Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome Home - Road Trip Journal Part 2

"I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell."
Belle, Beauty and the Beast

My tale left off with us settled in a random, bump-along-the-road Texas city on New Years' Eve. I'll pick it up where I left off. 

* * *

The Texas sunrise promised adventure - I could feel it as I gazed at the changing colors in the sky. It was time to move on...because we were on a timeline, we could never stay one place too long. I liked that feeling of constant going...It sparked the excitement in this journey. As we packed up our minimal belongings and enjoyed a true Texas breakfast (and a quick wardrobe change after spilling coffee all over myself) I could feel the steady beat of my heart - it was time to head on. 

 A true Texas breakfast. 

The texas road stretched on for miles in both directions. I'd never seen anything like it. The overall emptiness of it all but also the peace in the clear blue sky, the stretches of land on either side of us. I would say this day, as we would travel through Texas, New Mexico and finally end our night in Vegas, would become my favorite day. The morning ride was smooth and simple. It proved a good time for me to do some thinking and reflecting and wrestling with thoughts. Long car rides are great for those kinds of things, aren't they? I couldn't believe we were in Texas. We'd only just left Philadelphia the day before, and only several before then decided to go on this trip. My mind was constantly reeling at the wonder of it all. 

Texas eventually turned into New Mexico and my eyes rejoiced. What beauty! I could barely contain my joy at our scenery--it was overwhelming in the best way. I kept being reminded of Narnia, in the way the hills and mountains looped about one another and the remnants of snow sparkled in the reflecting sun. The road was surrounded by beauty and I loved every minute of it. I even got to drive for a stretch...until I got a nosebleed. I am the queen of nosebleeds (this is not something I want to be queen of). 

After that little misshap we had our first stop in New Mexico at Clines Corner. Talk about sensory overload. 

I walked into the travel stop and feared my head would pop off from the sheer kitschiness of it all. But it was the good kind of kitsch, the kind that makes you stop for a moment and think "Wow. I am in someplace new." 

Not for the first time on this trip did I feel like we had gone through a wormhole to years past. I looked around at the old-fashioned candy counter, the psychic machine that gave me the creeps, the absolute mecca of moccasins and cowboy boots. I immediately decided in that moment that I loved New Mexico. It was the strangest but most wonderfully colorful, quirky place. I didn't know that with each rest stop our surroundings would get weirder and weirder. 

New Mexico beauty. 

We continued on. As the snow-scattered hills and fields drifted past us, I thought of God's love and how infinite it is. I was amazed how big the world can feel but also how small. We had woken up in Philadelphia two days before and were already in New Mexico. 

We made it to the outskirts of Albuquerque just around lunchtime. There was a weird feeling in the air--this place was odd. Of course, we weren't in the city and any place on the outskirts of a city is always kind of...different. We enjoyed a lunch of tacos and fake Coke (they actually put fake cola labeled as Coke in a bottle) and hit the road again. We needed to make it to Vegas by eleven pm and we were on a mission. When we crossed into Arizona, we knew we were definitely in a strange place. First off, Arizona was gorgeous. But most absolutely gorgeous and isolated things are usually pretty weird. It's like that ethereal, beautiful person in high school. They are almost a different species--they shouldn't be in a suburban high school. They should be in Milan or Japan. And their whole life they're treated differently because of how strangely beautiful and untouchable they are, so of course they have a little social abnormality.

That's the desert of Arizona. Beautiful and weird and wonderful. 

One of my favorite pictures I took. We were driving right next to a train as the sun was setting. It reminds me of Stand By Me, my favorite movie of all time! 

On and on we drove deeper into the land of Alien Encounters. I didn't understand, prior to our journey through New Mexico and Arizona, this preoccupation with aliens. I've heard of Roswell and all of the apparent "UFO" sightings, but I didn't realize that we'd pull into a gas station shaped like a space station, or that there'd be SO MANY ALIENS EVERYWHERE! I was amazed and oddly elated as we pulled into our first gas stop. The sun was setting and turning the sky a milky pink--it was breathtaking. The mixture of the glowing embers and the oddity of alien interest was the most peculiar, peaceful experience. 

Arizona was strange in a different way. Whereas Mclean, Texas was strange and absolutely terrifying, Arizona had a mystic quality about it. We raced against the sun toward Vegas and I felt like I was twelve years old, preoccupied with thoughts of foreign creatures and galaxies. 

We were still about two hours outside Vegas but our stomachs were growling. A specific sign caught our eye along the interstate--The Roadkill Cafe. When you've been driving for almost twelve hours, it's nighttime and you've already encountered several aliens, you need to stop at a place to eat with the word "roadkill" in it. We pulled off the exit, anticipating what in the world could be on this cafe's menu.

The town was small--smaller than Mclean, but it wasn't nearly as creepy. A little creepy, sure, but in an endearing way. And where Mclean was deserted, there were lights and cars in this little town. We pulled into the cafe parking lot which was lit with Christmas lights and no more than two seconds after we turned off the ignition we all let out a shrill scream.

 This little guy scared the hell out of us. What a friendly cat. We spent a good five minutes alternating between screaming and laughing hysterically. I feel like this was the perfect indicator of the tone of our trip: a little scary, a little weird, and mostly wonderfully hilarious. 

The diner was warm and the people had the most interesting, unique accents. Somewhere in between a midwest and southern accent. It was wonderful. 

 Oh hello deer head. 

After we feasted on "Philly" cheesesteaks and mozzarella sticks (we've been really healthy on this trip) we were off again.

 ^_^ another alien sighting just outside of Vegas via gas stop.

It was getting late - I was drifting in and out of sleep when we finally approached the bedazzled Sin City itself.


I was excited in an apprehensive way. Excited because I'd never been, but apprehensive because I knew it would be dirty and greedy and I'd see things that would make me cringe. And I did. Within the first several minutes I'd seen a plethora of female parts that I'd rather care not to see. 

Vegas was overwhelming. There was so much and we only had a night. I opted to stay in our beautiful hotel room, relaxing and reading. I was exhausted. The guys went out exploring. 

 ^_^ The view from our hotel room.

I have to say I wasn't sorry to leave Vegas in the morning. It just wasn't my scene. I'm glad I got to see it, but it just felt so dirty and gross. We left around eleven after walking around for a little...Driving through the desert was pretty amazing. Just seeing nothing stretch endlessly for miles...I loved our conversation during this long trek into LA thanks to Holiday traffic. We talked about space, God, heaven - infinite moments of life and what comes after. I love strong conversations like this that get me thinking. 

 Pretty beautiful, huh? 

Out of all the sunsets I've seen, I'd have to say California is my favorite. Driving into this, just an hour outside of LA amazed me. I am so grateful and thankful to be back here, but it's also bittersweet. It never quite feels like enough time home, does it? I am blessed to have my own little world out here, my own "home"...but nothing replaces that feeling of waking up and hanging out with my sisters all afternoon. Of having coffee with my mom in the living room, visiting my grandmom around the corner. Nothing beats cuddling with my cat while Harry Potter is on the television...nothing beats reading by the heater, my feet warm. Nothing beats seeing best friends I've known for years, friends where it's so easy to simply be myself and know that's enough. 

I am so grateful for home and I am so grateful for this new chapter in my life out West. I have no idea how long I'll be out here or what God has planned for my life. If I learned anything over this trip and this week being home, it's that life can change in an instant. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing on Earth compares to the perfect joy and glory that I will experience when one day I am face to face with Jesus. One of my favorite memories from this trip home is a night where Rebecca, Christina and I laid on the floor of Rebecca's bedroom while my mom read us scripture. It was beautiful. We were mourning the loss of a person who was taken from this world too soon, and just being in one another's presence was a perfect comfort. I could feel God so present.

We need to ask ourselves the big questions in life--we are doing ourselves a disservice if we ignore death. We must ask ourselves, "What am I really living for? Why am I living?" These questions are scary. It's so much easier to ignore them and live completely in the world. I believe we shouldn't get overwhelmed or anxious, but we must know there is something else out there. We must know there is a Creator who loves us so much and who gave us the gift of hope in the form of His son - Jesus. This will radically change our lives and with this knowledge, we can radically change the world.

 "Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free."
Psalm 146:5-7

We are free.


  1. What an incredible road trip this sounds like. I am so jealous! I want to drive cross country one of these days. My brother lives in LA and I've only ever been on the eastern coast of America. I need to get over here one of these days.

    I love how magically you relayed your encounters in each state and how you described the feel of the landscape and atmosphere. Brilliant. It made me feel like I was stuffed in the backseat with you all. :))


  2. I love this deep and you are such a great writer..felt like I was with you