The Big Trip

Chuma car.JPG

After months of preparation, the time has come; we are heading west to Oregon for the final trip. Since Alexis moved back over six months ago to start work as a Trauma Surgeon, there have been numerous flights back and forth, long phone conversations and hours of Facetiming. While technology is amazing, and we are grateful that it has allowed us to see each other every day, nothing replaces the human touch.

The two boys are heading to Oregon by plane with their Mommy. She has never been, so it provides a unique opportunity for the boys to spend a couple of days exploring Portland with her before she heads back to PA. As the plans unfolded, we considered what to do with the old man Chuma, our 8-year- old Rhodesian Ridgeback. He is accustomed to two daily meals, long days spent on the couch looking longingly out the window and guarding the family. We don’t think he would take lightly to being placed in a crate and shipped cross-country under a plane. Therefore, our thought process was - we have a car, a dog, and both need to make their way to Oregon. As we try to instill in the boys that everything can be an adventure, we immediately recognized this potential prospect. I would drive from Philly to Portland. Realizing Alexis had to work that week, I reached out to my mom to see if she was interested. My dad was not fond of that idea, nor did he like the idea of me traveling alone. It seems that I must have conveniently forgotten to tell him I have already driven cross country alone. In 2003, my friend was traded from the Washington Freedom, the women’s professional soccer team, to the team in San Diego. I had just been released from the Washington Freedom and had time before my semi-pro team was starting up. Always up for new experiences, without hesitation I jumped on the opportunity. I recall telling my parents a little white lie that I would be traveling with my roommate instead of making the trip alone. I headed to AAA, picked up maps (yes, maps as GPS did not exist), and planned my trip West. With maps and a basic flip cell phone in hand I climbed in her jammed packed car and turned on some burned CD’s. It was late May, and I decided to travel the south route from Washington D.C. through Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and up to California. It was peaceful just cruising to tunes and watching the countryside pass me by. It was my first time travelling through many of the states. I always love seeing how people live and trying to envision what their lives are like. It wasn’t until I reached Oklahoma and then into Texas that I began to second guess making this big trip alone. Gazing out over the horizon there wasn’t a building to be found, not even a Walmart, and cell phone service was spotty to say the least. Back then I was more worried about the trouble I would be in if my parents found out than about the vast isolated plain and the situations I could potentially have faced. On my drive, I cruised past Elvis’ house and the Grand Canyon just to say I had been there.

While driving the long, narrow, two lane road up to the Grand Canyon, I passed a car going 85 mph only to cut in last minute as an oncoming car approached. My palms began to sweat as I realized it was a cop. Thankfully the speed limit was 70 mph and he kept going. That nerve racking experience was alleviated once I reached the top. I recall looking out over the massive canyon in awe, thinking to myself, what now? Driving out of the Grand Canyon, it was getting dark, I found a small town that was no more than a mile long to spend the night. I knew it was a mile long because my coach called to see if I was still training as he had booked a friendly match for when I returned. Honestly, I hadn’t been, so I geared up around dusk and went out for a quick two-mile run. The rest of the trip I made sure to find a hotel near a field or near an area so I could workout. This made for some random stops along the way. At every stop I would find a local restaurant and sit at the bar where conversations flowed. During my three or four days of travel, I had one couple buy me dinner and multiple bartenders buy me a round of drinks. There are some very cool people out there which makes me excited for this upcoming trek. Knowing my dad has committed to driving with me on my second trip across the US, I laugh at the thought of my 6’5” father who drives a large SUV cramming into my Volkswagen Tiguan for the 2,874 miles, 4-day drive. It will be an adventure for sure.

Today the PODS are almost all packed, we close on our Portland house in early May, and this time it’s my car that is to be packed to the brim. This week I must run around, tidy up last minute details, one of which is hitting up the local AAA to get fresh maps. While technology has come a long way and we always seem to have GPS I feel the need to be prepared. I am glad that I have mastered reading a map and can travel anywhere without technology. I hope to pass on the skill of map reading to the boys while we travel as a family. It is an art that I feel has been lost amidst the new generation of instant gratification and smart phones. Lastly, my father’s voice resonates as I hear him say “did you get your oil changed”? As a matter of fact, on my last day in Florida this past week, he looked across the table at me and said, “don’t forget to get an oil change”. I can’t help but smile as it was only a matter of time.

This week will go fast and before I know it the pedal will be down as we cruise out of Pennsylvania. While I am sad to be leaving Pennsylvania, most people don’t know it was only supposed to be a temporary stop. Since college my dream was always to go west to live among the massive mountains and healthy outdoor lifestyle. Ten years later I find myself on this unforeseen path ready to embark on the journey. I am both nervous and excited for the changes ahead. I leave the East behind and chase the sunset into the West to begin a new life and follow my dreams.