As poet Mary Oliver asks, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” In our (almost) post-pandemic lives, the question presses us for an answer. What will we do now that we faced the fact that our days are finite and fleeting? The remedy for a year of loss is a new season of action, and even daring.
“Daring” is a relative concept. My ancestors never went west of the Hudson River. My dream is to go west, traveling across the country in the steps of the pioneers of the 1800s who headed for free land, independence and a new life in the wide-open spaces. I know I’m romanticizing the harrowing journey that could take up to a year and suck the life out of the voyagers. They raced west at 2 miles per hour, covering 20 miles a day — if they didn’t encounter an impassable river or hostiles hoping to raid their party.
Some 250 years ago, a covered wagon was the cheapest way to move a household west, and there was strength in the numbers of wagons trundling across the prairies.
For our Boomer trip, we plan to fly to Denver (skipping the flat parts) and then drive to California, about 16 hours. A wagon train is out of the question, so we booked an airplane and a rental car and will dine on fast food instead of jerky. In the old days, many of the westward travelers brought their cows and pigs along to keep them fed along the way. We will bring Lillybee the dog, who requires a reverse process in which we must feed her to keep her going. We have been to Komodo Island in Indonesia, the Arctic Circle in Norway and Table Mountain in South Africa, but this year, driving even partly across our own country feels thrilling.
In some ways we are old school, or possibly just old. We bought an oversized road atlas that bumps the font up to something that is readable for us. My husband spends hours poring over the primary, secondary and scenic byways that could get us from Point A to Point B. I know we can use MapQuest and several other digital trip planners and maps, but this is way more fun. And anyway, on my computer the AAA maps keep zooming in and out of control. One minute I’m looking at the road from Denver to Laramie and the next minute I’m in a hill town outside Bangkok.
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.