Road Report: Red, the “micro-RV”

Red and I left home almost a week ago, headed some 1,500 miles to our eventual destination, my brother and sister-in-law's house in Olympia, Washington. I gave myself four days for the trip, including two nights with friends Julie Weston and Garry Morrison in Hailey. 

Our first night out was an experiment in free camping: at Price, I pulled Red into the parking lot of the Walmart, and headed for a small collection of motorhomes and trailers at the far corner of the lot. Actually, I parked near the smallest, and then called to the couple sitting in folding chairs by the trailer, "I figured the small motorhome section was the right place for my micro-RV." They laughed and waved. 

I stretched my legs by walking across the lot to the store and buying some chocolate chip cookies milk for dessert with my dinner-on-the-road. When I finished eating, my neighbors were still sitting out and watching the last of the colors in the sunset, so I walked over and offered to share my cookies.

They happily accepted and as we chatted, I learned they were headed by slow stages from Wenatchee, Washington, to Alabama, to visit family. They asked where I was headed, and about Red, my "micro-RV." 

My "nest" in Red

After our cookie course, I headed for my cozy nest in Red, and they headed into their trailer. I slept well, woke early, and spent time writing in my journal while snuggled in my sleeping bag before climbing out to cook my tailgate breakfast (oatmeal) on my little JetBoil stove.

I ate as the sun crept its way across the valley toward Price, and was on the road, aimed for Spanish Fork, Utah, followed by the congested I-15 corridor through Salt Lake City and then on north to where I-84 takes off northwest into southern Idaho. 

My destination that night: Hailey, Idaho, and the home of friends Julie Weston and Gerry Morrison, where I would spend the next two nights. My time there was a lovely respite: we talked writing (Julie) and photography (Gerry), and they took me up Mt. Baldy at the Sun Valley ski area, where they are both fearless black-diamond-run skiers in winter. 

Gerry shooting a photo of Julie atop Mt. Baldy

We ate lunch halfway down the mountain and explored the historic Sun Valley lodge and surroundings. Back at their house, I spent some time removing in invasive musk thistle and mullein from the draw below their house in thanks for their hospitality. 

That evening, Gerry and Julie treated me to an excellent local-food dinner at CK's in Hailey, which lived up to its reputation as the best restaurant in the valley. After dinner, I read to them from the latest revision of Bless the Birds, explaining my editing decisions to give Julie some ideas for her own memoir. 

Dawn over the Indian Creek Valley outside Hailey, Idaho

The next morning, I said goodbye to Julie and Gerry, and Red and I hit the road again, bound for Hermiston, Oregon, and another WalMart parking lot. As Red hummed west on US 20, aimed for I-84 and on northwest, I realized that it was five years ago, almost to the day, when Richard and I headed for the West Coast on The Big Trip, our last long road-trip together. 

Five years. And here I was, driving almost the identical route. In Red, the truck that Richard never knew, in the life I never imagined–without him.  

As I drove down the Boise River Valley, across the wide and powerful Snake River at the Idaho-Oregon border, climbed the steep, sagebrush- and grass-clothed hills of far eastern Oregon, continued up and up into the wide intermountain valleys, and then wound over the Blue Mountains with their summer-green larch trees spearing through the darker coniferous forest, and thought down into the high plateaus above the Columbia River, I thought about those decades with the love of my life, and the path I've taken now that I'm solo. 

Saturday morning I woke early in Hermiston, and hit the road for the end of this leg of my journey. I headed first to Lakewood, south of Tacoma in western Washington, to meet Molly's bus from the airport, and then south on traffic-clogged I-5 to Olympia, where we've spent the weekend with my family. 

Molly Cabe, Alice Tweit, me

Sunday morning, Molly and I went for a run with Alice, my youngest niece. I kept up with the two of them for 4.2 miles, and our reward was my sister-in-law's fresh-baked popovers when we got back–thank you, Lucy!

And as Molly, who just walked by and put a kiss on the top of my head, said, "and then we ate for 24 hours straight." That's about it. The Tweit clan in gathered yesterday evening for dinner (we're missing Sienna and Matt Bryant, my middle niece and her husband, and their two kids, Fiona and Porter, who are living in Germany now).

Cousins: Molly; my eldest niece, Heather Roland; and her youngest sister, Alice (we miss you, Sienna!)

We ate, we laughed, we talked politics and travel and birds and kids; then this morning we hung out and ate some more (Bill's blueberry coffeecake this morning, followed by Lucy and Alice's gazpacho for lunch with Alice's fabulous kohlrabi-apple-mint coleslaw). 

I helped Bill weed the garden and pick tomatoes and green beans for dinner, and harvest rhubarb for tonight's crisp. Tomorrow morning, Red and I hit the road again, first to take Molly to the airport bus, and then on the long drive east for the next leg of the road trip. 

But for now, I'm sitting at the dining table in the midst of family. The house smells like pizza crust as Lucy prepares dinner; Alice is on the couch resting and Molly just came downstairs to toss crust. Bill is off fetching Dad to join us for dinner, and life is very sweet. 

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