I am back in Vermont for the first time since October 15! That day, two good girlfriends (also from Woodstock) and I departed for a road trip in my car, Susan the Civic. Our goal was to drive, eat, sight-see, and explore our way across the great country of the United States of America to California. We took two weeks to visit various cities, national parks, foodie destinations, and family members and friends.
Sidebar: This has been a dream of mine for quite some time, but especially since I studied abroad in Argentina. When my dad came to visit me there, we took a trip to Mendoza – on the border of Chile, beautiful, cobblestone, wine country, sigh, I’ll go back there some day. Without a doubt, it was a very special father-daughter bonding experience. Long story short, we ended up having to rent a car because our flight didn’t work out, and what we originally thought was going to be a 4 hour car ride turned out to be one close to 10. Oh, and we didn’t bother to get any map what so ever, except for one of Córdoba where we had rented the car. But we eventually made it to Mendoza! The next day, after riding horses along the foothills of the Andes (picturesque, right?), we gathered with some gauchos and other tourists around a bonfire. I started a conversation with a guy from Rosario, and among other questions, I asked him if he’d ever been to the US. Even despite the several cups of Tinco (awesome red wine + Coca Cola) that I’d consumed that could have potentially affected my memory, I will remember his answer forever: “No. And it’s not like I don’t want to. But it’s important to me that I explore my own country first.” I couldn’t have agreed with him more.
Anyway, so I eventually lived up to that guy’s thought- and adventure-provoking words, and our cross-country trip was freaking awesome:
10/15: Woodstock, Vermont –> Chicago, IL
10/18: Chicago –> Denver, CO
10/21: Denver –> Boulder
10/24: Boulder –> Sante Fe, NM
10/26: Santa Fe –> Flagstaff, AZ
10/27: Flagstaff –> Grand Canyon –> Kanab, UT
10/28: Kanab –> Zion National Park –> Las Vegas, NV
10/29: Las Vegas –> Encinitas, CA
10/31: Encinitas –> Los Angeles
While we had secured a sublet apartment in West Hollywood, Los Angeles for the month of November, we had pretty much no game plan (read: no jobs). But that’s OK! Given that we were in a prime location, and also had Susan to drive around, we did our fair share of exploring the greater LA area, which by the way is huge. Farmers’ markets, museums, internet cafes, strolls, food trucks, neighborhood tours, happy hours, even a concert! We certainly found ways to occupy our time, and I will remember those weeks for the rest of my life.
When I got my invitation to the Peace Corps shortly after Thanksgiving, the three of us began to realize that we actually needed to figure out what we were going to do with our lives, at least for the month of December. My family was going to be spending Christmas in Denver, and given that I was not ready to go back to Vermont just yet, I opted to continue exploring California until the holidays came around. I had about two weeks to kill, so I paid $30 to access the WWOOF directory. Short for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (http://www.wwoof.org/), WWOOFing offers volunteers food, accommodations, and agriculture knowledge/experience in exchange for their help on the farm. Having found one I liked (a vineyard/olive grove called Le Vin), I left LA on December 4th to begin my trek north to Cloverdale, CA. Serious rain storms and power outages delayed my arrival a few days, but I eventually got to spend probably the most interesting four days of my life picking olives, tasting wine, playing guitar, and conversing with some of the funkiest people I will ever meet. I think I’ll just leave it at that. But here’s a tip: don’t eat an olive right off the tree – they are very bitter and must be cured before consumption 🙂
December 11th I left Susan in Pleasanton, CA (thanks Frank and Luann!), and headed to my sister’s house in Denver, CO. While the whole Weschler clan came to Lauren’s for about five days at Christmas, I managed to stay there for nearly one whole month! It was truly priceless to have been able to spend so much time with my family before having to leave for two years. But eventually, it was time to resume my vagabond ways.
Given that my car was still in California, I figured I’d stick with the road trip theme and make my way back to Vermont. This way, I could continue seeing the US and spend at least a month in Vermont before I left for the DR in March. Despite it being just Susan and I this time, I started my journey back across the country on the 7th of January, and I have zero regrets…
1/7: Denver, CO –> San Francisco, CA
1/10: San Francisco –> Los Angeles
1/11: Los Angeles –> Phoenix, AZ
1/13: Phoenix –> Amado, AZ
1/14: Amado –> Abilene, TX
1/16: Abilene –> New Orleans, LA
1/17: NOLA –> Clemson, SC (GO TIGERS)
1/20: Clemson –> Greenville
1/21: Greenville –> Washington D.C.
1/24: D.C. –> Mystic, CT
1/25: Mystic –> Woodstock, VT
So after over 8500 miles of driving, it feels very good to be home. Without a doubt though, these last few months have been some of the most eye-opening, tastiest, worthwhile, and humbling that I’ve experienced to date. Endless advice, support, and hospitality, AND no flat tires, break downs, or accidents – all in all a very positive trip, and I feel very blessed 🙂 Still, I have so much to see! We live in a beautifully vast country filled with incredible cities, food, culture, landscapes, opportunities, and individuals; I can only hope that others realize how lucky we are to live here. I encourage everyone to explore, to ask questions, to step outside of your comfort zone, to take the path less traveled, and to be positive. There are just way too many people/places/things to experience not to. And as elementary as it sounds, make new friends and keep the old! It’s been priceless to meet, see, and/or reconnect with so many friends along this journey, especially because I’ll be leaving for two years! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
Peace Corps Update: I’ve received final medical clearance and am waiting for my plane ticket to come in the mail! Bought a book about the DR, and must do lots of research regarding everything.