That was my first thought as I scrambled myself out of sleep in my parents’ RV the final morning of my trip. Before long I could smell butter melting in a pan. The night before my parents had been discussing breakfast options, and my mom brought up the possibility of pancakes.
“We have the mix,” she said, “But I don’t think we have any syrup.”
“I have maple syrup,” I said. My parents looked at me. Even I was surprised to hear the words come out of my mouth.
“The people I stayed with in Ithaca make their own every year, and they gave me a whole jar,” I explained. I hadn’t opened it because I didn’t want it to go bad or have an unsealed jar of syrup bouncing around in my car, but it didn’t seem to matter with only hours left to go.
My final stop was Leavenworth, a popular weekend vacation town for Seattleites. Leavenworth is a theme town, capitalizing on its German roots. The whole place is covered in stereotypes and kitschy paraphernalia, from the architecture to the decorative beer steins. I got into Leavenworth an hour before my folks and walked around for a bit. Despite living a mere two hours away, I’d never been. I saw the nutcrackers and the hats and the fairies. I saw more of those same damn decorative pieces of wood with white lettering in different sized fonts that spout cliches and grandpa jokes. Most of the shop employees were in costume. I went browsing for decorative glass figures in a store run by a Polynesian woman in a German blouse.
I met up with my parents for lunch at a local diner. My dad ordered the Schnitzel and I got a brat with sauerkraut. I made the wrong choice. Mine was sour. His was covered in gravy and came with a pretzel bun.
After saying my goodbyes to my parents I hopped back on Highway 2. It’s a road I know well, because it’s the one I always took to get to summer camp growing up. It’s also home to the small town of Startup which itself is the home of the very best milkshakes in the world. I have, on more than one occasion, driven the hour from Seattle to Startup just to get a milkshake.
The final two hours of my trip had the potential for a lot of culminating actions, but I neglected all of them. I didn’t bother to stop at my summer camp to reminisce about days gone by. I didn’t stop for my favorite milkshakes in Startup because I was so full of German candy. I forgot to listen to the road trip playlist that I’d spent months reworking and remastering. I just sat in my car and drove, listening to podcasts and futzing with the cruise control. It was like any other day of my trip.
I came home to a cold, clean apartment. My boyfriend was on a trip to Hawaii at the time, and I had the place to myself for a few days. I don’t remember what I did first. I don’t remember how long it took me to unpack. I don’t remember most of that evening. My notes on the day were routine, outlining a few details from Leavenworth and a scribbling about German candy. But I must have been feeling grand, because at the very end of my notes was this:
“The Journey is over. It has just begun.”