Road Trip

Do you know that anxiety that creeps back into your belly as a trip comes close to the end? This is especially noticeable with trips that require airplanes. You give your friend a big hug goodbye and then they drive off to resume their life while you navigate the shuttle, the airport, the security lines. Do you have enough time to grab coffee or go to the bathroom or make your flight?

And then, safely at the gate, checking emails, plugging in ear buds to tune out the crying babies and the guy on the phone doing a very important deal. The people oozing onto the (hopefully present) plane, jamming bags into compartments over the seats, smiling and apologizing while your row-mates unclip their seat beats, move out of the row so you can take your window seat. They sit down and resume candy-crushing.

Bonneville salt flats on a stormy day.

Road trips end slowly, the anxiety only creeping in as you approach the city, the sprawl, the traffic, reminders of work or appointments.

In a car you might stop for ice cream, you have time to spend remembering the highlights of the trip. The trip that is still happening! When you get back to internet service you can look up all the questions you had when you were tucked into the mountain valley where there is no cellular coverage, no power lines, no pavement or crowds. Just cows, frogs, and a few elk off in the distance.

I remember reading somewhere that it is the end of any experience that influences how we remember it. Which could be why I look forward to road trips and dread the airport.

We have found two perfect routes to central Oregon. If you head west out of Salt Lake City you leave the urban area and enter the visual magnificence of the salt flats almost immediately. Wendover or Wells can be a handy coffee stop and, fortunately, passed through quickly. The repetition of mountain ranges and basins in eastern Nevada can be a mental challenge, but the vastness calms the mind and in those mountains are some jewels of beauty.

Head north at Winnemucca. Stop at rest stop 810 for a dog walk, bathroom break, and a tail gate lunch. Fields Station is a mighty strong lure… micro beers on tap, thick milk shakes, hot springs… or Paisley, home of the Mosquito Festival, the Chewaucan River, and the Fremont Trail. Luckily, whichever you don’t choose, you can visit on the trip home. The drive in those parts is half the fun, maybe more if it is windy and raining.

Outside of Paisley the campers were few and the frogs’ music was constant through the night. We hiked the trail from camp in the morning, found a secret pond, and watched the raging river before continuing north. Nearby there is the lovely Ana River, the Little Deschutes, the Fall River, the big Deschutes and a cottage on a farm with 4 heirloom breed rams next door.

Chimney Rock, above the Crooked River
Chimney Rock, above the Crooked River.

The cottage is buttoned up tight against the weather, cozy and quiet. The picture windows on all sides made sheep-watching our very mellow TV for four days. Nightmare Face, Shit Tail, Spotted One, and Little One ate the grass, ate hay, butted heads and occasionally humped each other. The power plays were non-stop. They learned very quickly to ignore Mack, who never tired of charging the fence and barking. We hiked, explored, and watched the sheep.

Along the Blitzen River
Along the Blitzen River

On the trip home, it was the Blitzen River, the Steens Mountain, that legendary milkshake with a small shot of whiskey to cut the sweet… And then the endless expanse of Nevada before we rolled back across the salt flats, into the stench of industry and the lights of a million people.

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