Roughing it is challenging and fun when it is a choice and not one’s only option. Yes, I am thinking of the people I’ve handed meals and socks to on the Street Angels route through Milwaukee.
Tent flaps don’t have locks and so one has to just sink into the ultimate vulnerability of sleeping unprotected outside. Oh, I’ve camped in a tent before so this isn’t the first time this has occurred to me but it is the first time it’s sunk in. And for the same reason as above.
You can cover a lot of territory in 11 days. We have driven through the U.P. of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, close to 3,300 miles and we’re not done yet. But you have to like being on the road in a serious way.
If a two-lane road goes pretty much the same place as the interstate, take the two-laner. You will see and feel a thousand times more. Favorite roads on this trip U.S. 2, U.S. 12, U.S. 212 and any road in Canada.
Taking a dog on a road trip will save you a ton of money, especially if it’s hot and you can’t leave the dog in the car to eat in a restaurant. Which is fine with me because I’d rather pull off the road in some beautiful place and make a sandwich.
If you are in a small town and have no internet, go to the local library. They will always be nice to you and the bathrooms will be super clean.
Map-reading skills are still important because, guess what, GPS doesn’t work if you have no internet. I spent this entire trip with our big road atlas either on my lap or tucked in the seat next to me. And, yes, we got turned around several times much like our non-internet-using parents did, but in the turning around saw a lot of things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
The West is vast and there aren’t a lot of people. Sometimes we were on roads that were so lonely that I wondered how long we’d sit there if our truck broke down. We had food and water and blankets so it would be okay no matter what.
As in every endeavor, it is best to have uncomplaining, stalwart companions. I had two on this trip – my intrepid husband, Howard, and our sweet, calm dog, Swirl, with whom I watched an impressive lightening storm from our truck at 4:00 in the morning as it passed over our campsite and, when it was over and just flashing off in the distance, went back to sleep in our tiny tent until the sun’s light and heat woke us.
The sky – when your view of it is unencumbered by buildings or traffic or your preoccupation with terrible things in the world – is a panorama of hope and danger and redemption. You just have to watch for it.
Looking for something special? Search the back room!
Listen to Jan read her essay “Billy” presented on WUWM’s Lake Effect.
Jan’s essay “At the Breakfast Bar” on WUWM Lake Effect
Jan’s essay “The Parish Hall,” on WUWM Lake Effect May 27, 2020
“Fury Cannot Touch Me,” Modern Love, NYT, 9/29/11
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