I left the actors’ residence at 3:30 AM.
I needed to leave early enough that I would
arrive at Yellowstone National Park that evening.
Minnesota to Yellowstone the first day,
Yellowstone to Whidbey Island the second day.

Touring with a children’s theatre the summer
after graduating from college, I was planning
my life in quiet moments framed by the floral
bedspreads and vague watercolors that Motel 8s
and Country Inn and Suites had to offer.
Since I didn’t know what to do with my life,
I picked a template that the daughter of
friends had already chosen: apply for AmeriCorps,
find a placement that wasn’t where you were
and hit the road, becoming useful and of service
for a new community. I filled out a dozen applications,
and Whidbey Island was the first place that said,
“Yes, come. We want you.”

In the buzzing haze of the laptop’s screen, driving 15
hours each day seemed reasonable. I had no desire
to pay for a hotel room and taking a two hour
detour to stay with a friend working at Yellowstone
seemed worth it. Seeing Yellowstone was one of those
things you’re supposed to do before you die, right?

This was a journey that many had taken before me.

I was not a trailblazer.

I was a suburban Midwesternerner a Toyota Camry.

The changing landscapes intoxicated me. The plains
of the Dokotas gave way to dirt and mountains and
as I pulled up to the gates of Yellowstone, I called
my friend who told me to take a right hand turn
and then a left and then I would be a the Lake Lodge.

“Great, see you in 10 minutes,” I said.

She paused.

“More like see you in an hour.”

I was ignorant to the expanse of Yellowstone.

As the car climbed up the mountainous terrain,
I became overwhelmed with the enormousness of the
backdrop that millions of people had come to
see before me. We paused to let a bear and her
cubs cross the road. Dozens of people clicking
away on their cameras but careful not to get too close.

Dusk at Yellowstone.

Dawn at Yellowstone.

Leaving at 5 AM, I blast Regina Spektor from my speakers:
this is my new cowboy anthem. I have not been here before,
I see dust and tumbleweed and wildlife whiz past in the
mirrors of my car, a thousand perfect images that prove
that I have been here, I HAVE BEEN HERE. I have forged
this path by sheer gumption and will win any quick draw duel
that life cares to present to me.

I came to the West armed with Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker,
and Theresa Rebeck. My car was fueled by Mary Zimmerman,
Eve Ensler, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Amy Richards.

I came to the West to get shit done.

And I am all the horsepower that I require.