I read recently that twenty percent of the population has a predisposition to traveling. Wanderlust is in their genes. I think I have this gene. My parents have been all over the world and I, myself, have traveled on three continents. I’ve logged in time in probably three-quarters of the states in the union (at least, maybe more) plus the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Airports energize me. I love the chaos and the smell of jet fuel. Airports mean travel. Not everyone there is destined for their dream vacation, but I can imagine they are. Having never traveled for work, airports, for me, always mean a fun destination. They mean leaving real life behind for a while and walking a different path, seeing new things.
But there is also something about getting in the car and just driving. Getting out of our forest-lined, albeit beautiful, Pacific Northwest landscapes and seeing the scene change to wide open skies anchored by golden hills does something for my soul. It’s freeing. Relaxing. Energizing.
Last week, Joe and I drove. We had loose plans, but nothing concrete. We had just said good-bye to our two youngest kids, both off to college in Oregon, the youngest for the first time. In order to avoid a quiet house for a while, we allowed ourselves a week to see new things. We had an absolute blast.
Our trek took us through Spokane and Idaho into Montana where we stopped at most of the small towns we went through. We discovered copper in Butte and a formerly charming town in bad need of attention. We stayed in a historic stage stop in Nevada City, and just up the road was historic Virginia City where we walked the paths of gold miners and ate the best meal of our trip alongside ranchers and outdoor adventurers.
We got our cowboy on in Ennis and Bozeman, Montana, then spent the night in a motor inn like true rodeo performers in Cody, Wyoming where we paid homage to Joe’s dad, a talented rodeo cowboy in his younger years.
Our whims took us to Yellowstone for a day and we covered the part of the park we hadn’t been to before. Bison gave us quite a show several times and the awe of walking in an active volcano was stunning at times.
Back in Montana, we discovered more small towns like Dillon, where we ate our best lunch, and the ghost town of Bannack, a skeleton of what it once was, but perfectly authentic and accessible. We got a good feel of what the wild west felt like in this wonderfully preserved state park.
Twin Falls, Idaho treated us to the sport of BASE jumping, as spectators. We watched daring athletes pack their chutes then jump off the Perrine Bridge into the beautiful Snake River canyon, the only place in the world they can jump year round without a permit.
Headed back home, we saw more small towns when the need to stop for fuel or food arose, towns with a history like Boise, Baker City, and Pendleton. Each one had a little something special about it.
As the vistas changed and we headed back into the forest tunnel of Western Washington, my wanderlust gene felt satisfied. For now. And as we moved further west toward home, we talked about where our car would take us next time. Because for those of us with the gene, next time can’t come soon enough.