I’m not a person for living in big cities.
I often regret missing the opportunities and options for activities and cultural events, especially where the children are concerned. But we can go visit those if we choose, like our visit to Roboworld in Pittsburgh just before we went west. (Being able to touch the Lost in Space robot was AWESOME.)
Most of my life, I’ve lived in smaller cities and towns, occasionally in the country. That’s my comfort zone. You have access to what you need, if not all you’d like. Groceries, gas, government offices….le sigh for the lack of Starbucks and real ethnic food. No, Taco Bell doesn’t count.
On the Wild West trip, though, I chose a route through Idaho and Nevada for the purpose of traveling along a route on which I had set some characters in one of my stories, just to get a personal view. I had a good idea, from reading and photos, but neither had prepared me for what the terrain and surroundings were really like.
There was nothing.
No rest stop, no gas stations, no cell phone service, no other drivers, no strip malls, no houses…no people. Nothing. For miles and miles and miles.
This was a novelty to me at first, and I admired the sagebrush and high desert territory. After a hundred miles, a hint of doubt and discomfort started to slip in. What ifs. What if the car broke down? What if we ran out of gas? What if something happened to me? What would the children do? Who would pick them up and protect them from the desert sun? And what if those were horrible people?
Of course, by that time, I had worked my head into a pretty negative place, the scenery was way off the agenda and I was thinking about panic instead. How could there be a place so far from civilization that they don’t even have a portapotty?! When we came unexpectedly across some road work and had to stop in a batch of semis, I’d never been so thankful for construction in my life. I got out, stretched, had a drink (water, sadly as I didn’t have anything stronger) and yanked my last nerve back into line.
The rest of the journey to California proceeded in alternately white-knuckled and deep-breathing phases, aggravated by the high altitudes (Austin, Nevada was 6,600-plus feet). Grateful for the children’s issues for once, as they were mostly oblivious to my worry, I plowed on, and we made it fine.
The experience, however, did leave me to question my decision-making. All my adult life, I’ve been very independent– changing jobs, moving, going back to school, getting married, getting unmarried– without paralyzing concern over what the consequences might be. This choice showed me where I could be vulnerable, something I don’t face about myself often. It was an interesting lesson. I honestly don’t know if I would do it alone with two children again.
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo recounts to the other hobbits Bilbo’s thoughts about traveling in the world: ” ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ ”
It’s hard to believe there are still places in this country where there is so much open space. We were lucky to be able to travel this summer and see that even though there are overcrowded neighborhoods in big cities and way too many glittery strip malls eating up natural land in the suburbs, there are still places where you can get a breath of fresh, clean air and see every one of the stars at night. I hope some day you get to see them too.