20 March 2008

big fat sack of yes

(somewhere in idaho)

this time last year, we were on the road. we were wondering if we were going to make it. this time last year, we were contemplating what our new life might be like out in the great pacific northwest. this time last year, our lives were sort of up in the air.

on our way out of atlanta, I decided to keep a different kind of journal-- one to hold the small, more forgettable details of our days on the road, one that would give gas station food and fluctuating grouchiness as much attention as the majestic nature of the mountains we'd no doubt soon all be oohing and aahing over. something about this decision liberated me. I didn't feel pressure to document every profound moment. instead, I wrote about spicy guacamole pringles, strange roadside signs and the music we listened to. I wrote about the way some hotels smelled like chlorine (and how much I loved that) and the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping fully clothed. because I'd given myself permission to write whatever and whenever I wanted (or not), I suddenly wanted to write all the time. and that's what I did. if I wasn't messing with the camera, I was writing stuff down. one year later and I've had more fun reading these entries than I could have ever predicted. which inspired list-making, of course. almost everything in my life seems to lead to list-making.

(gas station in tennessee)

(somewhere in utah)

not missing:

gas stations that smell like burnt coffee

sleeping through the night fully clothed (denim skirts especially not recommended)

thinking you're going to see the world's largest prairie dog when, in fact, you are not

pimply, distracted teenage restaurant workers who pretend they are listening while they are taking your order

children who want bacon and ranch-flavored pringles for breakfast

entire towns that smell like dog food

toys that wedge themselves into the tight spaces between seats inside cars and cannot be retrieved, no matter how ingenious the retrieving contraption is

gas station bathrooms that destroy all faith in humanity

missed opportunities, i.e. deliciously odd roadside attractions that look like old wooden dutch mills and boast views of six states

crusty old men who give your son a penny and then tell him to go 'buy himself a beer'

sharing tiny hotel swimming pools with the splash-happy twins

incorrect apostrophe usage on roadside billboards-- most notably, the porn shop in the middle of nowhere called PASSION'S

bad songs that get stuck in your head and won't go away because, you know, it's hard out here for a pimp

book lights that do not illuminate the desired reading area AT ALL

hotels that look nice in the picture but then feel inexplicably creepy once you check in

waking up in a dark hotel room at three in the morning to the sounds of high-pitched screaming and the shattering of glass, wondering what to do first-- call the police or pack up and flee

toy gumball machines that absolutely do not deliver anything even remotely close to the goods

meltdowns in laramie, wyoming

(on the road in kansas)

(ava in the great state of oregon)

totally missing:

so many freshly opened boxes of crayons

enormous bundles of balloons that break free and escape from car dealerships

kitschy gift shops that cause you to lose all reason and purchase totally unnecessary souvenir items

listening to sufjan's come on feel the illinoise while driving through my home state of illinois

finding four leaf clovers at the base of the st. louis arch

friends that lovingly make you home-cooked meals and let you crash at their house for the night

the permission to: eat mcdonald's hotcakes every morning, buy as many trashy gossip magazines as necessary

wide open turquoise-colored skies

walmart greeters that wear hats made of feathers

made-up stories about freddy and fern and the bicycle that goes nowhere

traveling along the original route 66

the sharing of pink frosted cupcakes with one 96 year-old birthday girl

bare feet propped comfortably (and permanently) up on the dashboard

traveling on roads that feel as if they were dropped from the sky into the narrow crevices of magnificent mountains

the tails of stale marshmallow peeps

jared's good morning (and good night) mixes

outstretched arms, windswept hair

views so scenic you have no choice but to put down your book and stare out the window (DARN YOU, UTAH)

extra-fine black pilot pens

late night dips in illuminated indoor swimming pools

ripping into mystery care packages put together by family and friends

freshly filled buckets of hotel ice

things worth excitedly pointing out: shoes hung like christmas ornaments on trees, one very slow moving tumbleweed, the world's largest pair of underwear, spectacular snow-capped mountains, entire lengths of trains, wind farms, moss (like supernatural chartreuse carpet) covering absolutely everything in sight, fantastic waterfalls

waking up in a dark hotel room at three in the morning to hear the sounds of family sleeping soundly, deeply

the crossing of each and every state line


  1. Having just made the wonderful drive from Milwaukee, WI, to my new home in Seattle, I identify with each and every item on this list. Things we should all experience, at least once.

  2. Wow! I cannot believe it's been a year!
    This was such a great post! I remember waiting with such anticipation last year to hear the details of your trip out west. My hope is that we will soon meet and I will be able to show you some San Francisco sights some day. :)

  3. What a nice post to read! I almost choked on my coffee with laughter, when I read this: "entire towns that smell like dog food". Have a great weekend.

  4. love your journal plan...maybe i'll do that for the little one to come. not just the little moments, but the mundane ones as well.
    it must have been super fun to look back over this major trip now that you have been living in portland for a year now.

  5. you seriously make em want to take a road trip with my family despite the horrible moments that would be inevitable. I LOVE reading your blog:)

  6. You've done it again. Just one more reminder of why you are one of my favorite bloggers ever. I'm glad that you landed in one of my favorite cities, just down the road.

  7. your lists give me goosebumps.

  8. Great lists, Andrea! I'm also from Illinois (Chicago), and am now curious about that album you mentioned. We're looking forward to hitting the road south for many of the same reasons you listed here. Happy Easter! -anj

  9. What a wonderful entry about what sounds like a wonderful trip. I drove Route 66 four years ago, and this has me itchin to get on the road again. Thanks!

  10. What a doozy of a post! Just beautiful stuff here, lady. I don't know if I would be good enough to write everything down like you did but I sure would snap away.

    And great minds. I just spent two days combing, remembering and culling through a big batch of photos from last year and posted them the same day you did these :)


  11. what an adventure you've had this past year.

  12. Your stories and details make me want to go on a road trip. I don't even know where to...
    I'd also like to soak up a little of your ability to write about just moments. Whenever I pick up a pen to write a diary it only ever comes out as a verbatim account of every hour. It makes a great record, sure, but I wish I could be snappier too!

  13. Wow, I want to get in the car and go! Hey, maybe that porn shop was run by the kindly, if a little rough around the edges, proprietress "Passion".

  14. these lists are fantastic. we made a similar drive almost four years ago from (my home state) indiana to the seattle area (where we now live). you have captured this kind of adventure (and the wacky goodness and not so goodness that ensues) with this post. and i love the idea of intentionally keeping a journal of the little things...

  15. Having just discovered your blog, I have to say this post made me a little breathless. I am SO looking forward to diving into your archives. Thank you in advance for an excellent weekend of reading. I hope you don't mind if I link you on my blog?

  16. Its the record keeping of the mundane things you encountered along the way that make your trip journal so great. I want to do a better job of noticing these things in my day. You're going to be my inspiration. Thanks

  17. You. Totally. Rock.
    A flood of memories (for me, from 9 months ago) washed over me with this post.
    A whole year already, huh?

  18. We're three months away from a trip like this back to the great state of Missouri from California. I've driven that route at least 10 times in my life so I was counting all the things you mentioned that I've seen/heard/done, too. I think I'll try to make lists as we head out this time. It keeps the soul interested.

  19. I love your lists and your wonderful photos. Your blog always makes me smile.

  20. What a great post - your first paragraph is very inspiring. I too am venturing to treasure the 'every day'. And I love your lists!!

  21. I love that you allowed yourself to record the irritating and mundane. It seems to be quite a perfect thing to me.

    I am curious if the town that smelled like dogfood was in TN. I mean how many towns smell entirely of dog food. I have to know if there is more than one.

    Great post.

  22. I am delighted by this post. You captured a time and a place in ... a LIST! Wow! Your photos have often evoked that same mood in me...but I am amazed that a simple list could bring out such emotion. Well done.

  23. firstly, thank you all so much. kind comments abound here and I am much obliged. xoxo

    laundrygirl-- hope to be in SF sometime this year! so looking forward to meeting you!

    lbrooks-- I know. it's a definite possibility. though the grimy quality of the place led me to believe otherwise. :)

    meg-- please feel free to link me! I'd be honored.

    maig-- believe it or not, it was a town in illinois... so... yes. more than one entire town smelling like dog food. go figure. :)

  24. andrea...you didn't miss much at the prairiedog town. the "biggest" prairiedog is painted concrete. and once you're inside it's terrible...sad little animals kept in bad wire cages, pacing around.

    loved the post! makes me want to take a road trip =)

  25. This was completely, utterly wonderful. I'll read it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over........did I say over, and over and over and over ...........hello, hello ?? Is there an echo in this dialog box???

  26. We used to live in Oregon and made roadtrips to and from Missouri to see my parents. I miss the Northwest nearly every day. Your list made me smile and brought back so many memories. I think we drove by the dog food towns, too. ICK! But, a grin inducing Ick anyway.

  27. good luck with your move!! love your photos along the way!

  28. you are my listmaker superstar. i've always loved lists and you make the loveliest ones. thanks for being an inspiration.:D

    p.s. and my name's andrea too, from manila, philippines. hi from this side of the world:D

  29. The town I grew up in smelled like dog food, but it was really the peanut factory. The smell used to make me gag so bad. Thank God I don't live there anymore.

  30. So happy to have found your blog, and then to see that it mentioned my lovely state of UT. And then I saw that you stayed at the Days Inn.Oh, I am so sorry.
    My husband and I actually manage and call home to the Scenic Motel in Salt Lake and had I known I would have put you up here. We are nothing fancy, but we are clean and low cost. If you have any plans to make it out here again, let me know.

  31. thank you so much for this gorgeous list - makes me long for road trips and new experiences. you write so well and your imagery is so spot on.