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Two Dope Girls in a CRV: Women Can Have Kerouac Moments Too

August 7, 2015

Two women, one road trip through the Pacific Northwest. By the standards of most narratives centered around females on the road, it’s either the premise of a melodrama that ends in the death of one, if not both, or the set up for two of the greatest weeks of my life. I am grateful the latter wins. Two women on a road trip through the northwest with nothing to gain except adventure and mental clarity. Two women who both found themselves in the emotional crossroads of being twenty-somethings with big dreams in a small world. Or maybe small dreams in a big world. Whatever it was, these two women made it work.

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One, the Thelma to my Louise, reeling with new knowledge that when she returns to her home town she will be virtually homeless. That is until she takes her CRV packed in Tetris-like formation with all of her belongings to a new city and attempt domesticity with her partner. The other, myself, bored and listless with the pains of every day monotony simply struggling to find meaning in life and peace of mind through travel. Together we embarked on a cosmic journey through mountains, rivers, and small towns to camp out under star-filled nights and breathe in air so thin and crisp that it causes lightheadedness. Without the aid of men, we felt empowered enough to make it to the other side of the country using only our wits and half-baked ideas to navigate through highways, Apple maps, Waze, and the winding back roads of the country in a search for America… or something of the sort.

Throughout the trip, I’ve never felt more enamored by my femininity while also embracing so much of my masculine qualities. Often times I found myself aimlessly picking at the hair that I let unruly grow on my chin and upper lip, not because I felt the need to embrace the masculine nature of our journey, but out of pure accidental lapse in judgment to get such matters squared away beforehand. I openly cooled the hair in my armpits with the wind during every mile we traversed and learned how to deal with the complexities of camping while menstruating, a topic I had yet to learn through all my years of camping and watching films that featured women doing the same, like last year’s Wild. Having planned accordingly, I proudly prevented bleached cotton and rayon from polluting the forests we settled in.

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My masculine, bearded mystique contrasted the more feminine blond with shaved pits and a barely existing menstrual flow than mine at the driver’s seat of our adventure. I often times looked at her with admiration not for her femininity, but instead for the symbiosis we shared at embracing both roles to make our road trip the best it could have possibly been. It was the feminine side of us that welcomed the cuteness of the world—oohing and ahhing at tiny spiders we found in the woods, squealing at the sight of bald eagles or ospreys in the clouds, giggling while picking flowers as we smelt new species our Georgian noses had never smelled before. It was the masculine side that pitched the tents, gathered wood to build the fires, felt confidence in traversing mountain sides where our nearest neighbors were miles downhill.

In the day time we were warrior women with our hands out the car window bragging of our tales to any shop clerk that would listen and feeling the exhilarating freeness of braless days out. But, at night we became very aware of our situation and slight fear for our safety set in as we worried that predators would realize we were two women alone, like newspapers and stories of women travelers had reminded us over the years. The dichotomy between our feminine and masculine counterparts fascinated us both. Yet, somewhere within it we found a perfect ebb and flow of the two allowing us to live on the edge and in the moment of it all. Together we straddled the roles of both genders becoming our own concoction of human searching for truth in the sunsets of a Washington beach, clarity in the stars of a Montana sky, and beauty in the crowns of trees in Colorado.

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As the co-pilot on our adventure through the mountains many days of my trip was devoted to location scouting for campsites, packing treats from Denver, and charging accessories. But, most of my time was dedicated to staring out the window watching mountains change into plateaus, plains, then back into mountains all while lost in thought.  Putting into words what we learned, or in my friend’s case what she is continuing to learn on her solo leg back to Atlanta, is like explaining how magic works. It’s futile, pointless, making no sense to anyone but ourselves.

Though, I can say that watching mountains pass by has a wonderfully profound effect on the brain. It allows for synapse connections that couldn’t take place beforehand. It brings a sense of calm in ways I’ve never experienced before. The mountains are supernatural. Travelling is nourishment for the soul. I’ve never seen sunsets as spectacular as the ones in the West. I’ve never played games with or become so aware of the trickster like nature of evergreens in all of their anthropomorphic glory.

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Our type of road tripping is not for everyone. We “dirtbagged” it— went days without showers, and washed our hands with water from gas station fountain machines collected in used bottles. We set up camp wherever we found a flat piece of land in national forests. I curbed hunger with cliff bars, coffee, tuna packets, and bagels. We spent up to seven hours a day in the car as if it were our jobs. We slept with moths in our tents and awoke to the sound birds screeching with no abandon while the sun penetrated our tent. I smelled my own body odor more times than I intended as deodorant lost its importance as a necessity.

Through it all I’ve never felt more unapologetically feminine and open to any possibility or road that life could throw us on. I’m grateful that our story hasn’t been reserved for the pages of “female tragedy in travel” like so many other women in road narratives. Thankfully, more and more women are embracing their independence and hitting the roads alone! I can only hope that more women, and men for that matter, make it a point to connect with this beautiful planet through travel and exploration. Only then can we appreciate the glory of what surrounds us. Only then can compassion for nature and all of her beautiful beings be achieved.

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