Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Oddity Of Going East

I have always leaned west.

From a rather young age, I went west with every chance I got. College. Vacations. West, to me, meant mountains, great expanses of wilderness and the fascinating unknown. East meant flat land and more people than I was comfortable with.

As such, it was a strange choice for me to move to Wisconsin right away out of college. It felt backwards -- or at least out of sync and uncomfortable, a feeling that would rear its ugly head periodically right up until the day I moved back west.

But in limiting myself to westward motion, I was cutting a large chunk of history out of my experience and ignoring people I happened to adore.

So it was that this year, I decided east was it.

As I set out, I couldn't help but remember the last time I'd gone this way -- the incredible familiarity of I-90, the hay fields and sunflowers shining. That day had been crystal clear until I crossed the Missouri River; after that I'd watched clouds slowly build on the horizon, looking at first like the ghosts of long-eroded mountains. As usual, by the time I'd reached my destination they'd receded to Minnesota.

So ... frustrating...
This time, I was driving to escape the clouds. I'd left overcast skies and five inches of fresh snow behind me and I was in a foul mood. It was early September, for crying out loud. It was too early for snow. The lights had flickered repeatedly before and after breakfast -- and had gone out completely when I went home to finish packing.[Note: Not easy to pack your suitcase in the dark.] I was angry about not getting out sooner, angry that the weather was holding things up, angry that my trip was starting on such a frustrating note.

Alas, the clouds didn't thin ... but it got greener. It took about an hour for me to calm down and another hour after that before I was settled completely into my driver's seat.

Eastern South Dakota is pretty gorgeous this time of year. Open fields, sunflowers, quietly rolling hills ... I drove mindlessly, working my way toward E's place in Watertown and waiting for my attention to wander away from work.

Given that my job is all about the location, it took longer than I would have liked.

No matter. This was vacation. I had a lot of fascinating and fun things ahead of me and I got to start it with friends. That night E and I would have dinner (with a new acquaintance of hers) and we'd also drop in on the parents of Shorty's roommate. It was an excellent night and a perfect start to a trip that would only get crazier.

East was okay.

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