Reclaiming the Road Trip
+ 4,600 miles
+ 1,400 songs
+ 70 hours driving
+ 14 states
+ 12 days
+ 8 stops
+ 2 pups in the back
+ 1 person behind the wheel: me!
I decided to drive across the country by myself as a part of my year of Grieve Leave. Here's why:
Road trips have a special place in my heart. Because my mom was sick growing up, for most of my childhood we didn't travel much. When we did go on vacation as a family, it would be somewhere within driving distance just in case there was a serious issue related to my mother's brain cancer…we could always get back home or to a hospital quickly if we needed to. I remember us driving up to Niagara Falls and back over the course of a couple weeks, and other times we just drove a few hours to the North Carolina mountains. Road trips with my family were full of Phil Collins cassette tapes and all four of us together relaxing, which was so rare. Those are happy memories for me.
Then as an adult in a toxic relationship, road trips became something I dreaded. My ex and I packed up our dogs and drove from Chicago to North Carolina for many holidays, we traveled across the northeast to visit my family in Montreal, and we drove across the south to visit his family in Louisiana. Every single time we got in the car for a trip together, we'd get into arguments about little stuff that turned into big stuff in a flash. There were few things that frightened me more than being with my ex when he was angry and behind the wheel. I felt trapped, and I know he did too.
He would also insist on driving the entire way on our trips, never letting me take a shift when I'd offer. He'd say that it made him more comfortable to drive—a statement reeking of sexism and a power grab. After we'd get to wherever we were going, I’d hear him chat with family about how tired he was from driving the whole trip, 9 hours, 12 hours, however long it was. Those comments would hang over my head, like a cloud of guilt for something I wanted to help with in the first place. Textbook gaslighting.
So one of the very first things I wanted to do in my year of grieving was to Reclaim the Road Trip. I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel and enjoy hitting the road again, wind in my hair…and the pups’ fur.
I set a big goal of a destination I wanted to get to— Tucson, Arizona for the annual Gem and Mineral Show (where I went many times with my father over the years)— and I designed a two-week trip around it. And aside from one snowstorm reconfiguring a couple stops in the last leg of the trip, everything went off without a hitch!
· Memphis, Tennessee
· Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
· Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
· Tucson, Arizona
· Sedona, Arizona
· The Four Corners National Monument
· Great Dunes National Park and Alamosa, Colorado
· St. Louis, Missouri
Each stop had a different purpose to it, which I'll detail in more reflections over the next few weeks. The bottom line: I wanted to prove that I could cross the country by myself. And I did it!
The beauty of a road trip is it that I'm the captain of my own ship, setting my departure times, setting my routes, picking my soundtrack, stopping at whatever cool roadside attractions I want to see…it was incredibly liberating as I'm grieving the end to so much in my life, and building the foundation of my new beginning.
Can't wait to tell you more about I learned along the way.
P.S. Click here to watch the short reel I recorded of my Road Trip!