Two days ago I left Phoenix with all of my earthly belongings piled into the back of a Budget truck and began a slow trek north. This morning finds me in a Homewood Suites in Colorado Springs, CO with only a few hours left to my destination: Laramie WY. Until yesterday, when I crossed the Colorado border, all the roads and roadside stops were familiar. I've been driving by Chief Yellowhorse's Trading Post since 1996, it seems, when I first left Portland with my then-husband, and headed for New Orleans.
Back then, we only made it as far as Santa Fe, before our used car gave up in the shuddering and smoke of its seized engine. My parents had moved to Phoenix not too long before, so we left our car with a mechanic, and turned around. We ended up stranded for a year at their house trying to save the money to replace first the engine and then the carburetor. By the time we were back on our way to New Orleans, we'd made the Phoenix-Santa Fe drive four or more times. The bright yellow walls at the Chief's always beckoned, and we surely stopped in once--just to say we'd done it--but I don't remember buying anything.
A few years later, we moved from New Orleans to Santa Fe for my job. Things fell apart for us in Santa Fe, or maybe they had always been falling apart. We visited Phoenix once or twice before I moved out. Again, Chief Yellowhorse looked down on us with his fellow fiberglass warriors from the cliff overlooking his storefront of blankets, turquoise, cowboy hats, hunting knives, wolf statues, and fry bread. First on the right and then on the left each time we headed back home.
It was a strange feeling the other day, driving from Phoenix to Santa Fe, like I once did with my once husband. My oldest friend was driving the truck and as we pulled onto the adobe-lined streets, he got bad news about some coworkers of his who lost their lives overseas. The trip has been fun, but the mood in Santa Fe held a quieter note. We got lost at one point trying to find large enough roads to accommodate the truck and trailer, and found ourselves at the foot of the hill I used to live on. It's not the first time I had been back to the bottom of that hill, but it was the first time I could say out loud: the last time I was someone's wife, I lived there.
All of that is behind me now, figuratively and literally. The road stretches into the future, not behind me. All of my new adventures start today.