Heyo, it’s been a long seven months in Pennsylvania! By the last two months I’d been clawing at the walls basically, anticipating the joys of traveling with great fanfare.

As usual, I find it hard to formulate a plan for travel, choosing instead to chase warm weather or certain points of interest or interesting folks. So I was fairly uncertain of my trajectory both in anticipation of the trip and when actually setting out. My main concerns are generally just ensuring that I have some stability through the beginning of the week in order to plant down and work remotely; the rest of the week is a crapshoot then, basically. So I set out with four days to burn on travel and I used them well —

Amish Pennsylvania.

The most interminable part of traveling West, to me, is escaping the east coast and Midwest. I joke that once I’m past the Mississippi that life gets better but I do feel that’s true for me; it feels more exciting to drive out there, unencumbered by low speed limits, enjoying geologically varied scenery unobscured by trees, and looking forward to destinations and f o o d.

Therefore, I did my best to just blast through the east half of the country, listening to my great playlists, catching up on some necessary phone calls, and daydreaming about what’s to come.

I made some short stops along the way, first being at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. Despite it being midday during the week, the arch was packed, so I didn’t go up as it was about a three hour wait to go to the top. I walked around the base, and enjoyed the balmy weather before then going to grab a breakfast burrito at the local Mud House cafe.

I then drove down to a local state park, and was pleasantly surprised that Missouri had such nice state parks. I first visited Rock bridge memorial state park, and did a small hike to some land bridges and flowing water and caves. It was pleasantly cool and humid, and I enjoyed seeing the old crackling leaves, growing fungus, and soft mossy carpets over the fallen trees and rocks.

I made a quick decision to not just gun it west, and then began driving South, stopping along the way at another Missouri park, Ha Ha Tonka state park. Here was another peaceful foresty land bridge, and above, a decaying castle.

I drove through all of Oklahoma, pausing in the middle to sleep before continuing. I do get fatigued from driving so much, and often find myself pulling over to sleep during the midday, enjoying the company and comfort of this great car. I love talking sunny, comfy naps. I’m also thrilled that I brought my basil plant with me on this trip, so looking over and seeing a plant, and my car smelling like basil, just make the trip way more enjoyable.

The next day I arrived at Palo Duro Canyon state park in Amarillo Texas. This is up in the panhandle of Texas which I skipped last year, choosing instead to go down to Big Bend. It’s an expansive and varied canyon area with many hiking and bouldering options. I set off on the lighthouse trail to see a major landmark of this park, and it was fairly crowded. I really enjoyed the crush of people, courteous head nods as I embarked on a dusty trail and sweating in the soon-to-be 90 degree Texas heat. I missed being so warm!! And the lack of humidity was so, so nice.

The hike was longer than I’d expected, likely because I’ve gotten out of hiking shape. While it was fairly easy, I found my feet blistering by the end. That said, after a short scramble at the end, the lighthouse feature and accompanying canyon views were certainly worth it.

Thighs burning, I trekked back to the car, blasted the ac, and went back into town to grab some BBQ at Shi Lee’s Barbecue & Soul Food Cafe. Fucking phenomenal brisket and honest to goodness the best ribs I’d ever had. On the emphatic recommendation of the restaurant owner, I then visited the Cadillac Ranch off route 66 west of Amarillo.

Continuing westward, I next stopped at The Blue Hole, a sight in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. I arrived there just after sundown, and watched some divers go down into the 8-story deep hole. It’s a big scuba spot, and constantly 61 degrees year-round. I slept over, and dove in first thing the next morning around 7am. It was 40 degrees out and COLD so the water felt warm and welcome in comparison. I swam in there solo for a bit before getting out and absolutely freezing my ass off.

I drove northwest up to Santa Fe, where I again visited Whoo’s donuts and also checked out The Pantry for some huevos rancheros on a suggestion from a local. The place was packed to the gills so I got some takeout and brought it with me to my next destination. So delicious.

I continued north, with my destination being a friend’s place in Colorado. I stopped on the way at the Capulin Volcano national monument, which was absolutely worth the stop. It’s a huge cinder cone, which one can drive up to the top and then do a mile hike around its rim, which I did and loved. I love seeing all the volcanic history out west. It always feels invigorating and exciting.

I traded in the trees of the east for the prairies of the west. Next up, after some carefully observed workdays, some more mountains, elevation, and continuing to test the limits of this body and car.