Posts Tagged ‘cross country road trip’

The Journey Begins

Friday, June 29th, 2018

The journey begins hours before the sun peaked over the mountains of the East Bay when my mom and I said goodbye to our California home in hushed whispers.

We drove almost 800 miles today and crossed through 3 different states. Tonight we find ourselves in Twin Falls, Idaho where Evel Knievel once attempted to jump the Snake River in a steam-powered rocket. Crazy, right?

Today was mostly a day of just driving, coffee, and bad singing in the car. We didn’t have any real stops along the way to Twin Falls. We had to stop at Philz coffee, however, before crossing the California state line into Nevada, but that was about it.

Twin Falls offered a wealth of beautiful sights to take in under their perfectly blue skies. My favorite was Shoshone Falls State Park where water cascades over huge cliffs like a mini Niagara Falls

I tried to take a normal looking picture of myself in front of this spectacular sight but the wind had other plans…

It was a great way to end a long day of driving. I can’t believe we started our journey and this is only the first of many adventure filled days to come.

 

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Final Days in Chicago

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

My final full day in Chicago was a blur of car horns, books, helicopter noise, cracks in the pavement, and good food. I dedicated my day to simply walking everywhere in the city. The only way to know the heart of a city is to walk the streets that pulse with people like the lifeblood pumping through the veins of this vast entity. Before putting my feet to the pavement and letting the sole of my shoes meld with the soul of this city I visited a place that brings my heart great joy, a library. The day was long and the journey longer to get to the center of the city.

I woke up early in the morning to grab the train only to learn that they were not running at the moment. Helicopters swooped over the train line towards the cityscape of towering skyscrapers. Apparently a man tried to end his life by throwing himself in front of the train. It was horrible to hear and I felt the sadness drift upon me as I realized that when I did not know the reason for the delay, found myself angry about the traffic and the non-functioning train. For a moment I had felt that this man’s death, his misery, his trapped and hurting heart and mind where simply an obstacle to my forward movement. That is a horrible thing to think but I hadn’t even realized I had felt it; when I realized my own unconscious thinking it felt like a punch to the gut. A man’s death, his suffering, to a stranger trying to get to work or a tourist trying to tour the city only felt the delay of his actions, not the truth or pain behind them. It was a hard morning and I hope his family has some peace in this. I had lost sight, in my mania of exploration, of the people around me as real people. I felt like I had woken up when I heard over the cab radio what had happened. This road trip in many ways is a very selfish endeavor, it is for me and me alone, maybe to be enjoyed by others in the stories to come, but as a result I had forgotten to actually look into the eyes of the people around me as real humans with personal agendas and personal pains. It was a contemplative morning for me to say the least and I walked away hoping to never forget to value each person on the street as someone who deeply mattered in their own special way.

I took a cab to the Newberry (the rare books and archive library I planned on visiting) instead of the train but was further waylaid when my cab got hit by another cab. The accident wasn’t bad, the two cars simply slid alongside each other and took off the side view mirror with a loud bang. I sat with wide eyes in the back of the cab as my driver got out and started to yell at the other driver. It was a very strange incident, I was just happy to get out of the car and rely on my own two feet for the rest of the day.

The Newberry was impressive and I felt pretty special getting my visiting scholar badge and my own little personal desk where they spread out the books I had requested in little pillow displays. I spent the majority of the morning pouring over old Milton books and William Blake paintings. It was enough to make my little english major heart implode.

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I emerged from the library with a mind full of poetry and paintings onto the urban streets of Chicago, ready to get lost in between the towering buildings.

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After getting some coffee at Bowtruss, I wandered all over the place but the riverwalk was definitely my favorite. The different bridges and the sun reflecting off of the glass buildings like the scales of some enormous fish onto the grey streets below. The noise of this city is somewhat overwhelming, yet beautiful. The clinking of change in a cup, the thudding of tires on the slates of the bridges, the horns of passing tour boats, and the chittering of people all around me. Chicago truly is a beautiful city, there is so much for the eyes to feast upon everywhere you look. Everything vibrates with energetic life.

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I took a break at Do-Rite Donuts where I got a delicious maple bacon donut. It blew my mind. I had never had a donut like this before and I sat down by the river to enjoy the view and the food.

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I also had to see the iconic sights like Cloud Gate or as it is commonly called The Bean.

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My obligatory Bean selfie.

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After my touristy stops, I wandered back down the Magnificent Mile or Michigan Ave shopping streets where I stumbled upon a food truck. Right in from of the NBC building was this bright yellow truck with a long line. Long lines usually equal good food so I decided it must be worth while. It was Pierogi Streets, a pierogi food truck serving up tasty dumplings with some amazing toppings. The food was unbelievable; I had braised beef and spinach/feta pierogis topped with spicy grilled onions, sauerkraut, and bacon. It was heavenly.

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It was a great day of wandering, but by the end my feet were tired and the sun had set on the city. The shadows cast by the tall buildings created a canopy of darkness only broken apart of slivers of light high above. In this artificial shade I left the city behind to go pack my belongings for the road ahead.

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I left Chicago that next afternoon after a morning at the Ferrara Bakery, a visit to my aunt’s studio, and a fantastic final lunch at the Art Institute.

I am so grateful for my family that has helped me along the way, none of this would be possible without them. My lovely aunt and uncle and my beautiful cousin were so kind to me. Their welcoming love, even after so long since my last visit with them, made me feel like I was home despite being far from it. I love that I get to see so much of my family, but it is so hard constantly leaving everyone behind after just finally getting to see them after so long. I have never said goodbye so many times before in such a short period of time. Every person I see along the way makes it harder to say goodbye the next time; I am more reluctant to leave yet also more excited for what comes next. This trip is one of the most challenging things I have ever done but also one of the most rewarding. I will carry these memories and these special moments with me forever, even when I have returned home to California. But after Chicago I headed even farther East. I drove that day from Chicago to Pittsburgh across Indiana and Ohio. It felt inconceivable to be moving farther away from the world I knew and loved, but the East Coast was on my mind and I meant to reach it as soon as possible. The other end of the country was within reach and with it the goal of my solo road trip was within sight.

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The Weight of Lives I am not Living

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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One reason I have decided to resurrect my blog is to document my cross country solo road trip. Today I hit the road and won’t find myself back on the West Coast until I have climbed the mountains of Colorado, rolled in the fall leaves of Northern Michigan, put my feet to the pavement of New York City, driven nearly the entire length of the East Coast, let the Atlantic Ocean wash the dirt from my tired feet, sipped a cup of coffee at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, and driven all the way back home. In total, I should be gone for about three months. Just me, my Prius (nicknamed PriPri), vast open expanses of road, and any adventure that finds me along the way.

The main question I have received upon telling people this (after clarifying that yes, I do actually plan on doing this and no, I am not crazy) is WHY?

And this question is not unjustified either, I have asked myself the same thing over and over again as the date of departure creeps closer and closer. I will be the first to admit it, I am terrified. I can make this trip sound so romantic, dreamy, courageous, and many other enviable traits, but the reality is that this is scary; this is going to be extremely hard. There are going to be days I will wish that I had never left home, never gotten out of my bed, never said goodbye to my parents, and never abandoned everything that made me comfortable in life. There is one thing that I know even though the trip has not yet begun: I will never regret this decision.

I could have stayed at my job in the Bay and lived comfortably, but this is the path I have chosen. So to answer the ubiquitous question, which follows me like a shadow wherever I go, I have four things to say.

  1. I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living. This quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has resonated in my heart like the rattle of little Oskar’s tambourine since I first read this magnificent book my first year at UC Berkeley. My bones, my body, my mind, and my spirit ache with the weight of not knowing the many paths that my life could lead me down. I plan to go to graduate school and get a doctorate and after that seek a professorship for the rest of my days. While a majority of the people I know are now desperately pursuing a lifelong career, I have found myself unwilling to tie myself to one thing. There are so many things in life I want to do and be that after graduate school I may never get to experience. So I have decided to put real life on hold and go adventure for a while. I do not want to be one thing, I want to be many and I hope to never cease changing in my life. As an English major (aka major book nerd) I have always felt that the most amazing result of reading is that the reader is able to live a thousand different lives through the novels they immerse themselves in throughout their own finite life. I have lived the lives of others both real and imaginary, some more than once, but I have yet to live my own.
  2. Desperately seeking self. Perhaps it is cliche to seek yourself on the open road, or perhaps there is a wisdom in this repetition that proves success. I never feel so inspired than when my wheels are spinning on the pavement and my mind is whirling with thoughts heavily lined with the experiences of yesterday. A solo road trip is obviously a lot of alone time, which both terrifies me and intrigues me with the possibilities of unformed experiences. I have to communicate with me; there is no way around it, no where to run or hide. I am an introspective and introverted person, so this isn’t exactly new to me, but lately I have found myself wrapped around the fingers of others. As time has passed and I have dedicated less time to writing and creating, I have found myself throwing all of my time into others. This is not to say I should not have done this, or that I regret doing this, but I have lost the confidence in being alone that I once had. I have shelved my purpose, my pursuits, and my identity for far too long and traveling alone allows me to be selfish in a way I have not been able to be in a long time. I want to recover the entirety of who I once was and learn how to live a life that is fully mine.
  3. I am a strong young women building my inner independence from the ground (or road) up. Let’s be honest, the main reason people ask me why in the world I would do this is the same reason I have to do this: I am a woman, alone, and the world isn’t always nice to solo women trying to find their place in the world. People ask me, aren’t your parents scared for you? and I can see the real question in their eyes and implied in their words, there is a lot of danger that I am courting just because I am a young woman with no one to watch my back, no one to protect me, no one to stave off the danger of cat calls, rude and greedy eyes, lecherous thoughts of strangers, and the unknown/unpredictable mishaps that could occur on the road. This, however, is the very reason I must go. Yes, I am a woman, yes I can do this on my own. I am capable, strong, independent, cautious, wise, and fear will not hold me back. I am a part of this world and I am going to take part in it. Hiding at home will never change the way the world perceives women. To think that my blog in any way will affect this though is naive and not what I am getting at. What I want this blog to do over the next couple of months is serve as an example that women can do anything. I am just one of many women who has chosen to take to the road alone and just as those women who have served as an example for me, I hope that I can help at least one other woman see that they can do it too. To help show just one person, even if that one person is myself, that it is totally worth it is all I want to achieve.
  4. I am an adventurer and nothing is going to stop me, not even myself. A lot of people see me as someone who is unafraid, outgoing, adventurous, and motivated. In truth, I struggle with all of these things greatly. But still, I must go. Crippled by anxiety, scared, small, often sick, and indecisive, I am horrified by things that are unknown and uncontrollable. But still, I must go. Unable to let go of control and filled to the brim with nervousness, I am unsure about everything I am about to embark on over the next few months. But still, I must go. Why? Why. why. No matter how scared, nervous, chronically in pain, or unsure I am, I am only sure that I must go. Because I am an adventurer; because the road has been calling my name since my mother first introduced me to it six years ago; because I am my own worst enemy and adversaries exist to bring out the best in us; because I am not living my life if I let my fear, anxiety, or illness win. These are the things I know. For some reason my heart picked adventure and I cannot say no, even if the rest of my being is against it.

In some ways, this post is more for me than for you. I am my harshest critic, the one with the most to lose in this, but also the one with the most to gain. I guess you can say this is my manifesto, or simply a reminder for those dark days when all I want to do is give up or cry in a corner. This is my reminder that I can do this, that this is exactly what I want and need, and that no matter where I find myself, I am still me, I am still strong, and I will keep moving.

By the time you read this, I am already gone. Another white streak across the sky, tumbleweed rolling down the road, a stranger in a car window disappearing in the opposite direction. I will see you all again, some sooner rather than later, and hope that you will embark on this journey with me in one form or another.

Ultimately, there are a thousand reasons why I should not go and only one that underlies all of the reasons of why I should: I must. I have told myself a thousand times that I would and now it is hear and there is no backing down. So here I go, down the rabbit hole. Unsure of where it will lead me, this road is the path I have chosen; through all of the exciting loops and digressions, through all the wrong ways and misadventures, through all the new friends and unfriendly strangers, through all the beautiful sights I will see and the empty expanses of nothing, I have chosen this path and now I must follow it to its end.

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