Around this time last year, I drove cross-country. Or more accurately, I was a passenger, helpmeet, sing-along partner, navigatrix and occasional (sweating, rabbity, claw-handed) relief driver to my college roommate as she made her way from New Jersey to San Francisco in the company of a multi-colored stuffed monkey.
Road trips often mark life changes, and on this trip, the change belonged to my friend, E. E was moving herself and everything she owned from one coast to another, embracing the classic narrative of westward progress with her usual resilience and vigor. I was, ostensibly, along for the ride- but only ostensibly. Though I resisted acknowledging it at the time, the trip was a last hurrah, a farewell to a certain set of possibilities and a knuckling down to the choices I'd -sometimes grudgingly, often unwittingly, but nevertheless- made.
In other ways it was just travel: beets and beds and rest stops and coconut cream pie; small talk and hail and running down the canyon and growing sick with height.
This summer, I have the chance to do it again. In truncated form, coming to rest just across the continental divide, but still a big, slow Western pilgrimage, someone else's liturgy of leaving.
Do I go? Kansas was an awfully long state. And the thought of retracing last summer's arc -the parabola of the closing door- is close to unbearable.
And yet: Go West. Eat mountains. Stuff your gullet with land.