Today’s blog post is a guest post by James Horner. He will tell us about his 8,000-mile trip around the U.S. Jim lives in Montana, is fond of nature and being outdoors, and loves writing about it. To read more about his story, check out his website at Dig and Flow. – Svet
I hadn’t planned on quitting my job, I hadn’t planned on traveling 8,000 miles around the country, I hadn’t planned on anything that was about to happen (and is still happening).
It was February, the cold and snow were at their peak, the days short and cabin fever setting in. Meredith walked in one evening and said she was going to do a cross-country road trip and that she wanted me to join her. We were living in a small rented apartment trying to figure out what each of us was doing with our lives and trying to figure out how we related to each other in our new situation.
It was just so all of a sudden. We had moved to Bozeman with each other about 8 months earlier and had been together just under 2 years and I had never thought about doing something like that. I told her I didn’t know what I wanted yet, I had a job I didn’t mind and our place was nice enough and we were just getting settled. She said that she would do it regardless of whether or not I came and I told her I would think about it and let her know in a month.
One month came and went pretty quickly but I had made up my mind: I would join her, quit my job, give up our place, put our stuff in storage, load up the truck, grab the dog and go. It was something so different from everything I’d be taught about how security was the best option, about how a comfort zone was comfortable for a reason. But to hell with convention.
We spent hours looking at maps, detailing our route, where we would go and stay, who we would see, and what we should pack. At the time, we didn’t realize how important this was.
Our first stop was Rapid City to see my aunt Janice. The road back east towards my home in southeastern South Dakota had been well-traveled. I went to school in Bozeman and done the drive many times before so this part of the drive was a bit boring, but that would soon change.
From Rapid, we traveled on to parents place near Sioux Falls. Spending a few days there grabbing provisions, relaxing, and chatting was a great way to begin this big trip. It got us more mentally prepared to move on and conquer the unknown. Our time in South Dakota was nice but we were itching to hit the road.
From my parents’ home, we traveled up to Minneapolis. Meredith had sisters there and we decided that it would be a good stopping place. It was the 4th of July while we were there, we all walked from Mer’s sister’s place in St. Paul to watch the fireworks. We got really close to where they were launching them from and the view was really good, it was a great evening and I got eaten alive by mosquitos.
After two days there we were off again and this time, the road got more interesting. Neither of us had traveled these parts before.
Heading north and east we traveled into Wisconsin and eventually the U.P. of Michigan through a torrential rain and mosquitos beyond count. It sounded like rain as we were driving there so many were hitting the windshield. We got to camp late that night, it was the first spot we camped on the trip and it was a short stay.
The following morning we got up, took down camp, and headed into town for breakfast. After filling up, we crossed Mackinac Bridge and down the west side of Michigan to Traverse City, they were in the middle of their Cherry Festival and we decided to stop, grab lunch and check out the sites. Lake Michigan is beautiful, aquamarine blue in the coves and bays, we really enjoyed our afternoon before heading east to my buddy’s place in Cleveland.
We were welcomed by my good buddy, Patrick, and his wife, Kate. We stayed several days there and after the mosquito marshland, it felt like the Ritz.
We wandered through parks, over bluestone sidewalks and went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From there, we were headed east to D.C.
We got to D.C. in the late afternoon. Mer’s friend, Nelle, lives there with her boyfriend, Matt, so that was to be our next resting place.
That night we went out for Indian, talked late into the night and crashed hard after a long day. D.C. is one of those places that even after you’d been you wished you could go back to take in more of the history. One of the most memorable dinners of our trip happened there, on the ruins of the old capital when the British had burned it.
After D.C., we headed south down the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we wound further down, we just kept going until we decided to stop, we didn’t quite have our next stop planned and so were content to just drive for a while.
The next morning we woke up and were off down the road. The next stop was to be a campground in the middle of nowhere and was our last before we hit New Orleans. As we pulled into our spot, we saw only one other camper in the entire campground, it was going to be a quiet night.
Now I pride myself on being able to make a damn fine campfire, but this was going to be an exception to that. It was in the mid 80’s at 7 o’clock that night and probably with the same humidity.
I worked and worked and worked on getting that fire going, nothing was going to keep it ablaze. I went to sleep sweating and miserable, it was the worst sleep of the trip for me and I was glad to be on the road the next day.
We gradually found more civilization as we picked our way south. Now Mer gets car sick pretty easy and after spending two days winding our way along the Blue Ridge Parkway she was like a caged bear. That night in New Orleans, when she knew that wouldn’t have to get in a car again for two days was probably the best sleep she got on the trip.
We went on a bike tour that ended up being just us two and the owner of the shop which was awesome (check out Crescent City Bike Tours), ate beignets, listened to jazz, ate more food, drank cocktails, and just generally enjoyed ourselves. Lucia, our pup, was about as glad to be out of the car as Mer was. But we weren’t done yet, we were about as far away as we were going to get from home at this point.
From there we went on towards Austin, TX, another of Mer’s friends, La, lived there and she was hosting us for the next few days. After a long day driving, we were ready for a break and some dinner and that’s exactly what we got.
Austin, needless to say, is a pretty cool spot. We went to art museums, ate bitchin’ BBQ, went into Hill Country to a winery and went swimming in Jacob’s Well. Austin is another on my list of places to return and check out more in depth.
Austin seems to move fast and our time there was no exception, we seemed to be leaving too soon, but adventure called and we were off this time towards Bishop, CA.
It got hotter and hotter and hotter as we worked our way up toward Bishop. Through Vegas, we saw 115º F. Lucia was now riding in the cab with us and our air conditioning, and she was all the more happy for it.
Bishop is an incredible place in a quiet little corner of Inyo County. We were meeting yet more of Mer’s college friends – Phil and Julie. This would be our most exciting spot on the trip, we planned on staying 3 days, we stayed a week.
We pulled up to the singing dunes, it was 111º F at this point, and we decided to walk around. What are the singing dunes, you might ask. Well, they’re a unique dune formation that when you walk on them and create a small slide the movement of the sand on top over the wet sand below causes the entire thing to resonate with each dune creating its own pitch. It was very cool. The sound would travel across the valley, bounce off the cliff walls, and return sounding like distant thunder.
Returning back to Phil and Julie’s, the plan for the next day was to head up into the Sierra’s for backpacking and car camping.
It was beautiful up there. The mountains soared above us and the cooler weather was a nice break from the day before. We hiked around 7 miles that day and returned to camp for dinner and board games. We made carne asada over the camp fire with caramelized onions, garlic and flame kissed tortillas. It was the best dinner of the trip by far in one of the most beautiful places we stayed.
We took a trip up into the Bristlecone Pine Forest and got to see the oldest living things on our planet. The Bristlecone pines live incredibly long, the oldest up there was alive before the Pyramids were built. The Pyramids, people! It’s over 5,000 years old. It was moving experience to just be in the presence of these magnificent trees.
After Bishop, we turned north to Tahoe. Yosemite was on fire which was our original plan but we changed tact and had to head around the northern edge. Tahoe was a quick stop but incredibly beautiful and from there we turned out to the coast and Arcata, CA.
The journey to Arcata was awesome. We drove along the Trinity River and Whiskeytown Lake. It was still hot at that point and with the mercury around the mid-nineties, we decided to take a little slower pace and go for a swim in both the lake and the river several times during our drive out to the Pacific. I only wished that we had some paddle boards or our kayaks with us.
Our NW peak was Seattle. Mer’s uncle lives up there and we were treated to dinner and a comfortable place to stay for a night. The next day we hit the Space Needle, as any good tourist does, and then hit the road. Our last night on the road was at hand.
The end of the 8000 miles trip
We drove, mostly in silence knowing our trip was ending soon and made camp in Idaho. The next morning we got gas, grabbed some food, and headed home. The arrival was bittersweet, glad to be off the road and out of the car but knowing that our adventure was done. Or so I thought.
I’ve spent the intervening years trying to find what I want out of life, where I want to be and who I want to be. I went from job to job trying to find the right fit but all the while knowing that the only right fit was the one where I was doing what I wanted when I wanted. That leads us to now, I’m full-time blogger with a passion for adventure who loves where and who he is and the one I’m with.
Go on an adventure, it will change your life.
Have you been on an adventure like Jim and Mer’s? Share your story with me.