I left Colorado about three weeks ago, but just got back to Michigan this past weekend. It took me a while. I decided to turn my drive home, usually a straight shot across I-80, into a road trip. I wanted to see everything I could see while I was “in the area”. Of course, it took me about as long to get to Missoula as it would have taken to just drive back to Michigan. Some would argue that such a distance doesn’t qualify as nearby. But I didn’t have anywhere to be right away, so why not make it into an adventure?
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m awful at road trips. Whenever I go anywhere, I just want to get there as time-efficiently as possible. Anything that slightly inhibits my progress is frowned upon, even if it’s a necessity like refueling. I never want to stop, especially when I have a destination and/or timeline in mind. I wanted to break that mindset. So while I had some key stops on this trip (I’m looking at you, Laramie, Missoula, and Idaho Falls!), I tried to keep my itinerary as open as possible. I wanted to have time to experience things along the way, things that caught my attention on the road, things that I could stumble upon and explore with no prior knowledge. I would drive until I felt like stopping – for a few minutes, for lunch, for the night.
This became an exercise in patience for me. It took a couple days to get into the swing of things. I passed by Leadville, Colorado – what seemed like a lovely town – for no reason, aside from the fact that I was going to Laramie. Shortly after, I zipped past one of the most incredible mountain views, because I was on the phone. But after a while, I figured out how to road trip. And while I sometimes got bored with driving, or lonesome for company, it was such a fulfilling experience.
I pulled over on interstates to take pictures of old barns in the golden hour light. I was able to visit with friends and family across the west, laughing about old memories while making new ones. Shoot, I got to watch the Cubs win the World Series with one of the biggest baseball fans I know. I got to see a breathtaking mountain lake, while simultaneously setting what felt like a land speed record for hiking, and I know that we’ll laugh about it when we’re old. I once again got to ride my favorite horse in the world, and eat at my favorite cowboy bar in the world. I got to stargaze from my tailgate with a good friend and a glass of whiskey.
It wasn’t always fun, though. I became overwhelmed by frustration when I ended up in Lander instead of Pinedale. Then, after a few phone calls and decisions, I felt that frustration wash away and be replaced by gratitude when I fell in love with Dubois, Wyoming, and drove through the Bridger-Teton National Forest at dusk. That reroute gave me the chance to pray, the chance to hike in the mist and snow of the Tetons, and the chance to visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art. If I had gone the route I planned, I never would have spent the night in Jackson. I wouldn’t know how great the town can be in November.
Then, the winds of November came early on the Mackinac Bridge, and almost claimed the cover from my truck bed. All of my belongings were in the bed, so you can imagine my fear when I saw the cover flapping in my rear view, knowing there was no way to stop and secure everything until I crossed the 5 miles of bridge spanning the Great Lakes below. I imagined worst-case scenarios and whispered frantic Hail Marys. But when I made it back to solid ground, I met two of the nicest men who worked for the Bridge Authority, and they helped me fix my truck. I also got to visit Mackinaw City, while buying duct tape from the local hardware store. The kindness and generosity of the people who helped me gave me hope for a world so racked by negativity. I continued down I-75 feeling restored.
I felt the thrill of crossing state lines that I had never crossed before. I appreciated the quietness of the Wisconsin woods at night, and the silence of silos backlit by the Big Dipper. And all of this made me come to a great realization.
The past two years, coming home from Colorado was a negative thing for me. It meant school. It meant a winter away from the lifestyle I loved. It meant putting up walls and avoiding too many new friendships, because I’d just be leaving again in the spring. It was a great weight to carry. But now, I know that the best anyone can do in life is to make the most of every situation. So this winter will be different.
We are all called to love. We can’t do that if we are closed off, hiding behind our own perceptions of the world, trying to make things happen on our own. All that does is create self-fulfilling prophecies of negativity. But if we change our mindsets into one of love and hope, there is no end to the joy we can spread. Even if it starts out small, joy is like a ripple. If we let it, it can become a wave. Let love and Light rule your life, and see how the ripple can grow.
Recommendations from this trip:
The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
The Bitterroot Valley, MT
The Nova Cafe (especially the California sandwich), Bozeman, MT
May We All – Florida Georgia Line
How I’ll Always Be – Tim McGraw
“There’s no room left for darkness, when you’re filled with the light it comes out.” -Let It Rain – Zac Brown Band