Friday, June 22, 2007

Off the road again

[This was something I put down the night before heading into Seattle, the night of June 1, on the big trip a few weeks ago. I looked at my Route 66 journal entries from last year for the first time since I wrote them, and it brought a lot of things I had forgotten back.

There are many reasons I took that trip, and only one I took the Seattle trip - which helps its "stickiness" in the brain. Seattle ended up being a blast, of course.

Sitting in the Motel 6 a year after the trip, it's weird to go back and read the entries - the ones I haven't even read since I wrote them on the Route trek one year ago this week.

This time I'm on another big trip: the Yellowstone/Seattle one, once again carrying me across the country on a grand adventure. Although not as grand as last year's. Preparing for this trip was nothing like getting ready for the Mother Road, and it still doesn't hold the fascination that Route 66 did.

Don't get me wrong: Yellowstone was fantastic. Mount Rainier was the most gorgeous site I've probably ever laid eyes on.

But there was something about that trip last year, wasn't there? Something magical. Something special.

There's not a week, and hardly a day, that goes by when I don't think about the Route. Perhaps that's why it's so popular; how it holds the imagination, how it calls you back to it.

Oh yeah. I've thought about doing it again. Are you kidding?

Except if I went again I would have to bring someone along - to be their guide, show them the ropes, right?

This year has been straight Interstate driving, with a few spurs - route 212 into Yellowstone, route 410 into Rainier National Park - that reminded me of the ol' two-lane highway. Since last year I've found that taking the slow way brings the most enjoyment, and this trip is only affirming that suspicion. Even back home I take M-50 instead of the freeway to get to Toledo. Why not? I'm in no rush, and the little towns along the way are always a treat.

Tomorrow is the first time I'll lay eyes on Seattle, which - thankfully - is no Los Angeles, but will still be a great tour. I've gone from extreme wilderness to a posh urban setting in a few days. Remind you of anything? And like last year, when Santa Monica called like a jewel, Seattle is the cap-off of a long week of driving and restaurant food and sleeping in the car.

That thought never leaves though. The Road Trip as the ultimate experience, especially in this beautiful, giant, weird country of ours. Only in America can you go from Eastern Washington, which reminded me of arid New Mexico, to West Washington - the ultimate in alpine, plush mountain greenery. All within a few hours.

I've already entertained ideas about a New England driving tour, to see all the old Revolution battle sites and historical homes (of Emerson and Thoreau, say), not to mention to see the scenery and the few remaining states I haven't visited. After that, I'll have the four corners of this country covered. I've already thought I could comfortably make a home in any section I've seen so far (maybe not Florida or Georgia, or Texas, or Oklahoma, or North Dakota). The Midwest still calls to my heart, however, and so any immediate moving plans are just an idea.

I'm munching on popcorn and drinking various Big Sky beers, and after visiting Missoula, Spokane, and Tacoma within the span of a day, I'm pretty beat. I guess it's like anything: stuff as much experience and wonder into one day and then attempt to put it down in some coherent form before the pillow helps you forget the sights.

The Route, however, will never lose its potency. The spirit will always be there, on any trip I ever try, along any highway I check out for the first time. Every place has some Route 66 in it - it's only a matter of degrees and miles and weather conditions. It's always there, no matter the gas price.

It follows me, as I followed it for one long week one year ago.

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