After finishing a trip, I like to take a few days before writing a summary of impressions. This “ couple days” has turned into a couple weeks, mainly because my brain is a blank when it comes down to putting a fitting end to this series of incredible visits. So I am finally sitting down to start this, and will trust my mind with coming up with reflections that won’t waste your time.
My first thought is that our house punished us for being gone too long… lots of things didn’t work correctly when we got back. To name a few, my car auxiliary battery malfunctioned… I didn’t even know my car had more than one battery. On top of that, it decided not to recognize my phone. Our fireplace told us that it hadn’t been used in so long that it went on strike. All the clocks, of course, had the wrong time. The oven had an error message that even Samsung didn’t recognize. The printer didn’t work, and after being coaxed, told us it had no toner. And the weather was broken. Early November felt like mid-winter. On the other hand, there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed and being able to make meals at home.
I went through a week or so, about halfway through the trip, when I felt we were gone too long. But then the feeling went away, replaced by an excitement about destinations to come. We set up almost the entire itinerary in advance and tried to spend mostly two nights everywhere. This way, we arrived in the afternoon with time to explore ( or rest), had a full second day to visit, and could either tour the last morning, or leisurely hit the road. I am married to a wife who hates being in the car, so I tried to limit the distance between destinations to 200 miles or less. The toughest part was the road between Denver and Memphis, but we still found attractions to slice the daily drives down.
I also discovered that driving cross country is incredibly different as an old fart. As a younger adult, I was consumed with speed, and more speed. Drive fast, then try to drive faster. I was luckier than most, having grown up amongst the redwood trees of Northern California, with the mountains and ocean a hike away. As a child, I knew my hometown was special, so I always appreciated Nature’s beauty. But age and education have broadened my perspectives even further. I see beauty in everything the land presents… From the colors of land, plants, and sky, to the migratory patterns of geological formations and wildlife.
Friends have asked me what, or where, I liked the most. I really don’t have an answer to this one. Probably because everywhere we went surprised us… And how do you compare the endless sky over the Pacific Ocean with the red rock majesty of the Grand Staircase with the lore of Boot Hill with the layers of mountains visible from the spines of the Blue Ridge Parkway?? I can’t… So it is easier for me to convey my surprise and gratitude for the opportunity to rediscover the sights and cultures of my home country.
A few notes about traveling in Autumn. Our dates ranged from my solo drive from Pennsylvania to Vancouver, British Columbia in mid August, to our arrival home in mid November. The weather was generally good. August is Autumn in Alaska… The colors are fall-like, the mosquitoes are fewer due to cool nights, and the daytime temperatures are still warm ( for Alaska). We had a couple of weather-related problems: Wildfires were a factor in Alaska, not California. But this pattern was totally reliant on the wind patterns. We hit snow entering Crater Lake that limited our vision and ultimately caused us to leave a day early. The people at their lodge on the crater rim were too nice, not charging us for the day we left. I don’t remember exactly where, but we had tail winds of about 40mph for a couple days…Wonderful for gas mileage, but the wind caused our car’s weatherproofing to leak. So it sounded as if we were in a convertible for the rest of the trip. Finally, we drove through snow showers through the high Rocky Mountain passes into Denver. I can’t blame this one on the weather because it ALWAYS snows when I drive through the Vail Pass…It’s a weather conspiracy.
Everywhere we went, locals, fellow travelers, and working staff, were exceedingly nice to us. It helped that Mrs Bear was in a wheelchair… Everyone held doors or offered to give her a push. But, in general, treating people with manners and respect yields respect back…A lesson that would be well learned in Washington. Here are a few pics of people, machines, and critters we met briefly:
And so, despite Lela’s injury and the subsequent adaptations in routes and activities, we felt fortunate and privileged to have the time, resources, and interests to make this adventure possible. Now we are home for a couple months of leg rehab and reassurance to our home that we do indeed love it. Then we are back on the international flyways to visit a new continent. We hope you will tune back in January for the next evolution. Thanks for reading and following.