In my mind, a cross-country road trip always sounded glamorous and exciting. Sites to visit, canyons to peer across, large bodies of sparkling water to ponder. Deserts, roadside diners, singing at the top of your lungs to a road trip playlist. This is the way road trips are portrayed not only in movies, but also in many travel blogs and travel magazines. Memories made, new perspectives discovered, glimpses into the interior of the great United States.
And maybe, for some people, this is the case. For us? Not so much.
For one thing, our trip was not an aimless meander through places we wanted to explore, it was a charted and precise drive from point A to point B. For another thing, it was winter, and the route took us across multiple states that were experiencing snowstorms, with a cat howling repeatedly in the backseat and a dog jumping from lap to lap. We were Tetris-style crammed into a small SUV hoping to get to our destination as quickly as possible.
We left Houston, Texas early in the dark of morning. So early, the sun hadn’t even yawned its way out of bed. We had to make it to Denver by the end of the day’s drive, and so had 14 hours of road time ahead of us. The first thing one realizes in a road trip that includes Texas, is that Texas is much too big. It’s ridiculously large. In fact, a state of this size should not have been allowed into the Union. It takes at least 12 hours to drive from one side to the other, and the scenery is nothing to write home about, or even to look at disinterestedly as you pass it.
After Texas was just the top of New Mexico, which in contrast to Texas was a spectacular sight of purples and oranges in the setting sun. Before we became too bored of New Mexico, we entered Colorado, and were immediately enchanted.
Colorado is what road trip dreams look like – the mountains and the greenery, sloping hills and craggy rocks. We pulled into Denver exhausted, but happy to have the longest leg of the trip over with. After an uncomfortable and stressful sleep that was punctuated by a yowling cat and a dog digging deeper into the covers all night, we awoke to jump back into the car, making our way through Wyoming and Montana.
Wyoming usually brings to mind Yellowstone and beauty unparalleled – the greatest loveliness of nature that America has to offer. And while Yellowstone might be beautiful, the part of Wyoming we drove through was a virtual wasteland. Just … vast nothingness. And then, the snowstorm hit. It hit hard and suddenly, a complete white-out. It continued, a barrage of impenetrable white, all the way up through Montana, until we were able to creep into Great Falls at almost midnight. An 11-hour drive had taken 16.
At this point, all illusions of “fun road trip” had diminished to nothing. This was basically our own version of “I Survived,” in which we jokingly talked about throwing the cat out the window and our road trip playlist had been heard so many times we both declared we “didn’t like music anymore.”
The third day, thankfully, dawned snowy but clear, as we made our way toward the Canadian border. Our paperwork was taken by authorities, we waited a long time and answered a lot of awkward questions, but eventually were grudgingly welcomed to Canada. As we drifted farther and farther into Alberta, the journey came to an end. The trip wasn’t what we anticipated, it was far worse. But we made it.
And so, in that light, I can see the appeal of a road trip. A sense of strange accomplishment and new perspective gained simply by journeying from one place to another.