The Big Trip and the pleasures of solitary travel ~

So here’s the deal: Despite my lousy physical condition, I decided to take a road trip. I’ve been hankering to go on a road trip for at least a year now. My family took road-trip vacations every year in a fully packed VW Beetle (this would now be considered child cruelty) and later a VW Squareback. Such a practice either turns a child against road trips for life or puts a nostalgic love of road trips into a child’s blood, where it causes lifelong wanderlust. In my case, it’s in my blood.

But various things caused delays, most notably something that wasn’t in my blood: iron. It took a year and a seemingly ridiculous number of tests for a family practitioner, a gastroenterologist, a rheumatologist, and a hematologist to collectively rule out explanations, both mundane and ghastly, for my severe iron-deficiency anemia. (The final diagnosis: Iron-deficiency anemia of unexplained cause.) The delay also included a three-month trial on iron supplements. Those supplements did very little, so just over 12 months after my anemia was discovered, I finally had a series of iron infusions that brought my iron levels up to normal. This newfound normality (my sister might suggest noting here that I am normal only in this one respect, so there you go) didn’t seem to give me any energy boost, but I was determined to attempt this trip nonetheless.

I live in southern Illinois, and my primary goal was to travel to Fort Collins, Colo., to see if it might be a good place for me and my sister to move. My second goal was to find some lonely back roads in order to match my mood over the past few months and years, which I would describe as “high lonely.” My third goal was to take photographs, and my fourth was simply to see if I could carry out what I planned. So I prepared to spend as long as a month on the trip, because I knew I’d need to build in time for periodically crashing at a motel and sleeping through the next day.

There were some bad days and a couple of scares, but: I did it! And it was great. It’s fortunate I was alone, because I changed my plans frequently, sometimes on the slightest of whims, sometimes depending on how I felt at the time, and once on account of the car (more of that later). Only the most easygoing companion, someone with no agenda whatsoever, could have put up with this. For me, it was liberating. I didn’t have to worry about whether someone else would object to a given route, or a given activity, or a given eatery, or a given anything. So I planned well but I also did what I pleased, some of it on the spur of the moment. The trip didn’t rid me of my desire for a life partner, but it proved decisively what shorter solo trips had hinted: Solitary travel has its joys. I savored them.

The trip by the numbers:
Miles: 2,625
Days: 15, 3 1/2 of which were spent crashed at a motel
Photographs taken: don’t know; more than 1,000
Photographs saved: somewhere around 600; much more pruning needed
Average temperature: hot, but tolerable due to the much lower humidity
Highest elevation reached: approx. 11,700 feet, Forest Canyon overlook, Rocky Mtn Natl Park
Cost: yes 😦

Next up: some photos and some of the writing I did while on the road.

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