Four Days, 1948 Miles, and a Few Photos

Rainbow, UtahOn Day One she pointed the tiny car north and drove in the middle lane through multiple construction zones, truck brakes crying all around her, billboards and fast food crowding the horizon until she angled northeast into the California desert, where northbound cars pushed 80 and she stopped to get gas and pee at a Vegas truck stop casino, smiled away the invitation of a silver-haired slots-playing man to sit on his lap, then got back in the car and drove hundreds more miles to Utah, where early in the evening she curved around a mountain to behold multiple rainbows, bright behind clumps of dark rain drifting down from the mountaintops like Spanish moss in the sky.

On Day Two she steered the car east into Zion and hiked among red bluffs rising thousands of feet above the Virgin River, where along a ridgeline she placed a rock on top of a small cairn, and from which she descended to drive for many hours throughZion cairn   unfamiliar Utah mountains, mountains that demanded silence, so she turned off the music and contemplated them, their pink and red and blue unearthliness, and how she wanted more life, another lifetime or two, please, Zion flowersto see it all, to live there, and when darkness fell she was alone and tired so she tucked the tiny car behind a semi and kept exact pace with him all the way through western Colorado until she flashed him a thank-you, turned off the highway, drank some whiskey and went to sleep.

On Day Three she went to the breakfast room of her cheap Colorado hotel and filled two styrofoam cups with watery coffee while contemplating the exact sameness of cheap hotel breakfast rooms nationwide – the waffle maker with its pre-filled cups of batter and piercing shriek, the reconstituted scrambled eggs, the miniature fridge with miniature cups of yogurt and packets oComfort Innf butter, the knob-turn containers of Raisin Bran, Cheerios and Froot Loops, the milling guests – and, while waiting her turn for the oatmeal, an older man whose lean leathery look and worn hiking boots marked him as a lifelong outdoorsman smiled at her and said, “Where you from?” and when she answered “Vermont, Minneapolis and California,” he said “Me too,” which made her laugh, but no, it was true, he grew up in Minneapolis, worked for years in Vermont on the Green Mountain Trail, and then spent the rest of his career in the forest service in southern California, all of which made her realize again, for the rest of that 630-mile day from snow-covered Rockies to sea-level Nebraska, how huge the world is and also how small.

On the last day she drove east through endless seas of greening prairie, angled north through southern Iowa, crossed the border into Minnesota, where most of the license plates were blue and white like hers, filled the tank of the tiny car for $23.15 at a truck stop where the diesel pump next to her readPoetry hut, flowers $214.89, and finally, on the far horizon, saw the skyline of Minneapolis reaching toward the sun, sparkling glass and stone, and remembered Neil Young shaking his head and saying once, at a solo show downtown at which he was surrounded by candles and smoke, “Growing up in Winnipeg, we thought of Minneapolis as the promised land,” and as she pulled up on Emerson Avenue in front of a house that looked familiar but different, the way a place looks when you’ve been gone a long time, she realized that her life itself was different now, that with children grown and work that was done on a laptop, the geography of home was no longer defined by necessity but by the whereabouts of those she most loved, which meant that she was now a tricoastal nomad, and that made her happy.


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