12 States in 12 Day: A road tripping story of 2 friends (Part I)

Back in 2001, I was just finishing up my first year of graduate school. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend of 6 years and I was feeling like I needed to get the hell out of dodge. A good friend of mine was going through something similar at the same time and asked if I wanted to take a road trip out west.

I jumped at the chance and within a week, we had a destination – the Grand Canyon – and a rental call registered to the state of Alabama. Without thought for where we were sleeping at night or where we were stopping each day, we put the pedal to the metal and peeled out of Tallahassee without a backwards glance.

And so commenced our Thelma and Louise road trip. It was an amazing trip. We both needed it and came back feeling energized and in control of things. The Grand Canyon was beautiful, but it became clear early on that (as cliche as this sounds), our trip was about the journey and not the destination. We needed to feel the wind whipping in our hair, to feel the miles disappearing beneath the car tires, to feel like we could do anything and be anything. We just needed to go.

Oh what a difference 12 years made for me – one Ph.D., two mortgages, one husband, two children, 3 dogs and 1 more cat to be exact (Payton the bionic cat was already mine during the first trip). My friend and I had been talking about doing another road trip for years and years, but then she took off to California for a while and I went and had a child and it just became hard to squeeze it in. As other moms know – managing to carve out a big chunk of time of yourself is a monumental task. But then, something serendipitous happened. This year, I received a research stipend for the purpose of photographing Native American lands for a project that I’m working on. And just like that, my friend and I touched base, hammered out the details and tentatively picked our dates.

One thing she requested be put on the itinerary was a visit to Grand Teton National Park. She had always wanted to go there and it was near the places I wanted to visit, so our big destination became the Tetons. Since we were going during high season, our planning for this trip was less loosey goosey (plus we’re older, more paranoid and have both worked in prisons – it changes you). We actually had reservations for the first 3 nights of the trip as well as for our 3 days in the Tetons. We figured we’d fill in the rest of the blanks after that (which wasn’t the best idea, but more on that later). So, on a wing and a prayer, I kissed my kids goodbye and caught a ride with the Irishman to nearby Asheville, was was the starting point for our adventure. This trip was aptly named: the Dominique and Dagny road trip, which was an homage to our favorite Ayn Rand heroines. And just like that, we took off into the sunrise to start our journey….to be continued.