Wanderer Out West - Bound & Determined. Part 1.
I have always been a wanderer at heart.
Even when I was younger I loved traveling anywhere and everywhere. In high school I was a part of the marketing program called DECA, and we traveled to Atlanta, Nashville, NYC, and more. I traveled to Spain my Junior year of high school as well, and absolutely fell in love with it. Last year I wanted nothing more than to be as far away from New York City as possible for New Year's Eve and my birthday. I rounded up some girlfriends and headed to Europe for 2 weeks, traveling through London, Dublin and Paris. It was an absolute blast, BUT also the most stressful trip I had been on for a long time.
In May of 2017 I lost the love of my life in the form of an 80lb, white German Shepherd-Husky Mix, with one eye, named Popeye. I was absolutely devastated. As the hurt slowly subsided in the weeks to follow I thought of how much easier it was going to be to go on my Euro trip. Popeye was a rescue and absolutely terrified of anyone that wasn't me, so I was already stressing out about where he would stay while I was gone. When he died I thought to myself "Ok Jess. Wait until after your trip, and then if you still want another dog, get another dog in the New Year." I really did try. In all honesty though I felt like a piece of me had gone missing. I had no clue how to actually function without Popeye by my side, and even simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning stressed me out, because normally I would know what temperature I should dress for by taking Popeye on walks in the morning. So, I did the irrational, grieving thing, and I found this adorable Catahoula/Hound Mix online and adopted him.
In mid-July I met the 55lb. nut job of a dog that I named Sir John Lennon - Lennon for short. He was multi-colored, goofy as all hell, and immediately snuggled his way into my heart. Yes, for a few weeks after I got him I would sometimes sit alone in my apartment (perhaps a little bit tipsy) and think, "what the fuck did I just do?!" But then again, there were moments when all I wanted was Popeye, and Lennon would be there, ready and willing to curl up on the couch next to me and let me snuggle him and cry.
In December, when I was headed out to my trip, I dropped him off at my friend's house to stay while I was gone. Her and her boyfriend had just gotten a new puppy of their own so I figured they'd be great together. It was right after Christmas so naturally Lennon walked in and peed on their Christmas tree/floor. I should've known right there it wasn't going to work. Instead, I packed up and left for two weeks. Less than a week into my trip I got a text saying that if possible she'd love for Lennon to have another place to stay while I was gone. Six hours ahead, and an ocean away, my stress level went from 0 to 100 real quick. I remember sitting in a Dublin pub trying to figure out what on earth I was going to do with Lennon. Thankfully my friend Ellie, who was on the trip with me, said her brother would be able to go and walk him if my friend was able to bring him back to my apt. The problem was solved within two days. Lennon was dropped off back at my apt and Ellie's brother was kind enough to walk him for the remainder of the trip. Phew!
To be honest though the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm someone who becomes very attached to their animals and just generally feel much better when I'm around them. I knew that going on another out of country trip, was not something I could do anytime soon. I finally admitted to myself that MAYBE I had jumped into getting another dog too soon. I loved to travel, but having to worry about my animals while doing it was something that made my trips a little less enjoyable. After chatting with my best friend from home, and discussing my dilemma, I decided that one of the things I have always wanted to do was a US cross-country road trip. I figured that if I wanted to continue traveling, and enjoy my time away, I might as well do it in my own country; in my own car; where I could actually bring my animals with me (more specifically Lennon. Maisey's a bitch to be honest lol). I had been obsessing over Moab, UT for quite some time and figured since I never really used my vacation days for work I would take 10 days off, drive out to Moab, hike for 3-4 days, then drive back. By the time February rolled around though I had quit my job and decided to start my own PR company. All of a sudden I realized how easy it would be for me to just work from the road.
I slowly started planning when I would leave, and when I would tentatively return to NY. With Lennon by my side though, and my business easily accessible from my laptop, I could be gone as long as my funds allowed. My first plan was for six weeks. I would leave in mid-July, and return in mid-August; giving myself a few days to acclimate and then head up North to Vermont for my nephew's birthday. Perfect. It was settled. I started blocking off those six weeks making sure anyone who tried to make plans with me knew I was not planning on being anywhere near the East coast during those weeks. My original plan was to simply take off by myself, stay with friends/family along the way, and pick-up any friends who were able to fly out and meet me as I went.
As the months continued on though I started actively looking for someone to actually START my journey with. THAT is how Erin came into the picture. Erin and I had known each other for the latter half of the last 4 or 5 years. Her childhood/high-school friend Alyssa was our connection. I had met Alyssa through my friend Miyaki, and we had hit it off pretty instantaneously. Alyssa is actually the girl I run Winsome & Canny with, along with our non-profit Pups & Pints. As soon as we had become good enough friends to invite each other to our respective birthday parties I had been introduced to Erin. The first few 100 times we met she seemed quiet and a bit shy, but was always really nice and one of a handful of Alyssa's friends that I actually loved seeing when we would all get together. This year after Alyssa's birthday party was when Erin and I started hanging out regularly, without Alyssa around. We discovered our love of cannabis paraphernalia (inside joke), and would often walk around the city high, chatting about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. As my road trip slowly started getting brought up Erin started seriously considering it. It was during a particularly long Wind Day for me that she had made up her mind. She was coming, and she would figure out how to work and travel during the trip. I was ecstatic.
We spent about two weeks prior to her asking her boss about the trip discussing what cities/states we wanted to visit; time spent at each location; and if we would need to book a place or stay with friends. Both of us being Type A personalities, we created an intense Google Drive document that listed date of departure, time, accommodations, food and/or adventures we could take, and even weather. To reduce the sting of not being home for close to 3 months, I headed up to VT the week before we left to spend a few days with the fam. Everyone of course asked about the trip, where we were headed, who I was going with, and where we would be staying. We honestly didn't have most of the locations booked until a few days before leaving lol. Thankfully though we were able to save money by staying with friends in Milwaukee, and will be staying with my cousin in Colorado, and a family friend in St. Louis, as well as friends in DC.
It took me all week to pack, and I even repacked twice. I have a tendency of packing way too many things, and figured that road tripping really didn't require anything but comfy clothes, and maybe one good pair of pants. BUT by Friday, July 13th I was ready to go! My clients were aware of the trip, my cat was dropped off at a friend's place, and I was nervous as all hell. Here I was. About to drop everything again and spend three weeks on the road. My little Ford Focus hatchback was all packed up, gassed up and ready to go.
I met Erin and her aunt outside of her apartment at 6pm that night. We finished helping Erin pack and ended up on the road an hour earlier than we had originally anticipated. At 7pm we drove off into the sunset and headed for Pittsburgh. A six hour drive on a Friday night. Once we crossed through the Holland Tunnel there was no turning back. We were bound and determined to not return to New York until August 4th.
THIS is that crazy adventure.....
TO BE CONTINUED