I’ve been planning this trip for some time now, and as a result some of my notes are quite old. One of the first things I did after deciding this might actually happen was to Google map an imagined route. This was mostly to get the mileage and create a timeline, so I didn’t bother much with the details of where I wanted to go. I’ve always had a clear visual picture in my mind of the route, all I need was place holder cities. This was my list:
Los Angeles, CA
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Rapid City, SD
Recently I decided it was time to plug these city names back into Google and see what had changed.
First, there’s the problem of Texas. Oh Texas. Whether it is rational or not, I have an insane fear of driving in Texas. In my head it is just a giant, flat, boring, expanse of hot sand waiting to murder me. One solution is to go over just the top of Texas and straight into Oklahoma, an idea that seems good on a lot of levels. So what’s the problem?
Austin. Austin is the problem.
I really want to see Austin. I have wanted to see it for some time. I’ve always heard great things about it, and I have friends there I miss terribly who would love to put me up for the night. Austin would be so great. If it weren’t in the middle of frickin’ Texas. I’ve wrestled with the Texas question for a while, and I think I’ve finally resolved to save it for a future trip.
So I’ll skip right through the top of Texas on the way east.
Second, I’m almost positive I won’t be stopping in New York City. While it is certainly an American icon, I’ve been there many times before. Hell, I lived there for six weeks. I don’t need to do NYC this time around. And the parking would be horrendous. So New York is out.
As for the rest of the cities, they are neither here nor there. I’m only committed to a few. And then there’s the last name.
As I plugged the names into the map, I actually removed my hands from the keyboard I was so shocked to read it back to myself.
We used to go to Missoula every summer when I was growing up. Montana is where my dad grew up, and where my parents met. I like Missoula, and even though I have been there so many times before, I still thought it would be a nice, familiar stop on the home stretch back to Seattle. It’s not Missoula’s fault. Missoula is wonderful. The reason I stopped at the sight of Missoula is because when I made this list, I was thinking of places I could stay for free around the country. I put down Missoula because I knew I could crash at my grandma’s house while passing through.
But that was two years ago. And now grandma’s gone.
It’s strange the way grief hits you. It’s hard at first, because it’s bright and painful and it makes a lot of sense. My grandmother died so of course I’m crying. Then there’s the funeral and you let it all out, and you go back to your life and you don’t cry so much and the grief starts to soften. And you move on because you figure that’s what one does, and before long that grief isn’t the first thing on your mind anymore.
And then one unassuming day, you are working on something completely benign when you are hit with the sudden and inevitable words “Missoula, Montana” and you realize your heart is in your throat.
Because she’s not there anymore. And she never will be.
I thought this was supposed to be fun.