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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Road Trip

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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Our daughter has now moved out of what I have always referred to as "swoop distance." This is the distance a child can be from their parents where an "emergency" response can be obtained within four hours " meaning you can physically go to them within that timeframe. The distance is one which I arbitrarily established about the time my first child was one day old. She has been living and working in downtown Dallas, TX for about 3 years, a four hour swoop distance, but she has now joined her fiancé in Seattle, WA " clearly out of swoop distance from my home near Tulsa, OK. (My children are independent, and really don't need me to "swoop," but a parent never lays down their need to want to be available to help their kids.)

This meant somehow relocating her belongings from her apartment in Texas, along with her car, about 2300 miles north and west. After reviewing several options for this relocation the most cost effective method turned out to be a "U-haul" truck towing a trailer with her car on it. And because her current employer asked her to continue to work for them "remotely" for the time being, she needed to be on-line and available immediately. So my husband and I offered to do the drive while she flew.

Now, I am not the best behaved person in the world on long road trips. I can't stand the physical inactivity. But I told myself seeing some of the parts of the country I had never visited would be fun. So we drove to Dallas, got our rental equipment, loaded up and set off.

Our first discovery was that it would be hard to find a vehicle that is less comfortable than the rental truck. The seats did not recline at all, having an upright position very similar to airline seats " about the worst seat you can find from an ergonomic standpoint. And because the cab was cramped, my tall husband had his kneecaps nearly on the dashboard. The rental trailer had a leaky tire that we discovered as soon as we loaded her car onto it, so we sat and waited for the tire replacement service call before we could depart. All in all, the beginning of this trip was not very encouraging.

But despite the physical torment, we really did enjoy the journey. First we had to cross quite a bit of Texas, a vast state that we have explored many times. Then, a short passage through New Mexico, another state we have visited repeatedly, and on into Colorado, a new state for me. There is no word I can think of for the scenery we passed through there, other than "stunning." Snow capped the mountains and we spotted many pronghorn antelopes, some bighorn sheep and lots of other interesting wildlife, especially large raptors. On to Wyoming, another state I have never visited. The high, dry, windswept plains and mesas were captivating, and I marveled at the remote homesteads we passed, 20 or more miles from the nearest neighbor or gas station. I can imagine the winters in such isolation. Imagining a winter there is fun, living one would not be. Down a bit into Utah, familiar from previous visits but still captivating. Then up into Idaho. Now, I have heard Idaho is beautiful but all I knew about it, searching my memory banks, was "famous for potatoes" and lots of publicity about white supremacists " not exactly a ringing endorsement. But the mountains and canyons are majestic, with small houses scattered at the bottom in narrow canyons alongside the highway through the mountain passes.

We crossed into Oregon, again familiar from previous visits, but the extensive vineyards, orchards and hops fields are still fascinating. And finally Washington, our daughter's new home, where the steep mountains are heavily forested, with creeks cascading down rock faces into beautiful rivers. We covered the journey in three full and two partial driving days, and finished with no major mishaps and an intact marriage, something that was probably in question before we departed.

A few "best-ofs"

" Best lunch " totally charming Cle Elum, a rugged mountain community in Washington.

" Best mountain pass for scenery " Snoqualmie, also in Washington. I could argue for others, but the snow melt cascades of water pouring down beside the highway won my heart.

" Most enjoyable overnight stay on the road " Ogden, Utah (combination of really nice people, beautiful view and a most hospitable hotel)

" Best wildlife viewing " Montana

" Best roadside folk art " Idaho. My favorite was an old wash machine, with the top lid open, painted bright blue and decorated with painted balloons. Out of the tub of the wash machine lid popped a scarecrow, creating a replica of an old-fashioned Jack in the Box.

There is no doubt that Americans are blessed with one of the most beautiful, diverse countries in the world. You really do appreciate how large our country is when you drive 2300 miles, and cover less than half of it. And the extensive public lands in the west are like a giant treasure box " a priceless resource, much of it unsullied and unspoiled. As they say, they aren't making land anymore, and it is up to each one of us to do our best to protect and conserve this amazing heritage for those who will come after us. Once a decision to sell public lands is made, there is no going back, no way the land could ever be repurchased for public access again. The financial value of the lands is immense, but they conserve habitat for thousands of species of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and amphibians " and our wildlife is under severe pressure from climate change already.

We enjoyed a wonderful day of sightseeing in Seattle with our future son-in-law's guidance. On Friday, we boarded a jet headed east, crossing back across the mountain ranges in just three and a half hours what had taken us most of the previous week to drive. Instead of looking up in awe at the mountains, I looked down on them from above. After landing in Dallas, we collected our own truck and drove the four hour "swoop distance" back to Tulsa, returning just seven days after we had left home to head to Dallas.

Our daughter is now out of swoop distance, but we have a wonderful destination to enjoy when we visit in the future. But the next trip will not be made in such a compressed time frame; nor in such a vehicle so exquisitely suited for tormenting backsides. And while she is no longer in my swoop distance, all of "my children" are always in my thoughts and prayers.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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