I took a few weeks off this summer to do something I haven't done in a really, really long time: road trip! As with all my vacations, if wasn't entirely spontaneous – I methodically did my research and planned my route ahead of time (only going the wrong way once), setting forth from my home base in the heartland of Canada to explore the American Southwest over the course of a much-too-brief ten days. With all that has happened since I've last been in the United States, I wasn't sure what to expect; this was, after all, my first real visit into Trump's America.
This trip marked a test for me to get over some of the anxiety I've had behind the wheel. As previously written, last year I was driving behind a semi-truck when it fatally collided with a car overtaking the oncoming lane. The first day we hit the open road on this excursion was also marked by tragedy as another major vehicle accident with six deceased, including an entire family, occurred on one of the same highways we were traveling. As we drove through the small prairie town where it occurred, we happened upon the aftermath as a tow-truck transported one of the nearly unrecognizable SUVs. It was another poignant reminder that life is fragile and precious.
The trip was also a time to reflect on my dad and the times we shared in my youth taking road trips with our family's wood-panelled station wagon—an 80s kid staple—and Bonair trailer. It seemed like such a simpler time. One where the realities of adulthood, stress and loss had not yet been introduced. But as I am now the age my father was back then, I realize that sense of wonder can always be recaptured if your spirit is open to it. Despite our current era, which shows an increasing lack of empathy, regard and shame, the world remains a magical place. You might have to squint at times to see it, but once you catch a glimpse, faith can be restored.
I can't drive more than nine hours a day. That is my limit. Being the sole driver on this excursion took a lot out of me, as this was the distance we tried to span almost every day from prairie to mountains to moonscape-mirrored desert. Even though one is just sitting, glancing at scenery and singing along to Elvis, it does become fatiguing after awhile. I don't know how my father managed to do this all the time with no complaints (especially when I was acting a right shit in the backseat). I tried to emulate this zen-like state while watching the terrain evolve. In Montana, this was easy; there is hardly any traffic at all. In other parts of the country, though, becoming one with my inner Clark Griswold was more satisfying.
After crossing the border into Montana, we turned off our phones to escape unnecessary roaming and data charges, relying instead on a Garmin GPS. I also relied on my natural sense of direction which was only overruled once.
"Are you sure we're supposed to turn east?"
"The GPS shows we go east for a bit and then south."
"...But the time to reach our destination has increased by two hours compared to what the phones stated before we turned them off. We're heading in the direction of North Dakota ...."
"The GPS is correct. Just follow it."
And so I did. Adding two hours to our trip through the backwoods of Montana. It is beautiful country, this big sky country.
But there's no fucking gas stations.