JULY GOALS: Are being amended…
Before my boyfriend and I started our cross-country trip from Virginia to Seattle, I had fantasies of the journey. I imagined us riding barefoot in the car, watching amber waves of grains roll by outside our windows. We’d play each other our favorite music, have singalongs, get into deep discussions about philosophy. When we passed billboards for fun, crazy things, we would veer off the highway and have adventures in podunk towns, or at weird, roadside attractions. At night, in our motel room, we’d read quietly or watch a movie on my computer. If the motel had Internet, I’d write blog entries and email assignments to my ESL students. In the early morning, Paul would go for a run, and I’d sit out on the cool concrete of the motel walkway, meditating and doing yoga by the blue glow of the vending machines. Then we’d start off, happy and refreshed, ready for another day on the road.
But, of course, it wasn’t exactly like that. Paul seemed disinterested when I tried to turn him on to Radiohead, and our deep discussions were curtailed by my brain-crushing migraines, which were triggered, I suppose, by motion-sickness and the bright sun.
I didn’t realize how tiring and stressful our trip would be. For the first few days, I was often cranky from my migraines and popping wooze-inducing meds, which meant Paul had to do three-fourths of the driving, which in turn made him cranky. On top of all the crankiness, there was stress from the fact that we were uprooting ourselves and moving nearly 3,000 miles away from everything and everyone we’ve ever known. The driving was long, and even though the sight-seeing was fun, it was exhausting. Every night, when we found a motel and lugged our suitcases up to our room, we fell into bed almost immediately, waking up in the morning still groggy and sore.
By Day 4, I had managed to get my headaches under control, but Paul and I were both tired and sore from our adventures the previous day at the tacky tourist town of Wisconsin Dells. I was also annoyed because the Internet at the motels we’d been staying in for the past few days had been so slow and crappy I’d been unable to do much more than check my email before it kicked me off. But I tried to stay positive. I was sure I’d have a chance to write and post a blog entry in the next day or so.
“I’m sorry I’ve been so cranky lately,” I told Paul as I drove us through the flat, desolate landscape of eastern North Dakota. “I’m going to try to be more positive, I promise.” One of my goals for July was to stop myself from saying negative things, but that had been really hard to do when I was tired, or hungry, or suffering from mind-mashing migraines.
“It’s OK,” Paul said. “I should try not to be so negative, too.”
“That would be good, actually.” In the past few days, Paul had cussed about things like dropping an almond in his lap, or having to slow down to fifty-five miles an hour because of road work. When he was negative, it affected me, and vice versa. We’d been constant companions for days now, with no alone time, often in the small confines of the car or a motel room. As much as we loved each other, all the togetherness was starting to wear us down.
“I’m going to take a little nipper-nap.” Paul grabbed my sweater from the backseat, balled it up, and tucked it behind his head.
“Don’t do that!” I squealed. “You’ll get it all sweaty!” I paused and tried to alter my angry tone. “I mean, is there something else you can use as a pillow?”
“Never mind.” Paul grumbled. He threw my sweater into the backseat and settled his head against the window.
“Sorry,” I murmured. I needed to try harder to stop my negativity, but I just felt so cranky.
We drove for awhile, me listening to Jack White’s Blunderbuss, and Paul snoozing in the passenger seat. It was nice to have a little bit of alone time, and as I sang along to “Hypocritical Kiss,” I started to feel more relaxed and positive. I was excited about seeing the badlands the next day, and then going to Yellowstone the day after that. I just needed to relax and stopping worry about having the Internet and doing work. This was supposed to be like a vacation. It was supposed to be fun.
Paul and I had agreed to stop in Valley City for gas, but as we approached the exit, we still had more than a quarter tank, and Paul was fast asleep, so I kept on driving. Let him sleep, I thought, feeling generous. He’d been doing more than his fair share of the driving.
As I continued down the highway, I noticed a billboard advertising “Frontier Village” in Jamestown, North Dakota, and then, after a while, there was another sign that said “come see the world’s largest buffalo!” I glanced in the distance, and there it was on top of a hill! A huge buffalo, surrounded by old-timey buildings. My heart skipped a beat. This was it, finally! My fantasy of seeing something random from the road and veering off to go check it out. Plus, there’s nothing I like better than giant plaster animals. I took the exit for Jamestown and pulled into a gas station.
“What’s going on? Where are we?” Paul’s eyes slitted open. His voice was thick with sleep.
“We’re getting gas in Jamestown, North Dakota!” I chirped, my energy level suddenly sky-rocketing. “They have the world’s largest buffalo here! And Frontier Village. Can we go see it? Can we go please?” My voice was climbing in both volume and intensity.
“What are you talking about?” Paul rubbed his eyes and grabbed his phone. I stepped out of the car, into the high prairie wind, and attempted to pump gas while holding my billowing skirt, hoping I wasn’t flashing the motorcyclists who watched me with interest. I grabbed the receipt and got back in the car.
“Frontier Town is two hundred and fifty miles away,” Paul said grumpily, holding up his iphone.
“Frontier Village,” I corrected. “And no it’s not. I saw it from the highway.”
“My phone says–”
“You’re phone doesn’t know anything. We’re going right now!” My excitement about having a roadside attraction adventure was making me a little too forceful.
I peeled out of the gas station and drove up the main drag, following signs for Frontier Villiage and the Buffalo Museum. “I saw it from the road,” I said. “It looks awesome. This is exactly what I’ve been looking forward to! Aren’t you excited about the giant buffalo? Get excited!”
“We can go see it,” Paul said, yawning, “but don’t expect me to get excited.”
Immediately, my good mood plummeted. I pulled through the gates of Frontier Village, swerved into a space in front of the church, and yanked on the parking brake. “Fine. I’ll go see the buffalo by myself. You can stay in the car.”
“I’ll walk around with you,” Paul said. “But I’m not going to be excited until I wake up.”
“How long is that going to take?” I asked.
“You have to give me like a half an hour.”
“A half an hour?” I said contemptuously. “What can we do to speed up the process to five minutes or less?”
And that’s when Paul and I got into our first fight of the trip. I won’t go into detail, but it involved me slamming the car door and marching down the dusty, deserted road of Frontier Village. It involved Paul calling my name and me ignoring him. It involved me crying.
But then there were apologies. There was hugging, followed by sheepish laughter and more apologies. There was also some nose-blowing on my part. Finally, hand-in-hand, Paul and I walked through Frontier Village, the fight already fading. And when we went to see the world’s largest buffalo, we were both excited.
We got back in the car and drove around Jamestown, looking for dinner. By the time we got to Bismarck, North Dakota, it was ten-thirty at night, and we were exhausted and sun-burnt. All we wanted to do was sleep, but the cheap motels were completely booked. Why in the world were there so many people in Bismarck?
Finally, we forked out a hundred bucks for a room at the Comfort Inn and tried to be positive about it. At least they had a hot tub, which we immediately utilized. At least they had a good free breakfast (which we ended up using to restock our snack bag as well.) When we climbed into bed, I thought about complaining of its lumpiness, and the flatness of the pillow. But instead I snuggled up to Paul and said, “I’m so happy to be in bed.”
In the morning we woke up, tried (unsuccessfully) to use the Internet, and then got back in the car for our drive to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I was feeling good. Today I was going to stop being stressed out. I was going to relax and enjoy the trip. When I felt like being negative, I’d look on the positive side instead.
We pulled onto I-94, and then, suddenly, I turned to Paul. “Shit! I forgot to meditate yesterday!”
He laughed. Then I did, too.
So now I need to come clean. I haven’t meditated since North Dakota, and honestly, I don’t think I’m going to do it this month. I just don’t want to, and I can’t seem to motivate myself to start the habit. It turns out that starting a new routine when all of your normal routines are in flux is not a great idea. It turns out that traveling from Virginia to Seattle, moving in with your boyfriend, and settling in to a new apartment in a new city…. that’s a project in itself. I don’t need to add more to it. I think I was being a bit too demanding of myself.
I have enough goals for July already, and some of them I’ve already met, like managing to travel across the country without killing myself or Paul. We arrived in Seattle on Monday night, and now we are in the thick of achieving goals such as putting together our Ikea furniture, scouring the (awesome!) Goodwills for household goods, and getting Internet in our apartment (I’m writing this from a Starbucks). Soon I will work on goals like getting a library card and finding a place to do yoga. And I’ll keep my goal of saying positive things, because that, I think, will only help the process.
Meditation will have to wait. For now, I’ve got more than enough on my plate.
OUR ROAD TRIP:
Day 1: Richmond, VA to Dayton, OH
Day 2: Dayton, OH to Chicago, IL. (spent the night in Rockford, IL)
Day 3: Rockford, IL to Wisconsin Dells (spent the night outside of St. Paul, MN)
Day 4: Minneapolis to Fargo, ND and Jamestown, ND. (Spent the night in Bismarck, ND)
Day 5: Bismarck, ND to Roosevelt State Park in Medora, ND (Spent the night in Billings, MT)
Day 6: Billings, MT to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming (Spent the night in Livingston, MT at the historic Murray Hotel)
Day 7: Livingston, MT to Missoula, MT (Spent the night in St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation)
Day 8: St. Ignatius, MT to Seattle, WA