I’ve been waiting a long time for this trip. My last road trip of any decent length was in 2013 where I spent the majority of my time scanning the radar for possible tornado activity after a long and exhausting evening in a shelter in Oklahoma.
When Kelsey announced that her wedding would be in New Orleans, that familiar sense of adventure started to tingle in my spine. Obviously, I wasn’t going to miss the wedding, but I’m not sure when “I think I might drive down” turned into “oh yeah, I’m driving down”.
In the weeks leading up to my departure I struggled with a little anxiety around heading out on my own. What if it’s stormy? What do I do if I’m in the middle of nowhere and the sky turns green? What if my car dies? Can I do 750 miles in a day?
No, no, no. Stop. This is not scary. The open road is home. It’s comforting. I know this, but sometimes I need to be reminded that I know this. For two weeks there was a quiet little track in the back of my mind reminding me of all the things that could go wrong. At 5am when I pulled out of the driveway, it disappeared.
Everyone asks if I get bored, sometimes doing upwards of 750 miles in a day, alone in the car.
The short answer, not really.
The long answer, absolutely.
There are absolutely times that I just want to be done. I want to get out of the car, stretch out and move and be anywhere but in the car. But it’s not often. More often than not I’m singing along to one of my carefully curated road trip playlists. Or lost in thought. Plotting a new story or dreaming up things that could never happen, but are fun to imagine anyway. Driving way out in the middle of nowhere is so freeing and it’s amazing. Maybe because I am an only child and learned how to entertain myself, but I’m damn good company on a road trip.
And then I get to a place like Grand Teton National Park and it’s like a continuous loop of wow with every curve and bend in the road.
Unlike Yellowstone, I didn’t see much wildlife (a few pronghorn and hawks and people on horseback) though signs to watch for bears are everywhere. But Tetons are amazing. No pictures or words can even begin to describe how impressive this place is. The drive takes you through flat open plains and up through rugged terrain at nearly 10,000ft above sea level.
This drive through the Park was honestly such a tease. With only a couple hours to drive through, I feel like I walked away with sneak peek and the call to return.
Leaving the park I headed toward Casper, WY where I was spending the night. I could see storm clouds in the distance, but I wasn’t too concerned until it started to rain a lot harder than just a summer shower. With about 25 miles to go (and completely alone out on the road) I decided to check my phone radar. Only to find that Casper was in the middle of a tornado warning and severe thunderstorm. I could see it was moving away from Casper and away from me. I debated pulling over, but the wasn’t much room to pull out of the way if another car came from behind. So I slowed the cruise control down 20mph and slowed my approach.
Not slow enough.
I rode in on the tail of a complete downpour. It was like driving through a wall of water and even on the highest setting, my wipers couldn’t keep my windshield clear. The roads were covered in standing water and they were slick, but once I turned into the town, the rain slowed and gave way to sunny skies as the storm moved northeast.
On Monday I drove from Casper, WY to Amarillo, TX — another long day, coupled with losing an hour of the day (time zone change). It’s a route that I’ve taken before, so it wasn’t anything new. But the promise of a possible tornado warning in the afternoon and I hauled out as soon as possible.
But leaving early didn’t help the drive. Much of Colorado is apparently being repaved at the same time and despite the lack of traffic, it was stop and go all over the place. The worst.
Then as I drove through the vast nothing, also known as Texas farmland, I could see some suspicious looking clouds.
SRSLY WTF WEATHER?
Thankfully it was just south of where I was and although I could see the lightning, it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. But enough, okay?
Today was a shorter drive, but I had plans. I went to the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame/Museum in Amarillo, met a friend for lunch in Lubbock and coffee with my cousin in Abilene before finally landing at my hotel just in time to watch the Sounders US Open Cup game vs. Portland (spoiler alert, we won).
Although Texas is large, I’ve found that there are a billion tiny, nearly abandoned towns along the way. In some ways, it’s nice. Plenty of places to stop for fuel, bathroom breaks, etc. But as soon as you get cruise control set to 75, you approach a town and it drops to 70… 60….55….50….45… 35. Then you pass three buildings and then the speed limit climbs to 75 again. Way to screw with my gas mileage.