Two weird facts about Road Trip IV:
- It involved airplanes.
- It involved a flying girl.
Wait–maybe those are the same thing?
Let me explain.
RT4 started out in what was becoming a familiar pattern: a beeline south toward our far-and-dear in Oregon, then California. Those dear ones include some very big redwoods.
This year was especially exciting because we got to meet our “placeholder grandchildren,” our wee twin cousins born in the summer of 2013.
Then, to add to our joy, we arranged to meet both our sons for a night of camping in Big Sur. Son Two was about to graduate from college; Son One was a year past graduation.
Both of them, to our (somewhat surprised) delight, still seemed to enjoy hanging out with the old folks.
But my joy in these days was increased many fold by my own unfolding writing project. My first novel, The Flying Burgowski, was edging toward final publication. The story of one Jocelyn Burgowski, a northwestern island girl whose family life has melted down a bit, takes a flying leap into oh-so-possible fantasy when Joss discovers, on the evening of her 14th birthday, that those flying dreams she’s been having are NOT…JUST…DREAMS.
All that remained, after years of writing and revising, was one last round of edits before hitting the magic “publish” button. I well remember paging through the proof copy of The Flying Burgowski in our tent by flashlight.
Saying goodbye to our
boys young men, we headed east across the deserts. Lack of photographic evidence from that part of the trip tells me we didn’t linger long. But we were with our friends in Dallas when I finished my editing, started my publishing process—and ordered a few dozen copies to meet me in North Carolina, where I had a date with a bookstore.
We did camp once on our way through Arkansas, but it was a pretty weird experience. We were the ONLY people in the campground.
But remember this blog’s heading–going airborne? Crossing Tennessee in a torrential rainstorm, lil’ Red Rover did NOT do that…but she did, suddenly and terrifyingly, start hydroplaning on an I-40 bridge over a swollen creek.
Bouncing off a guard rail, she ended up facing the oncoming traffic (mostly semi trucks)…but, thanks be to all the gods, upright, and safely on the shoulder. Thanks be also to the fact that none of those semis came sliding into us. After realizing we were still alive and finding that Red Rover still functioned, we turned around and drove, very slowly, with flashers, on three functional and one absolutely shredded tire, the 20 miles to the next town. In Cookville, an extremely nice mechanic took Lil’ Red in even though it was closing time. We bedded down at a motel feeling extremely lucky to be alive.
Not pictured: any of that.
But our accident put us in reach of the winter storm we’d been running ahead of. Next morning Red was fixed up, but the roads were now pure ice and snow. We drove the same speed as post-accident, trying to stay out of another one, and got as far as the NC mountains before calling it a day.
Next day, we attempted a hike on the Appalachian Trail.
We holed up with our friends near Asheville for a couple of days as winter storms continued in waves across the country. My folks in Durham were suffering under a second ice storm, with a third predicted the week of our arrival.
So The Mate and I did something we’d never done in our lives: bought plane tickets to use the very next day. Then we bought the Lonely Planet guide to Puerto Rico, drove to my folks’ house, said hello and see you soon, and left Red Rover parked at RDU as we took to the air.
After three gloriously warm days of plantains, fish, and pork, we flew back to my folks’ place in Durham, NC. There I launched my book at my old favorite bookstore, The Regulator—and launched Jocelyn Burgowski into the sky.
Of course our NC time wasn’t all about my author-self. We spent time with my folks as always…
…and my dad treated me to an insider tour of the Duke Primate Center, which he co-founded.
And then of course there were our beloved Tarheels! Did they win the tournament in 2014? I have no memories of that (though you can bet The Mate does). But who cares, when there’s Allen & Sons BBQ with hushpuppies and fried okra?
Heading back west, we took a more southerly route with few stops. It was a rough winter. When we got to Arizona, though, we cut north into Utah, then Nevada, to explore a new national park: Great Basin.
We then had a date with Adventure Buddies Tom & Kate (remember them?) at Yosemite, but since it was March, of course Tioga Pass was still closed. So we had to go ALL the way south and loop around the bottom of the Sierras in order to drive north again. Still worth it.
And Son Two—having just finished his final quarter at Santa Cruz (graduating early) met us there before wandering off to Central America.
A week later, back home on Lopez Island, The Flying Burgowski launched again–on, or rather from, home turf, with local students participating in a dramatic reading at our community library.
So I’ll let you be the judge: Was RT4 an abandonment of the sacred principles of Road Tripping…or just a sweet, lucky time, and who cares?
(Jocelyn Burgowski & I say, flying doesn’t always make things better–but sometimes, yes, it does.)