The Big Trip: Day 4 (the last day)

At 6:30am the alarm sounds. We are slow to wake on our final leg of the trip. I peek out the window and see the sun rising over the snow-covered mountains. There is no complimentary breakfast, so we agree to just get moving, fill up on gas and grab some bananas from the gas station. As we pull onto the highway we snap pictures of the mountain range to our right. The light of the sun spills out into the sky.  Today should be our last day on the road, if all goes well. The GPS tells us that Portland is a little over 700 miles, which is approximately a 10-hour drive. We have been driving an average of 11-hour days, so this is completely feasible.

Today we hear Scott Brick’s voice bellow through the speakers as we listen to the audio book Proof of Life, by J.A. Jance. We started the book late in the day yesterday agreeing that the best book of the trip has been The Cuban Affair. Proof of Life, however, keeps us entertained as we travel through Utah.

After a couple hours we leave Utah behind us as we pass over the Idaho state line. The land continues to span for miles on end with game crossing signs and snow-covered mountains lining the horizon. Well into the trip we realize that we are one of few cars on the road since passing Snowville. Hauling down the highway at 85 mph, we are travelers among trucks. I imagine a trucker’s life is tough, living on the road and being away from family. While the truck stops seem foreign and unattractive to most they are home to many of these drivers. I walk around one and am amazed at the amenities afforded to them to make life easier. They have showers, washer/dryers and stores filled with anything you may need. If only these walls could talk, the stories I’m sure they could tell.

We arrive in Twin Falls, Idaho, our previous days’ destination and pull over for fuel. It will be hours before we pass another town. Since we skipped breakfast we see it fitting to load up on egg sandwiches (my favorite food, and I consider myself a connoisseur) at this stop. We order croissant sandwiches and grab an egg burrito. Dad opens his sandwich and notes the shape is square rather than round.  Apparently, they taste as good as they look, as he rips the sandwich to shreds and throws it at Chuma. Chuma, who clearly doesn’t care about the shape, gobbles it in one bite.  I laugh warning my dad that this act might result in some noxious fumes coming from the back of the car. With my own self in mind, I take Chuma for one last walk/run before returning to the car.

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Cruising into Boise, Idaho we notice elk prancing through the brush.  Boise from afar doesn’t appear much different the rural areas on the East Coast. It is littered with car dealerships, large medical centers, golf courses, hotels, factories and built up neighborhoods. The only thing reminding us we aren’t out East are the massive mountain ranges painted in the background. This is the most populace span we have encountered since leaving Ohio.

Sitting back, I’m lost in the audio book, staring at the skyline wondering what it would be like to have a covered wagon traversing this terraine. What courage the pioneers showed as they blazed trails towards the West, considering all the hardships they faced. In that same moment I am drawn to a large plateau. I envision a Native American from one of the original tribes perched atop the plateau, overlooking his land. There is so much history throughout this land that seems to be forgotten on those who travel down this highway. Dad spends time telling me about Native American tribes, mainly the Bannock Tribe and the lives lost. They were known for fishing salmon along the Snake River which was winding along the highway we were traveling. As dad continued he told me of the war with the American government where the tribe lost their lives. After quickly researching, he was referencing the Bannock War of 1878. After the discovery of gold in Boise, there was a surge of Euromericans who made their way to southern Idaho.  This dramatically affected the life of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. The new culture challenged their values, traditions, and way of life. The war started with an altercation during a trade between the Native Americans and new Euromericans that went bad. The aftermath of the war in 1878 was the banishment of the Bannock tribe to Fort Hall Reservation with restricted access to local resources that they had so freely used before. A sad fate which many Native American tribes have suffered throughout America. As we discuss the past, we wind down the road passing a sign that reads “Old Oregon Trail Rd”. The Oregon Trail is a large-wheeled wagon route that was laid by traders originally only accessible by foot or horse. A far stretch from the modern day as we fly down the road going 85 mph on a smooth paved highway.

Looking at my phone excitement rises within me as I see the Oregon state board nearly 10 miles away. As with every previous state Dad starts calling out the distance with every mile marker we pass. Get ready he says. Zooming by the sign we spot a rest stop to pull over and stretch. We snap a picture in front of the Welcome Oregon sign. We made it, we are in Oregon!

Much of Oregon has a similar landscape that we had been viewing for the last 5 hours.  It changes as we drive into Portland. We are now winding along the Columbia river with Washington State just on the other side.  Soon the evergreens are lining the highways, waterfalls are cascading from the side of the mountains and I can feel my new home calling me. I look over at my dad and feel this deep bittersweet feeling washes over me as the end approaches. We are both dying to get out of the car and be at our destination but have enjoyed our first road trip together and don’t want it to end. In my 40 years I don’t think my father and I have ever spent 4 days alone. In our family, which consists of my 3 older brothers and myself, my childhood was spent traveling the East Coast with my mom to sports tournaments while my dad trekked around with my brothers doing “boy” things. When we originally set out my dad grumbled at the thought of sitting in a small car and going cross country, but now he looks at me with joy and excitement.  This will be a time of our lives that we will cherish forever.

It’s late afternoon and we are passing through downtown Portland. Alexis and I are texting with sheer excitement as I keep telling her how close we are. This is a moment we have envisioned, planned, and talked about for months. At times not, sure it would ever become a reality. The countless flights, long phone conversations and text messages are coming to an end. We will finally be under the same roof.

While this excitement builds Dad chuckles at one last hurdle that we must overcome. Chuma is about to meet his future dog brothers. Alexis has a Great Dane and German Sheppard mutt. Chuma is my constant, the one who faithly sat by myside through everything. Passing through the gate down the long driveway to her father’s house fear pulses through my veins as I wonder how he will take to the new dogs who are established at this home. Barking with fervor we release all the dogs for their first meeting. After several small scuffles, barking, sniffing and licking they run into the pasture for a romp. I take a long breathe of relief as they all run and play together. Success!

That night at dinner we clink our glasses together to toast a successful trip and a bright future. The trip is over, there will be no day 5, yet life is just about to begin. Tomorrow is a new day.

Jenna Szyluk