After 7 months spent on my own in Portland, I was looking forward to an extended visit from my mom and sister. We had gone back and forth a few times about whether it was a responsible choice, but finally booked an Airbnb for a month and rented a large car so that the dogs could join in on the fun.
Then the state (and the entire West Coast) caught on fire, and plans changed one more time. Overnight, the city turned from an idyllic summer into an eery, sepia-toned, version of itself. The air smelled like smoke and the sky became a brown haze. The temperature dropped, and the sun turned red. Our air quality was so hazardous it was literally off the scale. I watched fro my apartment as neighbors wore gas masks to walk their dogs. After a few days, I was constantly lightheaded, my voice turned raspy, and I was attempting to sleep on the floor of my closet to get away from the windows.
All that being said… it didn’t really seem like the best time for a family excursion to Portland. Wide awake at 4:30am, I decided it was time to head back east, and by 9am I was on a plane to Philly by way of Dallas. Turns out the best way to get over the fear of flying during Covid is to get smoked out of your apartment.
My dad picked me up at the airport and we spent the evening catching up. Despite post-travel exhaustion and stinging lungs, I was so thrilled to be having a conversation with a person I loved face-to-face that I couldn’t stop myself from talking in double speed about anything and everything.
We drove to NJ the next day, surprising my sister and reuniting with my mom and dog. The next month was a blur of working from my childhood bedroom, enjoying the luxury of having meals cooked for me, spending time with family, and finally seeing friends (in small, outdoor groups).
5 weeks later, it was time to head back west before the weather turned – and because at a certain point, paying rent for an empty apartment starts to hurt.
My mom and I packed up the car, and set off on our grand American road trip! Which – during Covid, and with a dog – is basically a lot of highways, gas stations, and take-out dinners eaten in hotel beds.
But still! Traveling 2,900 miles, over 6 nights, through 3 time zones felt like a proper adventure.
This was our route:
While the majority of the trip blends into itself in a montage of flat farmland, episodes of Reply All, and trying to get Boo to relax and take a nap (to no avail – she spent every minute we were in the car sitting up straight and fully alert), we did have some memorable highlights:
Pennsylvania: Starting our trip with a reminder of the historic heritage of crossing this massive country
Ohio: an early snowstorm.
We got it out of the way on our first day, and then it was nothing but blue skies!
Illinois: Visiting my great aunt in Urbana.
Nebraska: Lee’s Marble Museum in York, Nebraska.
Full post on this to follow!
Wyoming: The Historic Plains Hotel in Cheyenne.
This hotel was a real step into the past – which means it wasn’t the most luxurious experience, but I’ll take personality over a top notch set of pillows any day!
Other perks: it is supposedly haunted (no, we did not see any ghosts), filled with artifacts on display, and pet friendly.
Utah: Stopping for a night in Ogden
Idaho: Flying M Coffee in Boise.
Our first good cup of coffee after many disappointing attempts to branch out from Starbucks.
Oregon: A great meal in La Grande.
Ham and corn chowder and truffle fries, courtesy of Side A Brewing.
Most of the time, though, state borders didn’t matter. We watched the landscape change from the car window, and ended up passing through some vast and truly breathtaking areas. Even during this strange time, I loved being on the road. More importantly, though: it ended with my first visitor in Portland, and with a dog to keep me company during this long winter.