We did it. The roadtrip. 3,434 miles. Google Maps says that’s 59 hours of driving. We estimated 2 weeks, anticipated 10 days but in the end made it in 8, with one full day break. We drove. It hurts my brain and my hips to really think about the distance. My poor car needs an oil change, a total check up. My poor car? She didn’t quit. We drove with such risk. No spare, despite knowing the poor road conditions and the car’s heavy load and there often being no towns–no passing cars–for hours and hours and hours.
In Beaver Creek, Yukon, a man told us he got a flat. His friends from Anchorage were driving it up to him because the nearest full-serving tireshop was in Fairbanks. After that exchange, I drove with a clenched jaw until we reached a real big city that had to have my tire size. Fairbanks was six hours, seven, eight, ten hours, two days, three, four days away.
This roadtrip was different than the one we completed in August, when it was California to Alaska and not Alaska to California. August was planned so that we only drove every other day. On off days we wandered cities or hiked, moved our bodies, drank with friends. In August, we skipped most of the Canadian drive and instead took a four-day ferry and slept on the desk in a tent. Driving driving driving every day with no friend retreats is a different thing.
This roadtrip was glorious, painful, whatever. We did it. I’m so happy we did it, made it, left, drove the roads that people dream of crossing.
Even after getting into that packed Mini Cooper for 7 days straight to drive all day–sometimes not seeing other cars for hours, sometimes driving on unpaved road that hurt my bones–after becoming dull to music, dull to crying, dull to unfathomable sights and endless mountains that still had me keening despite my being so dulled, even after giving in to Outlander on audiobook–even after hearing I had a reason to get to California sooner to say goodbye to someone I love–we were still alert, sort of smiling. Or at least I was. Maybe because I’d just had my first coffee of the morning.
At some point, I think as early as the first day, I stopped taking photos of everything that made me squeal. I became more selective with what I chose to capture and tried to let go, be there, wherever I was. On some days, I hadn’t slept and it hurt to sit because my knees are bad and sitting in my car requires very bent knees. On all days, I drank more coffee than I ever have and ate at least two roadside soggy sandwiches.
I’m already missing it, at least glimpses of it. I’m already nostalgic. I still haven’t washed my car. I’m driving around shiny south OC in a dirt-covered Mini with Alaska plates and a giant cargo box on top. There may be some pride involved with my procrastination to wash it.
And when I finally drove south enough for a real night? The first night it got dark-dark? Like not just a dim twilight but I CAN’T SEE OUTSIDE IT’S DARK AND LOOK STARS dark, on day 3 or 4, I don’t know, I howled so happy, so relieved.
The next day, we drove through sun and rain and snow. The Northern Rocky Mountains, a touch of home. Connected to Colorado. I’m too sentimental. I called it a blizzard. Regan laughed at me and we argued about the snows of Indiana versus those of Colorado and then we just drove through the snow until we reached the end of the day’s road.
Southern British Columbia is a damp dream. Like Scotland. Or maybe I only think that because we were listening to Outlander as we made our way through it, I don’t know. But we were through the worst of the drive, the most remote, the risky portion, and it felt so good on the eyes and mind. The rain. All that rain. It only made my car more muddy.
If you have the option, drive the Sea to Sky Highway. But please, take a piss before speeding through the bulk of the curving knuckle-gripping mountain way. Don’t make my mistake. Or do. I have no regrets. It was mesmerizing. It was home. Go through Whistler (because at this point you’ll have no choice) and be confused by the sudden affluence, by its comforting similarities to Park City.
Vancoooooooouver! I love you, I do. I have since 2014 (or really 2010 when I did my first Vancouver research) and still do.
In Vancouver, we stayed at a harbourfront hotel. A treat for making it through Yukon, through British Columbia. A farewell to British Columbia. It was nice.
The next day, I started paying rent in Seattle–a storage unit, in which we emptied half of the car into, I put much of my life into. A commitment to Washington. We were only in the city for a few hours. There was an urgency to go further south, to finish the drive. We stayed in Portland with friends. The next day, we drove 10 hours to the Bay Area, to my older sister, to my darling niece.
We took our first day off. A day off from driving before the last final stretch. It was a delight. I wore a dress and boots, not my jeans and a beanie and some grimy tee. We drank wine and I played with my niece and we just fucking relaxed.
And then, the next day, 7 hours down the 1-5, through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, then then then then, the roadtrip was complete. Over. A little over a week doesn’t sound that long but time warped up there on the Alcan, somewhere between the Yukon and British Columbia. I live in California now, for a few months. I’m writing every day. I’m sleeping and healing and will be seeing too many doctors next week and next month.
Why the hell am I already nostalgic for the roadtrip?
What is happening in Alaska? What’s Alaska?
17 months in Fairbanks, Alaska. Okay, fine, 17 months minus a brief interlude (in which it still felt like I lived here) last summer when I needed night so bad that I flew south a few days after summer solstice and didn’t come back until last August, via my Mini Cooper, which is now stuffed to its limits. And upgraded with a roof cargo box. It took me moving my whole life in this little clown car some times to finally make the upgrade. About time.
(Okay it also took me moving another person’s entire life and, after today, can I just say I’m so exhausted with moving in this damn car, of buying the same kitchen essentials only to ultimately give them away?)
17 months. I only stayed in some cities for 4 months. 17 months, for me, is a lot. I have so much to take away. Moments tucked and hidden, forgotten, saved. Hips swollen from climbing up rocks too fast and sitting at a old desks for too long. Mosquito bite scars on my legs. Experiences that will take me forward. A greater understanding of my own brain, my body, my limits, my needs–I think.
I’ll miss Fairbanks in the most particular, pained ways. I already long for the winters. The cold that kills, that freezes the white and frost into place. Plugging my car in at night, the ordeal of layering up just to take out the trash. And maybe I’ll even miss the atrocious speeding springs, the stagnant summer–even the shiny navy sky at midnight in May. The craze, disorientation, that comes from near constant daylight. The hours I lost to dizzying hyper-speed thoughts, hours slowed by I don’t even know how to explain it hurt.
Now to drive 3000 miles south, away, through Canada, down the coast. Plans changed again and may evolve once or twice more–but no more Utah (it was playing it safe and stupid and I’m antsy for Washington). A two to three month reprieve in California to see doctors and take my dogs on walks at night, in the dark (!) canyons of my home. And then, sometime around August, crossing my fingers, back north, straight to somewhere-around-Seattle.
Or maybe not. We’ll see. Priorities: health, BURN revision, finding a new home and a job that involves some form of teaching/tutoring/mentoring (please), drafting new (literally) muddy book.
Farewell, Alaska. I’ll keep talking about you, I suspect, always. I don’t think my time here is necessarily quite over, but we’ll see.
What’s great about the above photo is–if you don’t know what to look for–it could be taken in Alaska, Colorado, California. I’m not quite sure why this pleases me.
I finally archived the bio that I wrote in 2011, feverish in Humboldt County. Though much hasn’t changed and I still get IDed at the airport and write in longlonglong sentences, it felt time to make that ramble a blog entry rather than my standing bio. Now the WHO? page is short (we’ll see how long that lasts) and I suppose sweet, though still featuring my blurry selfie from that drippy green era of life, because I miss Humboldt and I miss the compulsion to blog so vulnerably with no restraint, miss the way I approached this space during that timeframe.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that sort of blogging, because that place of unrestraint came from total isolation. I had a roommate who is now a dear friend, but I was so bloody lonely and stuck in my own head during my own time in Humboldt. I made sure to keep to myself, to not make friends. Called it my semester of solitude in attempt to recover from an on and off again 5-year-long not-so-good relationship. That semester, I went to one house party and briefly fell in love with a body named Bread and then went salsa dancing at a university event only to puke into muddy ferns bordering a parking lot (I attended the community college). I went to class, took walks in the forest, drove too fast, and blogged. If I look at my blogging patterns, I’m most prolific and INYOURFACE when I’m in a period of Alone. Whether that’s living at my parents’ house, or in Berkeley or Arcata, or re-settling in Colorado. And, you know, I don’t want to go back to those times, no matter how fundamental and mesmerizing they are in memory. I have no way of knowing what’s to come, but I don’t think I’ll be going back there anytime soon.
I’m in the process of moving into the studio directly below my own to save money for reasons that will eventually be revealed. My smallest move yet. Dragging my belongings bit by bit down the stairs I go up and down and up and down every day. Setting myself up in the studio I’m currently writing from now. No car involved. No shipping. No surprises. Same layout. Same 380 sq ft. But shared. Moneymoneymoneymoneymoney. Less room to stretch and dance because down here there is a couch and TV circa 2004 or something. And then in the spring/summer/sometime soon? A far bigger move. Again the Mini, which is being prepped with a roof rack and cargo box. It only took me moving 10 + times in a go cart to give into utilizing its roof.
I suppose this blog is an ode to my need to move, my need to travel, my need to stir it up. Unplanned moves of the future, BRING IT.
(Who will I be 12 hours from now? Who are you today?)
Yesterday I decided I would not move to Alaska.
Today (tonight) I decided I will (probably) move to Alaska.
Can I be human for a minute?
This summer hasn’t been easy. Panic attacks at a severity I’ve never experienced. Writing at a snail’s pace. Sadness. A stupid, overwhelming sadness. The what the fuck am I doing where am I going how am I going to pay for bed sheets and oatmeal and why am I going and why am I not writing and I don’t even like close reading so who the hell am I going deal. More than anything: I am sick. Sick. Sick. Sick. Pretending not to be sick. Denial. I won’t go into details, it’s nothing crazy or life threatening, but something that makes me weak every day, gives me the spins, makes me nervous about students and colleagues relying on me.
If you’d told me a year ago, I would move to Alaska, I’d be shocked and confused and very happy. And I think Past Me would tell Current Me to buck the fuck up and get on the plane.
But does past me know the whole story?
Two weeks from tonight, I’m maybe in Alaska. I may (definitely) need some wine.
I am no longer in Colorado.
Tuesday + Wednesday + Thursday = 3 tanks of gas.
I am no longer in Colorado.
From brightbrightbright Colorado Springs down into the brick of Trinidad, where just outside on the 25 I supposedly raced with a military boy in a Mustang but I didn’t know we were racing until after the fact in the parking lot of a Safeway and he said thanks for the entertainment during the dull stretch.
DULL STRETCH? Dull stretch? What a fool. The pastel mesas and cracked land and burnt ridges, the suddenly changing slopes. Cross the border into New Mexico and the black skeleton trees and charcoal flats of burnt Raton Pass. The caramel plains evening out only to curve into the bends and endless pinon trees. Sunset. Blinded by my dirty windshield. A night in Santa Fe. A day sweeping across the quiet desert. Hot and numb, a cocoon, until we found the smoke of the Slide Fire. Poor northern Arizona. Flagstaff choked by fiery hot clouds.
And then, the final leg, the white Mojave. My sister complained because I didn’t let her drive once the entire 22 hour drive. And even on that last day, sick with a cold of doom, eyes tired from days of road staring, the empty desert so pale, I wanted to drive. I needed to drive. My way of saying goodbye. Of leaving Colorado. And it’s like I blinked and I was driving through an afternoon rain storm into the Angels National Forest, almost home. Home. This home. Colorado was home. Is home. This has always been home. Soon Alaska will be a home too. I hope so at least.
I’m no longer in Colorado. It kind of hurts.