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  • Deah Curry PhD

Lessons of a 2700 Mile Journey

Deah Curry PhD blog on cross country drive

Driving across country, through 12 states, all alone may not be everyone's desired summer exercise -- but I loved it. In fact, I've made most of this drive several times before, from Seattle to St Louis as a way to prepare for and then decompress from visits back to the city of my birth and time with my mom.

On the recent trip, though, I was paying attention differently. It was good to be on a familiar route because I was driving a strange car in which I couldn't always see the speedometer or gas gauge due to an abundance of overhead sun disrupting the dashboard's lighting.


How often are we pushing through life without

all the information needed to keep us safe?


Lessons and Questions

The overnight stops on this trip were completely different from my preferred locations because the first night's hotel in Baker City, Oregon was booked up by the time I got around to making reservations. That threw off the whole drive plan -- and became a lesson in adaptability and going with unpredictability. As a Capricorn ISTJ, dancing with unpredictability is not typically my first choice.

Nonetheless, La Grande was about an hour closer to Seattle, which meant I could leave later in the morning and start the trip more rested than I may have done.

Right from the start, the journey was giving me messages of surrender and going with the flow.


How have we NOT surrendered

to the flow in life?


The second stop in Tremonton, Utah was surprising. Perhaps the town was over the hill, but all I saw of it was a gas station, the hotel, a McDonald's and a bowling alley. I wouldn't have noticed the bowling alley, either, except that it was recommended by the hotel as the best place in town for supper. Hmmm, really?

Really. It was a full service restaurant, with a patio, and extensive menus. My salmon was excellent. More unpredictability, and a lesson in not judging a place before I've sat in its booths.

For some reason, I truly enjoy driving across Wyoming. It's the only state where I've seen antelope in the wild, and where interstate signs tell you that the highway may be closed due to high winds. I take this as a lesson to allow temporary turbulence to blow over and focus on rare beauty in the meanwhile.

Deah Curry PhD roadtrip to Detroit

In Kansas on the 4th day I stopped in a roadside, table-service, burger joint for lunch, as I had on a previous trip. It was about 2 pm, and they weren't busy but the service was unbelievably slow. After 15 minutes of being quite overtly ignored, I waved the menu in the air for a while trying to get my order taken, to no avail. Then I did something I never do -- I got up and left.

Not that big a deal for some, but for me it was an act of assertiveness. I felt pissed and empowered simultaneously. In reality, my stop for the night was only about 2 more hours away, and truth be told I could stand to skip a meal or two.

Still, I was aware in the moment that the lessons here were multiple -- that there's no obligation to tolerate poor behavior from public businesses, and that this was a tiny, humbling experience of micro-aggression that people without my own white privilege encounter everyday across our country. It doesn't take much to be made to feel invisible and devalued.


What do we tolerate that we really shouldn't,

and what do we do about it?


A pattern emerged on the 5th day. The tire pressure warning light had been randomly coming on for days, and I finally decided to have it checked. The first gas station said I needed just a couple pounds more air in the front, but their gizmo for doing that was broken. The second station disagreed with the first's math, and overfilled the tires.

By the time I reached St Louis I figured I better go to a real tire service place, where they put the car up on a rack to look for hidden leaks and nails, unpacked the truck to check out the spare, took it for two test drives, and pronounced it a faulty light problem.

Here's the pattern -- at each place I offered to pay for the time and effort taken, and each worker refused to accept payment. (I tipped the last guy 20 bucks, even so) Lesson -- when things happen in threes, there's something you need to do.


Do we ask for help, and accept the kindness of strangers when needed? Do we show enough gratitude?


After this lesson I started the drive into unfamiliar territory, across Illinois, into Indiana, up through Ohio, and finally into Michigan, much of which looked to me just like Missouri. Roadways all relatively flat and straight, through verdant countryside graced with lovely deciduous trees.

For anyone needing to traverse Indianapolis, avoid I-70 if possible. They apparently have an emotional attachment to their potholes, or a government deal with tire repair and wheel alignment shops.

In Richmond, Indiana -- which is a footstep or two from the Ohio state line -- I did something else uncharacteristic of me: I invited an older couple to share my breakfast table. As an introvert and definitely not a morning person, I don't usually talk to other humans before noon if I can help it.

Now I was perfectly content to keep browsing my Facebook feed, but the woman was chatty. We commiserated over enduring the potholes to get to the hotel, and swapped stories of living in foreign lands. It was a very pleasant start to my final day's drive into Detroit.


How often do we leave our comfort zones

and experience something delightful?


Moral of this story -- If you can't take the roads less traveled, at least make different stops a long the way.

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