Clearly we had no idea when we began our journey, how little time we would have for anything more than experiencing. No time for reporting, reflecting, writing, and during times on the road even eating and sleeping. Our well planned six hours of driving each day became ten-eleven hours, multiple gas stations and rest stops for us, the dogs, and the Subaru, which ate up more gasoline per mile pulling our trailer than I could have imagined.
What I remember most of each campground from Eastern Oregon to Sylva is the changing night chorus floating through the camper window as I lay in bed, too exhausted to read and too excited about the next day to fall asleep. Bull Frogs croaking bass notes the small pond in front of the camp’s entrance in Grande Ronde, mosquitos in the trees outside of Willow, Utah. Cicadas buzzing in one continuous rise and fall of sound in the park outside of St. Louis, peepers on the black tarp over the outdoor pool in a Sylva. Unfamiliar birds chirping us out of bed each morning.
One thing I know is that this is a trip I would like to re-trace at a slower pace, with enough time to stop and listen and absorb each new State as we drove cross-country toward my origins. Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina. Then north to visit cousin Rich: Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont. And through Canada and down to Long Lake in Wisconsin, then our final tour of rivers on the way home: Little Heart and Mississippi Rivers, Yellowstone River, Clark Fork River, and finally the Methow River in eastern Washington, sunset red from the glow of the nearest forest fires. Over 7,000 miles in total. We wore the Subaru’s back tires bald.
In retrospect I wish we had more time in Sylva because I finally connected with my paternal relatives about two weeks before our trip, and visiting both sides of my birth family filled up the days quickly. If I find a way to visit again, I’d like to spend more time just walking around Sylva and Dillsboro, visiting the Cherokee museum, driving up into the Smokey Mountains and exploring, and just sitting by my birth mother and birth fathers respective graves, leaning against their headstones and musing on mysteries of life.
To be continued, of course.