -Sarah Ruhl, Late: A Cowboy Song

There is something beautiful and exhilarating about constant motion, something powerful. Motion accomplishes something that stillness cannot. Perspective changes: physically, and then psychologically.wisco1

Such were my thoughts as I pushed through the West, then the Midwest, changing landscapes falling behind me and looming before me, one after one after one, the blue hood of my Dodge pickup pressing on in front of me like the prow of a ship.

January was full of time in the car, most of it alone. I didn’t mind: in fact, I had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.

I get excited when I drive. Sometimes a good song comes on the radio, or a prayer rises in my heart, and I laugh. It bubbles up, and I roll down my window and lean out up to my waist, feeling the wind and the tears running out of the sides of my eyes, and I yell at the world in happiness.

This was my first drive from my home in Western Montana to Nebraska in the winter or alone. I have made this same trip eight times before, but always with someone else, and always sometime between April and August (although we still hit white-out blizzards even in that time frame). I needed to get my truck and my college belongings back to Nebraska for the upcoming semester.

I looked around for a driving buddy for a while but I wasn’t too disheartened when none surfaced. Every brain needs a rest from constant interaction.

I began my journey January 2, and that first day on the road was glorious. I missed being behind the wheel while I was in Italy. I spent 14 hours flying across beautiful Montana and south through Wyoming, leaving my beloved mountains in my rearview mirror for seven months. I had heard there was a storm on my tail, but I had a good chance of outrunning it for the first day.

I always make a few calls while I drive, catching up with old friends. Some people tell me it’s dangerous, but if you have ever driven alone across eastern Montana and all of Wyoming in one day, you know it’s much safer to be on the phone: otherwise you risk falling asleep out of sheer boredom (although as long as you keep the steering wheel straight you may still stay on the road at least until you run out of gas, probably 30 miles from the nearest gas station).

wisco2I found a tiny motel in Cheyenne for only $55. I could hear the man snoring next door, and there was a wind (not draft) coming in through both the rotting wood around the window in the bathroom and the 3/4-inch gap around the front door; but all I really needed was sleep, and I can sleep through anything. I just used an extra blanket or three.

The second day was a white-out blizzard. I spent six hours gripping the wheel as the wind whipped white sheets across the road, erasing any remains of asphalt to my view. I arrived at my apartment in Nebraska exhausted.

But the next morning, I was up early and out on the road for another 10-hour adventure: I wanted to visit a friend from Italy before the semester got started.

I spent four delightful days roaming around Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was in the single digits all week, and the wind chill put us deep in the negs. However my friend Anthony, who had also studied in Florence last semester, still managed to give me a grand tour of downtown Oshkosh during my stay.

wisco3We hit up Peabody’s where they offer live jazz every Sunday night, and we attended The Traveling Suitcase’s debut concert for their new album. Anthony knew the lead singer/drummer Nicole Rae (he knows everyone in that city).

I also stopped for a night to see my brother Kevin at his school in Mequon, and he treated us to Panera. We don’t have those in the West. I also hung out with his college buddies, some of whom I remembered from my visit last March.

Over the week, as I socialized with Wisconsinites, one thought pervaded my mind:

Wisconsin is the South of the North.

I am always struck by Wisconsinites’ superb hospitality. I know the Midwest is known for this trait in general, but Wisconsinites’ love for their Home and their Guests is a thing to behold.

The drive to Nebraska was blessed by good weather, although I counted over three dozen cars and six semi trucks off the road in mangled fashions, a result of the storm the previous day. I heard about a 190-car pile-up in Illinois just east of where I passed through.

I was home for only one weekend before I piled into a car with six other people and drove through the night to Louisville, Kentucky, for a travel conference (ironic, I know).

wisco4There is not much to say about this weekend except that I experienced my first two all-night drives, and that I got to spend a Saturday evening in downtown Louisville. We all grabbed a few drinks at Sully’s downtown. There were so many lights in the walking district that it reminded me of what I imagine New York City to look like (a future bucket list location).

In true college-student fashion, we managed to fit 14 people into two hotel rooms, 10 in one and four in the other. Thankfully I had a sleeping bag with me: the gypsy life, my friends, and the beauty of constant motion.