The Great American Roadtrip(s)

When I was a kid my grandparents would take my cousin and I on car trips all over the country. We drove from Connecticut to Texas, Wyoming, and Florida (more times than I can remember). But there are still places in this lovely country that I haven’t seen–or don’t remember seeing. So, last summer after a weekend roadtrip to Vermont with my friend, she and I decided to make a habit of it.

Yosemite Valley

Our next trip was in Novemeber; I was going to San Jose, CA for work so we flew out to San Francisco a few days ahead of time and drove down to Yosemite National Park. One of the things I love about America — well, all of North America, really — is just how vast and diverse it is. When you spend your life in New England, you get used to rolling hills, lush greens, autumn colors, and the occasional small mountains…and then you show up in a place like Yosemite and you can’t help but be awe struck.

Standing on the roadside looking down at Yosemite Valley or up at El Capitan I couldn’t help but think of a book I once read called The Scalpel and the Silver Bear. The book is about a Navajo woman who became the first in her tribe to become a surgeon. She moved from her wide open reservation to the Dartmouth campus in New Hampshire. She described feeling claustrophobic in New England, where the hills and forests keep you from seeing very far. Not exactly what she was used to in her desert home.

I couldn’t identify with that feeling. I love everything about the woods, and the desert seems so foreign and overexposed. Mountains, on the other hand, speak to me. I’m terrified of falling off of them — just ask my friend who laughed at me the whole trip while I stood several feet from any edge — but something about mountains, especially the kind that seem to rise up out of nowhere, strike me as mysterious and rugged. Kind of like Russell Crowe.

So, for me, Yosemite was heaven. It’s dramatic on a scale I just couldn’t fathom. Soon, though, I imagine it might be topped.

Next month I’m heading off to the Gulf Coast where my friend and I will visit New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, the Delta and everything in between. While I expect that to be a beautiful trip — and a welcome a break from dreary winter — it’s not what I expect to be the most breathtaking. In April, I’m heading to Arizona for work, and once again I’m flying down early and taking my grandmother and brother along with me. We’re driving from Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon, stopping in Sedona and Flagstaff.

One of my high school English teachers told me not to leave this earth without seeing the Grand Canyon. He was, admittedly, a little nutty but I’ve been looking forward to visiting the Grand Canyon, and finally laying eyes on the desert. I’ve flown over it, and  touched down in the Phoenix airport once before, but I’ve never really been there. I’m not sure anyone has ever actually not liked Sedona, but I’ve never imagined I’d be much of a “desert girl.” I like vegetation more than I like rocks.

I’m looking forward to seeing the corners of this country that I haven’t seen already, and can only hope the Grand Canyon and red rocks of Sedona turn out to be nearly as amazing as Yosemite. If not, at least I’ll have stayed at the Tallahatchie Flats.

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