Anatomy of a Western Road Trip

Anatomy of a Western Road Trip

In California, there is home, and then there is the road. There are slugs of caffeine and blurry eyes that grow more clear with the soft palette of sunrise. There are eggs and there is salsa, and afterwards, tandem bicycle shadows racing through the roadside dirt.

In Nevada, there is a Primm pit stop, then Vegas in the rearview. There is dust and there are rocks and mountains, and in between, brief blips of infrastructure punctuate the undulating beige.

In Arizona, there is a small slice of beauty stuffed inside a winding canyon.

In Utah, there is an impressive display of Weather: sun, clouds, heat, chill, wind, rain, hail, snow. There is a succession of mountains, each larger than the last, until finally the most skyward of the bunch don winter caps. There is also Cracker Barrel.

In Idaho, there is idyll. There is a fresh, green coat of spring tucked between spires of snow and rock. There is gravel, upon which casual cycling ensues. There are cats and dogs and near-constant birdsong. There is a brewery with horses and bikes and dogs and babies and popcorn and tacos and a fat lawn that invites lazy, gracious sprawl. There are pastoral sunsets and cabin dreams. There is also Garth Brooks, projecting from the radio his many loves and losses.

In Wyoming, there is magic. There are tufts of green-gray sagebrush and stands of pines guarding hidden lakes that are in turn guarded by showboat peaks. There are elk and baby elk and bison and baby bison, and bastardizations of cowboy songs inspired by such majesty. There are antlers – so many antlers. There are best-laid plans and watery reflections and there is future conjuring. There is also vodka inspired by the great and powerful Channing Tatum.

And then, a reluctant return.

In reverse, there are yawns and early morning sentences still half-spackled to our throats. There is coffee, praise be. There is Cracker Barrel. There are hours spent climbing and descending various lumps in the Utah outback. There are Combos and ice cream sandwiches and jellybeans and proclamations of Only Vegetables From Henceforth. There is a return to beige. There is a large thermometer towering over the Baker Denny’s, where there is a large skillet decorated with overcooked salmon and wilted vegetables. There is bottomless Coca-Cola. There are taillights and billboards and honks, and then there is “civilization.”

And then, finally, home – or the fading construct of some such place, when all I long for is the freedom of the range.