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Take the damn trip

July 19, 2017

I had this trip planned for over five years.

If any of you read it, you’ll recall my June column being a confusing mixture of thoughts I had prior to finally taking this trip. It was a sort of prequel to this month’s musings.

The trip was to drive from my current home of southern Minnesota to my previous home of southern Oregon. I shake my head every time I think about why it took me so long to get there. I would make excuses like, “Oh, well we have so much going on it just won’t work out this year.”

Pfft. There is never too much going on to do something that will bring you pure joy.

If I am going to be honest—which I am with every person I encounter except for myself—it was a combination of being anxious, worried and lacking the funds. Money can’t buy you happiness but let’s be real here, in most cases, money is a necessity.

If there ever was a year that “too much” was going on, it was this one. The beginning of 2017 wore me thin—my sanity, that is. I wish it had the same effect on my body, but it in fact had the opposite. Funny how that works.

I planned this trip back in September to happen in May, but in the midst of the chaos, I found myself thinking, “It won’t work out this year.”

 I am not sure what happened. Maybe when you are on the verge of a complete breakdown you make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise. Or, your brain that is constantly fogged up with “To Do” lists is now in a state of total anarchy and refuses to listen to your boringly conventional decisions.

This shouldn’t have even been that nerve wrecking. I was going back to stay with one of the most beautiful humans I know in a landscape I recognize. I wasn’t heading into the unknown. Maybe I thought the years of wearing polyester killed my ability to get in a vehicle and drive across nine states in 10 days.

But I did it and it was everything I needed.

I went with absolutely no agenda. I took my sister and my comrade, Jenny. I am not entirely sure what they were expecting, but they soon found out that I had no must-see attractions, no reserved camping and no saved links on my phone.

They weren’t bothered by it at all.

We had 2,000 miles to drive and I had nothing planned for what happened in-between. This carefree person is who I remember being and somehow I lost that. In most recent years, I’ve gotten pointlessly irritated by mini-getaways that don’t go as planned. Talk about being a total drag. 

There were zero expectations except I am going to have a good time. I left with an impressively small budget. We set up camp in the dark almost every single night and dipped out by 7 a.m. most mornings. We ate out of our vehicle, but I would be striving for the “cool factor” that many of today’s outdoor enthusiasts do if I left out the few times I proclaimed, “I just want a hot plate of food!”  We camped in Red Lodge, Montana, the Redwood forest, on the Rogue River, at the Missouri Headwaters and Hood River, Oregon.

I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 10 years and it was overwhelming. We drove down the Pacific Byway, hiked a mountain, tubed through rapids and we ate good.

There was one day I was sitting by the river reflecting on everything I was finally able to see again, and of course a hodge-podge of other crap, and I didn’t say anything to anyone for a while.  I felt homesick. I missed my little tribe back in Minnesota but I also didn’t want to leave where I was. It was like double homesickness.

I had a bug in my ear the first night in Oregon. I thought that was the worst. Seriously—that right there is one of my biggest fears. A bug crawling into my body and I can’t get it out. We performed a number of remedies, like dunking my head in a hot tub (who would of thought?). I am not sure what happened to the bug, but I slept with a headband around my eyes, nose and ears for the rest of the trip.

That didn’t compare to how I felt. I called my partner in life, drove through the mountains to a different town and vocalized what I was thinking. I am sure it closely resembled the nonsense I write for this magazine. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it calmed me the hell down.

I have strong opinions and a, you could say, “spirited” mouth. And I am so unapologetic about it. But I am never out to hurt or belittle anyone. My heart is colossal. I know that I will never lose these things. But I also don’t want to lose the tenacity I have for things I absolutely love doing.

Now that I am back, I have decided that I am not going to be late anymore.

I can hear my employer’s ovations. Eh, sorry guys. I’m not talking about that. Someday.

I am not going to tell myself endless reasons why something won’t work. I am going to take the damn trip. I also may learn how to play the banjo. So, there’s that.

Autumn Van Ravenhorst is a staff writer and columnist for SouthernMinn Scene. If you live in the Owatonna area, she’d also be happy to sell you an ad in this wonderful magazine. Drop her a line at

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