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Road Trip!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a real, live road trip. Not being a driver (never learned how) makes it difficult, as does having a bit less free time. But the biggest difficulty I’ve had has been convincing people that the things I want to go and do and see are really a lot of fun!

When I was younger, roadtrips were de rigueur. Every weekend we’d pile into someone’s Plymouth Fury or someone else’s mom’s station wagon, and we’d go just about anywhere. Sometimes we’d have a destination in mind, and sometimes we’d just drive around aimlessly for a while and then come back home. On a good trip, we’d remember to bring the directions to someone-or-other’s aunt’s lake cabin and we’d head in that general direction. The best trips would happen when we actually found it.

One especially memorable weekend started off innocently enough, with a car full of friends, a purloined motorboat battery, a couple of two-liter bottles of Coke, and no plan whatsoever. We ended up spending the weekend at a lake cabin belonging to someone’s aunt’s great sister’s ex husband, or some such, and it was an amazing couple of days of paddle-boating, building sand castles (and catching dragonflies to populate the helicopter launch pads, like all good castles have), and pooling together our collected $34 to get a hearty breakfast at Perkins. There was love and loss and embarrassing cases of poison ivy… Perhaps there was beer involved, too. I’ll never tell.

With memories like that in mind, it’s sometimes hard, watching the eyes of my sense-of-adventureless friends glaze over as I talk wistfully about my proposed Wisconsin Death Trip (two or three days of fun in The Dells capped off by a beer and sausage fueled jaunt to Milwaukee) or my Badlands Misadventure. Seriously, what could go wrong while photographing ghost towns? Absolutely nothing, that’s what! Nothing at all could go wrong in those completely deserted mining towns… with no cell phone reception… nothing, nothing at all…

Things pop up, I know. Everyone seems to have kids and cats with hyperactive thyroids, overburdening jobs and Saturday brunch plans, and “You know, we just have to get that flat of zinnias in, you never know when it’ll be sunny again…” Gas is expensive, snacks are unhealthy, and sitting still for hours on end isn’t as easy anymore. I get that. But I’m still not ready to give up my hopes and dreams of weekend adventuring.

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve left the greater metropolitan area exactly three times. Once to spend a bleak December day in a rained-out rest stop in Neah Bay, once for an overnight team-building slumber party (note to self: never, ever again), and once to jaunt up to Port Townsend for the day. Okay, and Vashon Island. Four times. Oh, and a wedding in Bellingham. Okay, five times.

I’ve not been to the Grand Coulee Dam or spent the night in a Bavarian-styled bed and breakfast in Leavenworth. I’ve not soaked in the Wind River Hot Springs or taken photos of small churchyard cemeteries. But I’d sure like to. There’s a coffee pot building in Arlington that needs to be visited, as well as the Flaming Geyser State Park. Centralia’s famed Yard Art and arty windmills in Electric City are also waiting to be visited. And Elk, Washington’s Robot Hut. Robot Hut!

I’ve never been one for road bingo or license plate games, but I think I could get behind a good game of “Count the Cows.” And to be perfectly honest, I also miss the road diet: Two days of Pringles and string cheese, washed down with 44-ounce cups of gas station coffee. That’s the life! Hash browns always taste better in a small-town diner, and as special agent Dale Cooper can attest, North Bend, WA. is “where pies go when they die.”

What else is there to do? I’m sure there are far more grand adventures out there, just waiting to be had. I’d love to hear some of your favorite road trip stories.

Lorien Gruchalla

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  1. Robot Hut??!!! How did I not know about the Robot Hut? That is definitely worthy of a road trip! Now, where the hell is Elk, WA?

  2. AWESOME link to the RobotHut site. Great links
    there also. Thanks –dal

  3. I loved this post!!! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For the past 13 years, the daily grind was always made bearable by the knowledge that in a few more months my BFF and I would be heading off on our annual road trip, also known as “Hobo Odyssey (insert year here)”. We, too, like to stop to photograph abandoned buildings in places with no phone reception, make u-turns to investigate interesting/scary dump sites, and find good enchiladas or fish-n-chips in the unlikeliest of places. We’ve visited several of the “mermen” around the country, the Glore Psychiatric Museum (St. Joseph, MO), Prairie Town somewhere in Kansas, Leila’s Hair Museum (Independence, MO), Glass Beach before the ban on collecting (Fort Bragg, CA), Enchanted Forest (Salem, OR), national and state parks galore, Desert Christ Park (Yucca Valley, CA), the Beer Can House (Houston), Elmer’s Bottle Trees (Rt. 66, Oro Grande, CA), Carhenge (Alliance, NE), Graceland, etc, etc, etc. And, btw, the best egg salad sandwich in the world lives at Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, CA. Now… I just had a baby, so I may have to put my road maps away for a couple o’ years, but eventually I hope that she will develop the same love for the open road that her momma has. I wish you the best in finding a BFF with a car and the same taste for road trips that you have.

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