30 days on the road, 30 years in a book

A black cat with one eye is my bunk buddy. Life couldn’t be better. But life almost wasn’t.

“I saw her in the CCU in bad shape. Joe and I saw the baby, ate, and I slept in a hotel…I slept 10 hours.” The words scrolled across the page in a familiar handwriting, blue ink rising and tailing with an optimistic flow. But the words were written almost 29 years ago—too long ago to be mine. They were logged in my grandmother’s journal. The woman in critical care? My mom.

It would be another two days before she would even see the baby. The doctors and nurses would cheer, the book said.


The Rio Grande river near Durango.

30 days. That’s how long I’ve been on the road, living out of the tent and car. Eating mostly canned food like cold spaghetti-o’s, bologna sandwiches and the occasional burger have become the norm. In those 30 days, I’ve visited over 75 gas stations, spent more than $1,000 on fuel, seen 15 national parks or monuments and listened to countless hours of talk radio. I’ve woken up in cars, campsites and coffee shops. I’ve somehow managed to keep work rolling, too.

Am I tired? Not really. People ask when I’m coming home…the road is home for now.

The road is good for you. It gives perspective, makes you appreciate more the little things in life like hot showers, fresh food and good company. For the next few days, I’ll explore Durango with my cousin, the black cat and some newfound family.

For now, we browse the book.


It’s a strange thing to read about your own birth. “Like a reverse obituary,” my cousin Charlotte notes. “Yeah, it is.” I reply. But here it is, in ink-and-paper—documented proof that I am real. (That, or I’m trapped in a lucid dream where I travel the country to find a journal with a record of my birth.)

We spend the night combing through the old logs, numbered year-by-year, where grandmother jotted down every day of her life. We laughed when her house flooded from the dishwasher, we smiled when a familiar name popped up, and we mostly poured over grandma’s book in wonder. “She was cool,” we thought. “Grandma was always fun.”

Grandma was fun, I guess. She liked to watch movies (Airport, San Francisco) and college football (Auburn) and eat breakfast and drink wine. I didn’t know her well. But from the sound of it, she sure knew me; though, I doubt she knew that we’d share the same handwriting. And she probably never imagined her two youngest grandchildren reading her secret red book on a Colorado mountainside one day.

Roadside near Durango

Charlotte and I haven’t seen each other in 15 years, but that’s where this trip has taken me—back to family, back to the beginning. We sit and laugh over a real southern dinner: fried okra, fresh tomatoes, country fried steak and homemade mashed potatoes. And as I get my mile high fill of Alabama home cooking, I think of the road that brought me here: through the forest, into the badlands, over the plains and down to the coast, up mountain passes and into the desert, from the desert up to this place.

Every day, there’s a new sight. Every day, there are new sounds and new smells. After 30 days on the road, I’m a little stiff and a little sore, but I’m still ready for more. One day, who knows, I might even write a book about it…That makes sense, I think.

Turns out, I’ve been part of one all along.


Editor’s note: Gene Wilder passed yesterday. It’s the kind of celebrity death that will be a buzz on social media and a footnote in time, but it brings up an old poem that’s worth looking over. Wilder quoted the first two lines in Willy Wonka:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

Shake on, everybody. Shake on.

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