West to East

The summer of 2002 I went on, at the time, the trip of a lifetime. My boyfriend of two and a half years had just broken up with me; I needed to get away for the summer. Knowing I had family friends on the West Coast, it was only a matter of a few phone calls to determine where I would be headed. This trip of a lifetime was one of personal growth, spiritual connection, and space. The culmination of my efforts came on my trip home.

After picking my mom up at the Spokane International Airport, her flight had been delayed by over an hour, we were heading back to Susie’s for the night before making our trek back to Vermont. Just after making it back to the small town of Davenport, where I had called home for the summer, we stopped to grab something to eat. I called this a small town, and it really is a small town; the restaurant where we ate was also the town bar, as well as the bowling alley, and soft serve joint.

Hours of catching up with Susie, a few beers, before we knew it, it was midnight, and time to get sleep if we wanted to be up and on the road as early as we discussed. Six o’clock is only supposed to come once a day, and that is in the evening.

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

Rolling out of bed is exactly how I woke up that morning, having given my mom the guest bed, I slept on the couch. It didn’t take long before we had the car packed and were on the road.

We set a pretty heavy pace for ourselves, making it to the Northern Entrance of Yellow Stone National Park by nightfall. Not having a reservation in the Park, we had to scramble to find a place outside the entrance. We were in luck; we found the only campsite with any available space. It was perfect. We were right next to the river, running out of Yellowstone, green grass to set up the tent, and a grill. They also had a sink to wash dishes, and a shower, with hot water!

We had stopped at a grocery store about an hour and a half outside of Yellowstone, and bought some amazing looking salmon. We thought if we grilled the salmon, it would go perfect with a simple tossed salad.

While my mom got the fire made, I set up the tent. This was a two person tent I earned by selling Christmas cards and wrapping paper when I was ten or eleven years old.

My mom thought she heard on the radio earlier, that there were going to be shooting starts that night. After cleaning up from dinner, and getting what we could ready for morning, we climbed into the tent, with our heads out the opening, watching for the shooting stars. It was a quiet peaceful time, while we listened to the sites around us getting ready to bed, the babbling and rushing of the river, when we saw the first shooting star. At the same time, we both pointed and said “there! Do you see it?” By the time we lowered our hands, another one passed over us. Then it was quiet.

While we waited for more, we talked about my summer, how I was feeling, what I was looking forward to about coming home. My mom has always known how to listen to me, and hear what I am not always saying. Another shooting star whizzes by over head, and another, and another. We lay in quiet silence, not wanting to disrupt the peace that the stars created. Soon, they stopped, and there were no more shooting stars. We pulled our heads back in, said goodnight, and before we knew it, morning was upon us.

“It sounds like we have entered an International House of Pancakes, doesn’t it?” my mom asked me. All around us, there were people speaking in different languages. The morning air was filled with energy, excitement of what lay ahead.

As I took down the tent, my mom again got the fire going. We were having hot chocolate and cereal with sliced strawberries for breakfast. Despite the fact that we were up as early as we had been the day before, I felt much more rested, and had a whole lot more energy. Maybe that was because my mom was excited about showing me the park, as she had been their before. Maybe it was because I slept outside, where I always seem to sleep better.

Over breakfast we talked about what we would do that day. We agreed we wanted to get to the Grand Tetons by nightfall, so we had all day to get through the park. The top three things we wanted to see in the park was Mammoth Hot Springs, which was easy, since that was almost immediately inside the park, Yellowstone Grand Canyon, and Old Faithful Lodge.

My mom and I share similar thoughts on what is breathtaking, spiritual, as well as a combination of the two. Each spot, we knew, would be equally breathtaking and spiritual, in their own way. Mammoth Hot Springs, immense hot springs bubbling up, creating limestone terraces; from the bottom, you can see the water dribbling down, the layers that have been created over time, from the top, the wind blows and shimmers, flowing over the edge. Each taking a moment to close our eyes, amazed at how Mammoth Hot Springs has grown over time; I took that moment to realize how lucky I was, and if I was patient, slowly, I would heal, begin to grow, and become strong. I still don’t know what my mom was thinking about, but she smiled, shed a tear, and gave me a hug.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon was a similar experience, only instead of looking up, we were looking down. The water, electric blue, the walls are an orangey brown, with ledges and cracks. While breathtaking, we didn’t seem to find that spiritual connection until we looked through the eyes of a telescope somebody had set up. Through that, there was a nest, this nest was the creation of life, of something that used what was around to shelter and support its offspring. My mom said something to me about how amazing it was. I remember thanking her for being on the trip with me.

As we pulled away, I commented to my mom that I wanted to come back some day, when we could have more time.

Before getting to Old Faithful, we stopped at a small picnic area on the side of the road next to a stream. It was here that I took my turn at making lunch, while my mom wandered down the stream, having her time of thought and solitude. Even though I was making lunch, I did the same. My thoughts centered on going back to school, facing my ex, and keeping strong. As my mom wandered back, we ate quietly, not saying much, soaking in the peace and calm around us. Before long, we would be back in the car, on our way to our next stop.

Old Faithful was soon in our sites, and since we didn’t particularly care about seeing the blast, we headed to what we new would be just as breathtaking: Old Faithful Lodge. Once inside, I knew why she wanted to take me here; the building was made out of huge logs, fashioned together to create walls, staircases, fireplaces and more. The feeling was of stepping back in time, knowing that people build this, without the aid of modern technology, but with their hands, their backs, and their hearts. Sweat and tears, laughter and joy went in to making that place.

“One year, I want to bring everyone here for Christmas. Imagine being here, with the fires going, snow on the ground, and the wind whistling around us.” My mom had snuck up behind me while I was sitting in the lobby thinking about life and how fortunate we are.

“I bought some postcards to take home, was there anything else you wanted to do before we got on the road?” my mom asked me.

“Of course. It is something really important.” I replied.

“Well, what is it?” my mom asked me.

“Use the bathroom!” I said with a laugh.

With nightfall not to far around the corner, we decided we had made enough stops for the day, and needed to get to Grand Teton National Park to get camp set up. The road that connects the two parks, has a decent sized stretch between the two that is not part of either park. It was along this road, with no cars seen for miles that my mom forgot to pay attention to how fast she was going, and what the speed limit actually was. My mom was only going about fifty to fifty-five miles per hour, but wouldn’t you know, she got stopped for speeding. Apparently the stretch of road we were on had a speed limit of thirty five miles an hour. I couldn’t help but laugh at my mom, the look on her face was priceless, a combination of wanting to laugh and shock. Even when they handed her a ticket, she still looked like she was trying not to laugh.

This time we were smart, we called ahead, first thing in the morning, to make a reservation at a campsite. We didn’t want to get stuck sleeping in the car. As we set up camp, my mom and I talked about our day, what we liked, what we wanted to do again. I pulled out the map, trying to decide what way we wanted to go; knowing that we wanted to get to Denver before nightfall the next day. Picking our route was fairly easy, and knowing it would be another early morning, we decided to tuck in early.

Traveling with my mom was the best thing I had done that summer. I got to know my mom in a different light. She moved from just being my mom, to being one of my best friends on that trip.

Written during my travel writing class – Summer 2006

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