All photos by Sam DeSantis
(I’ll occasionally be uploading film photos or video I took but for the most part all photos will be Sam’s)
I visited Colorado last month with my family and when I got home I was in a serious post-Colorado funk. Even though I’m incredibly happy with where I am and extremely thankful to be able to do what I do I still occasionally fight the urge to go live in a cabin in the woods. I was sort of daydreaming about spending September back in Summit County and it was one of those daydreams that you have just to sort of help prevent you from acting on impulse. Since Sam was already going to have been at my house for almost 5 weeks I didn’t think she’d commit to an additional five if we decided to take this trip. So I hadn’t straight out asked her and then one day I kind of slipped it into conversation to see if she’d want to go and she looked at me like I was crazy for thinking she’d even maybe say no. And even after both of us decided it was something we wanted to do we still went a few days without committing. There were a handful of excuses to not go, all of which I was later mad at myself for making. Then we had this moment while we were eating bagels at Panera when we both committed to the trip and it was this minute of not being able to stop smiling and sort of laughing and hoping no one was watching because they would be beyond confused as to what we were doing. I found affordable lodging near Frisco and went ahead and booked a week, waiting to book additional weeks once we were there and knew we liked it. We had a ton to do before we were able to leave. I’ve done lots of traveling but never anything like this and I was surprised at how hesitant I was. Even the day we were leaving I was questioning it and felt like any moment Sam and I were going to look at each other and change our minds. I know that there are lots of reasons many people can’t take trips like this. But I want to include the financial side to hopefully inspire others and let them know it’s possible to travel cheap.
We packed everything we needed for five weeks and headed out Monday morning. The route we took to Colorado took a little bit longer than the suggested route but we had places to stay if we went this way, starting with my grandparents. When we were about 20 minutes away from their house I called to let them know we were coming. It was a struggle all week to keep the surprise from my grandma. Squeezed in a short but wonderful visit with them.
The next morning we had plans to drive to Tyler, Texas but my grandma told me it was too ambitious. She called my uncle who lives about six hours away from them but still on our route and asked if we could stay with them for the night. We made it to the small town in Louisiana around seven. My cousins, 4 and 2, showed us their chicken coop and did some running around outside before it was time to eat dinner. It was nice catching up with family that I haven’t see for almost a year. Before going to sleep I stamped one of my favorite quotes onto a white shirt. Materials used:
Black acrylic paint
Alphabet stamps (example: http://www.joann.com/image-tree-rubber-stamp-set-antique-typewriter-lower-alpha/prd31631/)
However I was talking while stamping so I stamped “If you look down in down”. Easily fixed with some white paint but embarrassing nonetheless.
The next morning Beth made us eggs and toast for breakfast. She had made pear preserves, which were delicious, and she gave us a jar but I forgot them on the counter. Ashleigh took us out back to collect eggs but there weren’t any yet so she looked at us and shrugged her shoulders after seeing the empty nests. We talked for a while before leaving around noon. The drive to Tyler was less than four hours which was nice because we got to fit more visiting time in. Before we got to Max and Sherri’s I put the onesies I had made for Lucy in a little box. They were a thank you gift for letting us stay with them. Their two story pink house with kitschy lawn décor was easy to spot. I’ve seen many photos of their house but they hadn’t done it justice. It is the cutest, most retro, artsy, kitschy home I’ve ever seen. I am smitten. We sat in the living room for a couple hours catching up and being entertained by Lucy. They took us to Stanley’s, a barbeque place near where they live. After a couple more hours of talking while being mesmerized by Lucy we said thank you and goodnight/goodbye since we would be leaving before they got up the next morning.
The onesies were made using the same process I use here: https://vimeo.com/30253698
We made the two-hour drive from Tyler to Dallas and met up with Chad for a quick hang out. From there we headed to Oklahoma to finally meet Kait and Scarlet. We had always wanted to but never thought the opportunity would present itself. We parked out front of their house and Kait came out to greet us. Cody’s band was about to practice so there were half a dozen people or so inside with Scarlet bouncing around. She moved so fast it was like a cartoon character with speed illustrations following her. Kait’s friend Bobby drove Kait, Sam, Scarlet and me to the lake for a little bit of swimming before it got dark. Scarlet would yell compliments at any wildlife she saw. “Hi you beautiful seagull!” “Hi beautiful baby deer!” It was gloomy for the duration of the swim and when the rain that we had been watching hit the other side of the lake made it to us it was time to load into the car. We drove to a cute part of town to a bubble teashop where Bobby grabbed drinks for us as we waited in the car. I’ve never inhaled a taro boba so quickly. I took a photo with Scarlet and began the process of posting in on Instagram and she added an emoji caption. When we got back Kait heated up a pizza for us and we sat on the couch talking and occasionally being distracted by the oddness and inappropriateness of the sequel to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Scarlet was still watching Haunted Mansion videos on my phone until I had to deny her the entertainment due to a dying phone battery. Kait had Sam and me join her for Scarlet’s bedtime story. After a handful of Shel Silverstein poems we said goodnight and gave goodnight hugs.
I woke up a little after 7:30, half an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off. It doesn’t take a lot of sniffling or movement for Sam to wake up too. On waking up Sam and I remembered that at one point while we were sleeping I woke Sam by saying “I’m just trying to balance this here” while placing my phone on her face. We were lucky enough to see Scarlet before Kait walked her to school. We weren’t awake enough to think about taking an instax. Kait was back by the time we were finished packing and she made us coffee. She insisted on packing a bag of snacks for us to take on the road. More thanks and hugs before taking off on the longest drive of the trip. We were on the road by nine. The first few hours of the drive weren’t too terrible. We knew it was going to get very desolate after Wichita so we stopped at another Panera even though we weren’t hungry yet. We stocked up on bagels and embarked on the drive through Kansas that made us a little crazy. Before we hit I-70 we drove through a windmill farm. It started out with only being able to see about a dozen and then as we drove over a hill there were windmills for as far as we could see. It was absolutely stunning. They’re massive. After the windmills everything seemed small while I felt like a giant. The homes looked small, the billboards looked small. It was the 500 miles from Newton to Denver that really took a toll on us. The sky was overcast all day, which I was thankful to not have the sun in my eyes or beating down but made it seem as if time was standing still. We drove through landscapes that didn’t change under a sky that stayed the same for seven hours. Though not entirely true, the clouds changed. At one point they looked as if the sky was covered with a memory foam mattress that had been poked. These clouds transformed into shapes that looked like eyes watching us. We made it through Tornado Alley to Denver safe and dry regardless of the flooding in Boulder and the lingering superstitious doom of Friday the 13th. As we were getting into Denver I handed Sam my phone to have her direct us to Rob and Robin’s. I had previously placed a random pin in Denver just as a time estimate. Somehow Sam directed us to the purple pin instead of the red pin. We parked in front of the house at which the purple pin was placed upon. It was in a neighborhood and completely capable of being where they lived. We rang the doorbell a couple times, and as if we weren’t nervous enough the idea that this possibly wasn’t their house made us even more nervous. I realized I didn’t recognize the street name and we speed walked to my car and drove off quickly, both of us so thankful no one answered the door. We were only about 15 minutes away from the red pin. The barking dog let them know we were there and Rob met us out front. I thought I had met Rob (my mom’s cousin) when I was younger but he said “nice to meet you” so I suppose we hadn’t met. He welcomed us in and we met Robin in the kitchen. They were so easy to talk to and so friendly. Rob was putting a beautiful homemade pizza into the oven. We talked about our journey, Colorado plans, and my mom’s journey. Perfect weather allowed us to eat outside. I felt so incredibly happy being there: the weather and the city and family I’ve never met feeling so much like family. Robin offered us Häagen-Dazs bars for dessert, which is only worth mentioning because at one point I dropped part of mine and almost ate a moth when I mistook it for a piece of ice cream.
To be continued!