We have a daughter that has been in the Air Force for about the last 11 years. Since joining, she has been stationed in a variety of places such as Texas, California (where she met her Marine husband), Okinawa,(where our grand-daughter was born), Arizona and as of right now, Spokane Washington. We have been fortunate to visit her at all her locations, except Okinawa.That was just a little farther than we could go. Over the years we have made several trips to visit her and her family.
Over the past 3 years we have made attempts to go visit them and several things have gotten in the way. Things that are totally out of our control, such as transfers from Tucson to Spokane, and our biggest hurdle, Covid. Covid-19 confined us to our house for the most part of 2020, if not our home, our state. There was no travel advised or allowed. When we got our vaccinations we had high hopes of traveling again. And for the most part traveling is allowed again. We just carry masks whenever we leave the vehicle. Especially since it has been over 6 months since the vaccine happened and the effectiveness may be wearing out, I am more cautious. As for my Best Half, he wound up with Covid after his vacination and his antibodies are pretty efficient now, so he is feeling fearless, but still cautious.
But finally it has happened. We packed up the van, and set out for Washington state to see the family. Our grand-daughter has doubled in age since last seeing her in person. While Skype and FaceTime are great for keeping in touch, there is nothing that compares to a “hold you tight in my arms while tearing up at how big you are” grandma hug to my grand-daughter. For 4 days we can focus all our attention on her and her parents until we leave to head home.
The drive out to Spokane was for the most part uneventful, driving all day and part of the night just to get there so we could spend time together before school started and the parents had to go back to work. We drove from sunrise until dark, which now is about 8 PM. At that point it got too hard to watch out for deer and other critters that go bump in the night. That is one of the things a Minnesotan is well aware of, animals on the highway. Every Minnesotan either has hit a deer or racoon on the road, or knows someone who has. It is typical to see several piles of roadkill on the highway by our house. Now picture the open range of North Dakota or Montana and you can see why we stopped driving in the dark. We pulled into rest areas on the way out. Our goal was to drive like crazy to get to Spokane and then take our time heading back home by way of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
Every time we travel, I am always made aware of how incredibly vast and different our country is. And I am humbled at how small I am in the greater scheme of things. To my grandkids I am “Grandma who can do about anything and is really smart”. But looking out on the prairie watching the speck of a deer grazing off in the distance gives me pause to reflect on how small and insignificant I am in comparison to this vastness.
Along the 3400 mile journey, I watched as the woodlands turned to prairie and plains, and after some rolling hills along the rivers it turned into the Badlands which made me wonder if that was what the landscape of the moon may be like with the deep craters spanning the land. As we drove on, I could see the snow capped mountains and again I was just a speck in the greater scheme of this incredible creation. Each mile that we traveled changed in shape and form and color. I just sat there in the van speechless and in awe of the beauty and variety we have in our country. We can go from woodlands to prairie to craters and desert, and then to mountains and the ocean all in a few days' drive. I mean how cool is that. And it is no wonder I felt like such a speck within this incredible creation.
With the ever changing and diverse landscape we found along the journey, so are the people who live in the US. We met many people and had conversations about the price of gas, the changes in our culture since Covid hit, and just friendly conversations about life in general. What did I learn from that? Mostly that although as different as the landscape where we all live, we are all a part of this place called the United States of America. We are all survivors of all we have been through over the years: wars, gas prices, droughts, floods, hurricanes and Covid-19.
I am reminded of an old Waylon Jennings song called “America
“Some have said down through history
If you last, it’s a mystery.
But I guess they don’t know what they’re talking about.
From the mountains, down to the sea
You’ve become such a habit with me.