Regardless of how I manipulated the blue line in Google Maps, there was no reasonable way around it. “We are going to have to go through Kansas or Nebraska,” I finally said. It was quiet in the room for a minute and then Pavel suggested, “What if we just fly?”
“…across the county for our cross-country road trip?” Sometimes driving a point home is all in how you finish someone else’s sentence.
Our decision to travel from Colorado to the northeast began as an offhand remark just a few weeks earlier. “I’ve never been to New York City,” I said. And, true to our shared form, within minutes we were on Airbnb. “Should I book it?” By now, we both know that once we get to this question, we are already all in.
And, then, “I’ve never been to any of those northeastern states, actually.” New York led to Boston, which led to Cape Cod, which led to Salem, which led to Providence, which led to New Haven, and Portland, and why not camp in Acadia? And, if we take the car, then we can stop in Philadelphia and Atlantic City on the way – and then Niagara Falls and Chicago on our way home.
Further inquiry cemented what I had already said – there was no way around it. Literally. “Kansas or Nebraska?” I asked.
“The Wizard of Oz was set in Kansas, right? They must have a museum, right?” Pavel asked after a moment of desperate consideration. We left it unresolved.
As we picked our way through REI one last time before embarking, Pavel studied the bear canisters. Ever since we had both realized that we would be camping in bear country, our entire focus had shifted from planning patriotic tours of old America to stocking up on armors and repellants. He didn’t have to ask – he simply held two large containers in front of himself and raised his eyebrows. Inspecting each, and seeing no discernible difference (Can’t a bear just bite through plastic?), I just shrugged and he put it all into words. “You know, the bottom line is – if a bear is in our camp trying to get our food, I’m not stopping to collect whatever he leaves behind. We’re out.”
“Maybe we just need some bear repellant,” I mulled. I had no idea if or how it worked, but I thought I remembered seeing something about shark repellant a few years ago that was super effective. Something about dead shark oils. Or maybe urine. Maybe it’s the same idea. “So,” he said, as he examined the ingredient list, “this might just be a bottle of bear piss? For 25 dollars.”
I imagine harvesting it is risky business.
Five minutes later, as I stood in the checkout line juggling numerous variations of bear repellant, Pavel disappeared for a few minutes and then returned. “Here,” he said, “put them in here.” In retrospect, it just made it more difficult for the cashier, who had to remove and scan each container of repellant from the bear canister Pavel had handed to me, before putting them right back in.
The cashier asked, “Where are you going that you need all of this?”
I told him about our trip and he asked why we chose the northeast. I opened my mouth to answer and suddenly realized that we didn’t really have a reason. I mean, I have never been to any of the northeastern states and Pavel has never seen the heartland, but other than that? After a moment, Pavel said, “Why not?” And, that seemed about right.
The cashier accepted our reason – and our cash – eventually responding simply, “If you’re driving, Kansas is prettier than you might think.”