Yesterday, August 31, was D-Day—or “Done Day” as we’ve called it in Madge the Van. After 14 months and 48,917 miles, we crossed the Potomac River into DC. Back to where this madness began 427 days ago.
In embarking on this odyssey, we answered a call from The Road to explore the places and people it connects—to take advantage of this brilliant moment in time when each and every corner of the map is accessible by automobile, but when travel is still just difficult enough to make you earn the reward of the view out the windshield. And it’s been a hell of a view.
The Road has wound through the hardwood forests of the Great Lakes, cut through fields of late-summer sunflowers, and passed through groves of cacti, silhouetted in the sunset. It’s climbed the Rockies over and again, plummeted into sub-sea level valleys, and serpentined along the Pacific coast. It’s crossed borders and time zones. It’s disappeared into the flooded bogs of the Mississippi Delta, crossed Native American reservations, and meandered along the Rio Grande. It’s been potholed, washboarded, rutted, snowy, smoky, muddy, and dusty. Our Road has been slowed by Southern California traffic, and it’s been rushed by the impatient horns of Pacific Northwest logging trucks. We’ve traced old roads—trails of explorers, pioneers, exhausted laborers, and civil rights leaders. We’ve turned back a time or two when The Road seemed too perilous for our four-wheeled companion. And we’ve pushed on towards the vanishing point on the desert horizon—onto a new place in the distance. Just over the next mountain range.
On The Road, we’ve been greeted with humbling hospitality of an occasional roof over our heads—from Tom and Fran, Erin, Wendy and Dan, Bentley and Kristy, Janis and Laura, Alyssa and Tom, Andre, Lauren and Jonathan, Tarane and Andres, Paige and Josh, Elise and Vineeth, Mike and his family, and Tim and Alana. We’ve kept rolling along The Road thanks, in no small part, to a few mechanic’s wrenches.
We have, I think, grown and learned from The Road. Together in a home only a few feet wide, Angie and I have learned patience with each other and patience with the possibility of a single day. While fixing another snapped throttle cable on the shoulder of 1-15, I learned to embrace the adventure inherent in setting aside plans and accept spontaneity’s invitation. We’ve experienced the incredible rewards of pursuing things that are difficult, and learned to embrace the challenge of the unordinary. And while sharing a laugh with a rugged, road-worn fellow traveler also brushing his teeth in a Wal-Mart bathroom, or chatting with a fellow van-dweller, a former convict now on The Road with his black lab seeking a new start in life, we’ve learned to be slower to judge the circumstances of others. Bathed in the glow of the rising sun from atop the Olympic Mountains, we’ve learned that it’s impossible to regret waking up for sunrise. I’ve learned photography, too.
As I think back on the past year, it’s the mornings that stand out most vibrantly in my memory. Probably because they became so routine, no matter whether we were camped between idling trucks at a highway rest stop, or just above the high tide line on the Louisiana beach. Coax ourselves out from under the mound of blankets into the cozy confines of the van. Fog up the van’s windows with a pot of whistling tea. Dress and break down camp—latch Madge’s pop top, tie back the curtains, secure the water jugs, turn off the propane. Sometimes in the rain, sometimes warmed by the desert’s brilliant morning sun, sometimes with the crunch of frost under foot. Hoist ourselves into Madge’s twin captain chairs. Study the atlas. Choose today’s destination. And go.
In my first post on our blog, I wrote about how The Road—after it whisks you away—how it can also take you back again. It has. Through mountain passes, prairies, deserts, swamps, and rainforests, it’s taken us back home to family and friends, incredibly thankful for the opportunity to fulfill a dream, simplify our days, reprioritize our future, and see the sun rise and set amongst nature’s bounty.
A plaque along the old Natchez Trace road instructed of us: “Travel down this shaded trail—leave your prints in the dust, not for others to see, but for the road to remember.” We’ll remember every moment of this maniac journey forever. If The Road remembers our travels, as well, all the better.
(Thanks for following along with our travels! The following photos are from our travels through Northern California and Western Oregon in May and June. We’ll have more posts to come, sharing our subsequent adventures through the Northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, and our eastward path home.)