Since the date didn’t remind me, I’m glad my facebook memories did. Twenty-five years. Yes, 25. A quarter of a century. That is how long I have lived here in the Kansas City area after loading up my car like a big box and venturing out on my own into the big open world of the United States.
One September morning, not far from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, I put my last bags into my Mazda 323, took a last look around the neighborhood I’d been staying in, buckled myself in behind the wheel, turned the key to start the engine, and drove out of town. There was no fanfare. There were no hugs or well-wishes from family or friends. It was just me, my little blue car, a little red cooler, and the open road.
Driving through California and on to Las Vegas I still felt a sense of familiarity – I’d done that before. But once I hit the far side of Vegas, everything was new. I even shed a few tears as I crossed that line into the unfamiliar. (I could so completely relate to Samwise Gamgee when he reached his farthest point from home in the field and he stopped to take in the moment.) I had no experience driving on a real road trip. I knew nothing of truck stops or weigh stations. I remember being in a line of semi-trucks and exiting with them, not really knowing what was going on or what I was supposed to do, only to discover it was a trucking weigh station and I totally didn’t need to be there. Silly me. I drove on through, hoping I wouldn’t get into trouble, and got back on the highway. Okay; new lesson learned – don’t follow the big trucks.
You know when you’re on a long trip, driving along, and it seems like you’re actually traveling with the car in front or behind you because you’ve been driving “together” for so long? Gee, I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way. Anyway, I’d been traveling “with” a car for some time through Utah, when we both stopped at a rest stop “together.” He was a young guy, close to my age. We chatted a bit before agreeing to “stay together” until I turned East and he continued North. And that is just what we did. We honked and waved as I took my exit and that was that. I don’t even know his name or remember what he looked like; but once in a while I think of him and hope he’s enjoyed a long, healthy life. Of course, if this had happened in this day and age, we would’ve friended each other on facebook and twenty-five years later we’d still be “friends”; wouldn’t that have been neat? It’s kind of fun to think about. Hmm, I can’t recall if I ever told my mom that part of the story. She probably would’ve been worried for my safety, but I didn’t think anything of it.
I remember driving through Wyoming and experiencing something I’d never seen before. Blue Sky. Clear, open, clean, amazing – Blue Sky. Growing up in smoggy Southern California I had never experience such a blue sky. I had to catch myself repeatedly to keep from driving off the highway because I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sky. All the way through Wyoming. It was truly beautiful. An experience I, obviously, will never forget.
Once I reached Iowa, my destination state, I drove through some quaint small towns that dotted the highway. This was also a first, and I liked it. Reaching my destination city, I found a motel room and then just sat down. Now that I had arrived I didn’t quite know what to do. I remember feeling suddenly very alone and far away. But, I bought a newspaper, made a few phone calls, and arranged for a furnished apartment (my little blue car didn’t hold furniture). The first week I was in town I did a bit of driving, got turned around several times (I can’t call it lost because it was an adventure and it was learning), and eventually drove into a parking lot, walked into a temp agency, and the next Monday I started a job. When I think about the way God lined everything up, I’m awed, and grateful. His hand was in every step, every mile, every piece of that adventure.
I spent three months in that town, at that job. I made a few friends and experienced a few firsts. Humidity. That was, and still is, an unpleasant discovery. Living in the snow. Driving in the snow. What!?! Fishtailing in my car. Golf equipment. I knew nothing (still know nothing) about golf. Small town hospitality. Small town living.
A bona fide blizzard. And another road trip – to Kansas City (there are two Kansas Cities? Really? Who knew. Weird.)
When my friend’s husband and his best friend drove up to Iowa to help me move down to Kansas I was overjoyed to have company and a friend. It was also wonderful to not have to pack my car like a box to move again – he had a pickup truck. And that brings me to twenty-five years ago today. I shared the driving with my new friend and had a great time relocating, again, to a new state. I had already arranged for a little apartment in the basement of a house, so we drove there and unloaded stuff. Then it was dinner at Fritz’s. And that’s really all I remember.
That’s my journey. From California to Kansas City, by way of Iowa. Many people thought I was crazy for taking that journey. Others wished they could do the same. I had people tell me they’d see me at Christmas, because I’d be back by then. And I had people tell me to stay in touch. Well, nobody saw me at Christmas and I’ve honestly lost touch with many (but not all) that I knew back then. I hardly remember that twenty-one year old young woman who was enamored with the depiction of a small town in a movie and decided it looked like a good place to move and the timing was right to do so. But she did it. I did it. And what a journey it’s been; but that is another story. Here’s to the next twenty-five years.