At the age of 19 I finally got what I had always wanted, my first ever long distance, solo road trip. I’ve traveled back and forth between my home in South Dakota, and my home in Washington, my whole life. The idea of driving by myself between the two was always a dream, and in the year of 2014 I made it happen.
After months of planning, working hard, and saving my money, I was all set to go. The morning of July 17th, 2014, I loaded my car up with WAY to much of my belongings, water bottles galore, and a butt load of snacks. After stopping to have breakfast at the nearest McDonalds with my best friend, and a quick stop to fill up my gas tank, I entered Interstate 90 west bound and began my journey. My excitement flew into over drive as I crossed the state line from South Dakota into Wyoming. Free at last, behind the wheel of my Equinox, I was in complete control of where I was going, and no one could stop me. Music blasted, windows down, hair flying around in the wind, (and probably speeding). I made my way through Wyoming, and finally to Montana which is the longest part of the trip.
Did I mention before, that my air conditioning in my car did not work at the time? Well it didn’t, and this was a particularly hot summer. My cars thermometer read that it was around 100 degrees throughout the entire trip. By the time I made it to Butte, MT, I was calling my dad to make a reservation at a hotel somewhere in Missoula. I was hot and tired, but I refused to give up just yet, so I drove the 100 and something miles till I made it to Missoula, MT.
At the Super 8 Hotel in Missoula, I walked in covered in sweat, and paid for my reserved room with the credit card I had gotten a week before. By the time I made it to my room, the sweat and make-up began to run into my eyes, which stung so bad I could barely open them. Immediately, I stripped off my clothing and ran into the shower, face tilted up toward the shower head. I had thought that having my own hotel room would have been just as fun as the road trip itself, but by the time I was out of the shower, all I wanted was the bed. The alarm went off at 7am, I was up and out of the door by 7:15, after first snapping the photo above.
The second part of the trip flew by. Before I knew it I was passing the Idaho state sign. I decided to stop for fuel in Coeur d’Alene, ID, taking the first exit with a fuel symbol. I didn’t realize until leaving the gas station that I had gotten myself stuck on a one way road, going away from the interstate. Lost and panicked in a town I did not know, in a state I did not belong to, I started driving down random streets in the direction I thought I needed to go. Eventually I spotted the interstate, and then finally an entrance to the west bound lanes. Crisis averted! Hallelujah!
It only takes about fifteen minutes MAYBE, to get from Coeur d’Alene to Spokane, WA, and as I crossed the Washington state line in Spokane, all the happiness in the world flooded over me. I was home (at least the state anyway!), and I instantly felt like I belonged. Windows open, arm stuck out into the Washington air, I smiled all the way across the state. Until I got to Ellensburg, WA. I knew that driving over the pass there wasn’t much for stops, and on the other side was the chaos of Seattle traffic, so I stopped to fill my tank in Ellensburg, and that was when my father called me.
First, he wanted to know if I had seen anything about the wild fire that was apparently in the cascades and nearing I-90. I hadn’t seen anything about any roads closing so we figured I was safe on that one. Still scary though. Next, he offered me a decision, because according to KING 5 news, the traffic in Seattle was so heavy that it had eventually stopped moving. (Typical.) My options where: A.) Get stuck in traffic that was basically a parking lot for two hours. Or, B.) Bypass Seattle entirely by taking a bunch of back roads I didn’t know, while risking running into the aftermath of a mudslide that happened a few weeks prior, and praying to God that I don’t get lost AGAIN. As my fathers daughter, I chose trusting in my sense of direction over big city traffic. (Dad’s a truck driver.) He texted me the basic directions I needed, and I set off over the pass, repeating “Exit 202” over and over in my head as I went.
I followed the directions carefully, memorizing each turn I had to make as they came up. The euphoric happiness overwhelmed me again as I drove deeper and deeper into the dense woods of the cascades, no longer afraid to be lost, only wanting to take in every piece of my surroundings. This was MY Washington. This was my home. I had made it to the road that would lead me straight to my hometown of Mount Vernon, WA. Of course, I was too busy looking at the scenery that I had missed so much, that I took a turn way too soon. My heart sank for a short moment before I realized that I knew this road as well. It was the road that lead straight to Conway, where a friend of ours owned a restaurant. Conway also happened to be only a fifteen minute drive, not just from Mount Vernon, but from my actual house! A few minutes later I drove up the drive way to my house, with my grandmother in the window waving her arms around like crazy, and my father opening the garage door to let me in.
I won’t go into detail about the rest of the two and a half week trip, because I feel like this has been long enough, but it was one of my favorite trips I’ve ever been on. For a quick highlight reel, I: went to a wedding of two wonderful people from my “biker family” we’ll just call them. Met an old friends brand new baby boy. Got to see my sister, and my two nieces. Turned 20 years old, and had a friends entire restaurant to ourselves for a party. Went Skydiving for the first time ever!!! Reconnected with a loved one from my past, and had a blast with him and all his friends from Bellingham, WA. Spent at least half of my trip up in Bham with all of them. My childhood best friend from SD flew in to Seattle, from being stationed in Hawaii, in the army. Adventured, and showed her as much of Washington as I could within only two days. Went to the last “Pete’s Pig Roast”, which is basically just a big party at our friend Pete’s house, with a live band, and bonfires, and camping, and lots of alcohol. My two best friends from childhood finally got to meet! My best friend and I drove back to South Dakota so she could see her family for her vacation, and I could get back to work.
Always go after your dreams, even the small ones. You never know what will happen unless you go for it, and the memories you make will last a lifetime.