This past week, we've found ourselves driving through the fog. Like, a lot of fog.
Leaving Washington late Friday afternoon, Idaho was a total blur; Montana greeted us later with dense, low-hanging clouds that gave way to pitch blackness, save for the cement barriers trimmed in yellow reflector squares that transported us from Lolo National Forest into something more like Tron...but, with a smoke machine. Saturday saw us trading Missoula for Sturgis, pressing through atmosphere that was thick and wet like cotton batting, soaked and stretched, all the way into Sunday. Mount Rushmore is when things started to clear up in a way that made me wonder if a national monument wizard sat behind a curtain somewhere in the Black Hills and managed the weather dials to keep park visitors flowing in, eleven dollars a car. Similarly, the Badlands were sharply blue-sky'd and suspiciously fluffy-clouded until we neared the end of the thirty-one mile road, spotted storms on the horizon, and confirmed their severity with smartphone apps.
Back on I-90, we played tag with the rainclouds and wet air that kept our wipers going at varying speeds, but constantly. Rainbows appeared and disappeared. Rain fell harder, then relented. Picked back up again after dark last night when we stopped for fuel and hot beverages at an establishment that was half convenience store, half diner, where "Drive" by The Cars played and a pregnant waitress cleared tables and pointed me to the bathroom. Fog and rain all the way to the Blue Earth Rest Area in southern Minnesota, where we parked some time around midnight this morning, pulled a king-sized blue blanket over our heads, and tried to sleep for a few hours. I fell asleep for maybe twenty minutes and then woke up wired, which seemed equal parts unfair and like there had to be a purpose to it. The rain came down harder. I felt desperate until I didn't. Earthworms glinted under the street lamps, writhing on the pavement, evicted from underground. Around 4:30 a.m., we hit the road again and watched the sun rise somewhere close to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
So, fog. There's this unmistakable headspace of just trying to push through; of not knowing for sure how I feel about it, any of it, until I understand all the moving pieces of the journey; of wondering why I seem to take so long to land on the other side of an experience—a place where I understand how I'm changed by what occurred and by the choices I made. Some people can do this quickly, I've noticed. As the life-altering event is taking place, for example. I am not one of these people. It's not until the fog of the right-now has lifted that my picture begins to make any kind of real sense to me whatsoever. And still, layers upon layers of context are added with the passing years, and some other, different things snap into perfect focus a decade or more after the fact.
To be clear: I'm planted firmly in my particular brand of right-now fog and appreciate that there are things I absolutely cannot know in this present moment...but, I sure as heck am looking forward to running my hands over these experiences once they've earned the patina that only time can give them.
P.S. A quick travel update: We board Amtrak's Empire Builder tomorrow afternoon, which will run us from Milwaukee to Seattle. (I know, I know, we just came from that direction; still, we'd forgone Seattle for Spokane, and Seattle's still calling...)
Notes from the week of April 17
+ a wild billy goat
+ prairie dogs everywhere, and a park sign indicating that they have the plague and we should stay away
+ two wandering bison
+ adding Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, & Minnesota to my 'states visited' list
MEALS EATEN, DRINKS DRUNK
+ nuts, berries, and other rest stop food, until we got to my in-laws' in Wisconsin...
+ cheese curds
+ chocolate chip cookies
LOCAL COLOR EXPERIENCED
+ Mount Rushmore
+ Black Hills
+ Wall Drug, a drugstore slash restaurant slash gift shop located in Middle Of Nowhere, South Dakota, but oh so charming and certainly worth the stop (they give honeymooners and veterans free, delicious donuts and coffee; if ever you're driving east on I-90 through SD, you'll begin seeing signs for Wall Drug about 350 miles out...and you should allow your curiosity to overcome you)
+ Badlands National Park
+ Connie & Bruce, my in-laws
+ Dana's Aunt Cheryl and cousin Evelyn
+ the woman behind the ice cream counter in Wall Drug who told us about getting stuck in a blizzard with her sister
+ the park ranger at the entrance to Badlands who spoke with us about the bubonic plague and how the black-footed ferret population is dwindling because they're the natural predator of the plague-stricken prairie dog
+ the gas station employees who listened to us deliriously blather on about coffee and creamer at 5 a.m. this morning
+ the Target employee who teased Dana