6 cities. 40 hours. 2,500 miles.
The westward road trip is a seminal journey. This is a snapshot of this transitory moment to celebrate the in-between. It's a moment in life where it's hard to envision the future, but the past is already far away. Everything has an exciting energy–everything is beautiful.
Day one was short but draining. We made our first leg from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids, IA to stay with family. It rained the entire drive. Rain in February in Minnesota, the symbolism was not lost on me.
Day two was our longest. The drive from Cedar Rapids to Denver began before sunrise. As the sun peeked up over the horizon, so did a layer of fog. We stopped only for gas and fast food in Nebraska, America's pit stop. We yelled at cows from the window. As we entered into Colorado, the landscape immediately felt different. We watched the sunset over the mountains as we headed west. In Denver, we stayed with more family. We ate carne asada for dinner and fell asleep before 10pm.
Day three had promise. Our day's destination was New Mexico, a city we've never been to. We decided to take the interstate toward Great Sand Dunes National Park. The winds fought us the whole way, and when we arrived at the park we got totally sand blasted. I tried to take pictures, but the first one I took immediately flew out of my hands and we ran across sand dunes to catch it. It was exhausting, but the dunes were ethereal. We took the scenic route the rest of the way to Santa Fe and watched the landscape turn to desert. Watching the colors change from the robust forest tones to the cool blue-greens and deep reds of the winter desert was mesmerizing as we approached Santa Fe. We stayed in a boutique hotel that boasted a lot of history and a ghost tour to go with it. We ate James Beard award winning Mexican food and had several margaritas before walking through the square. We felt the history of the town in our short stay.
Day four started slow as we enjoyed the luxury that a king sized hotel bed provides. The temperature had dropped overnight, but we left our windows open to enjoy the mountain view and let the crisp breeze in. The colors in the hotel decor matched the desert tones and it was the first hint of our final destination in California. We walked to breakfast and carried on to our next stop: The Grand Canyon. We'd be staying overnight with a park ranger, a good friend of ours. The drive from Santa Fe to Desert View Watch Tower was incredible. The views were straight out of and old western movie. Tony awed at the long trains like a little kid. We didn't realize we'd be driving right through Arizona's Petrified Forest and we wished we had time to stop. We were hoping to get to the Grand Canyon for sunset, and we did. Our friend made us enchiladas and took us to look at the stars on the edge of the canyon (with hot toddies in hand). I've never seen so many stars, we caught shooting stars too. It was so dark we could see the lights all the way in Las Vegas.
Day five, our final stretch. This day began at sunrise, but just so we could catch it at the same point we watched the stars the night before. It was bitterly cold, but it was easy to ignore when you could watch the colors and shadows of the canyon change right before your eyes as the sun rose higher and higher. Our personal ranger could teach us all about the canyon as we watched it wake up.
As we reached the California border and the Mojave Desert, I could feel that we were close. The mountains and colors just felt like California. After 39 hours of driving on the interstate, hitting traffic in the mountains outside LA was overwhelming and unfamiliar. Paired with the altitude drop, the move suddenly felt real. I could feel that it was the end of the in-between. Hello, next chapter.