Monday, December 8

The Dirt and the Roots

The end of my summer, briefly:

I drove to Billings, Montana at the end of August. Coach / Skippy / Mike needed to drive to college and wanted a companion to split the drive and generally keep him from going insane on the 1,800 mile journey from D.C. to Billings. I volunteered. This is a brief account of how it happened, sort of.

Original Plan: 6 days from DC to Billings. Day 1 from DC to Pittsburgh. Stay with friends. Day 2 from Pittsburgh to Bong State Park, IL. Stay in park for hilarious name and possible “rocketry” according to website. Day 3 from Bong State Park to Sioux Falls, SD. Stay in cheap motel because South Dakota is pretty but has dangerous wildlife. Day 4 from Sioux Falls to Deadwood. No plan of where to stay but thought it would be cool to live like a cowboy. Day 5 from Deadwood, SD to Billings, MT, stay in dorm room. On Day 6 I would fly back.

The schedule lasted all of about an hour…

In Pittsburgh we: 1) got lost 2) got a flat tire 3) had triple A fix it 4) found a statue I though my great grand father had made but didn’t 5) kept driving.

A decision was made, I’m not sure how anymore, to keep driving to Chicago. Through night and states I didn’t care to see we entered a new world. A world where sleep is for the weak, rest stops were only there to provide more Red Bull and music, blared loud into the cold Midwestern night was all that fed us.

We drove through Ohio then Indiana in the pitch dark. We drove through the twang of Johnny Cash’s guitar, old blues and Dylan. And it changed us. All the east coast baggage checked for pick up at National Airport six days later. New state, new start, next page.

We drove through night and into the New City at dawn. 2 hours of picture taking and many cups of coffee later we thought that city hotels were for suckers and set off to see what lay on the other side of the Mississippi.

We passed through IL in gray rain, through southern Wisconsin in hot summer sun, though La Crosse wishing for sleep, past Madison hoping for beds again. Someday.

We saw a jolly green giant five stories tall, in a town called Blue Earth. I looked but all I saw was a DQ. We spoke to amphetamine truck drives in rest stops. We ate Chinese food in Wisconsin that was surprisingly good.

We saw state slip by after state and into South Dakota around 5 in the afternoon.
Sioux Falls was: a Motel 6, twelve hours of sleep, a pretty park that had a name but I can’t remember, a bar with lectures on loyalty and Coors light in cans, eight hours of sleep, day 3.

South Dakota stretched out in front of us. We saw Wall, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands, god.

And kept driving. From a boarded up Deadwood we saw the last ray of sun in Wyoming.

We came though South Dakota baptized and came down through mountains to hills to sky that goes forever. Stars like a million pinpricks of light through black blankets. Cold wind and open windows kept us going into sky that goes on forever

See “Big Sky,” just once, before you die.

Billings was: Super 8 at 3am, pillars from history, shopping malls and co-eds, Obama in the same town as us. It all felt settled and nice. Until you looked up and saw jets take off from 800ft above your head. Rimrock leaves an impression.

I flew home after that. Nothing seems as big. Nothing feels as possible. “Go west young man.” I did. I want more. The greatest adventure of my life, so far.

Listening to the cold and trying to remember warm windswept rocks.

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