Life, Lessons, and Living on the Road – Part 1

I’ve been a professional writer for almost a decade but have rarely tackled anything remotely tech-focused. In 2020, the year of the great shutdown, I found that many doors were being closed in my life. I made the shift in 2018 to focus my career path on entering the tech field. I spent most of that year and many countless hours learning front-end development, studying, and taking any class I could to understand more about a field that had previously been a passing curiosity.

At the start of the lockdown, I was laid off from a position at a tech startup I had tenaciously pursued. They were at the top of my list of tech startups in my city I would happily join to further my skills as a developer. When they offered me a position on the team, it was in a new role [Client Success Manager]. The plan was for me to build the role, onboard clients to the new software, train developers on how to use the new software to address clients’ tickets, and work alongside the Project Manager: part experimentation, part learning new software, part writing.

Then the pandemic – COVID 19 – happened, which led to being laid off. I had no hard feelings; it was hard to hear those words on that call in isolation of my home. I had loved that company in the short time I had been a member of their team. I was hopeful. I was lost.

It Was Time to Reflect on Life & Relationships

At the same time, my lease was up for renewal. My landlord, who had been a divisive person, decided that the high price I was currently paying per month was not enough. He had a lot of properties, and the one I was living in was a cute craftsman-style duplex in the Asian District of the city. The neighborhood ran alongside the coveted arts district, where rental prices were higher. He set his eyes on prices in that area rather than the average prices in my neighborhood. It was just not worth it for the price he wanted – laid off or not.

I was fortunate to obtain unemployment and had some savings to support myself and my two children until a new position arose. The search for a new living situation began.

Every place I looked at or reached out to fell through for one reason or another. The final straw was after I had found the ideal place to rent. The landlord was sweet, the rental was much larger and the exact style I adored (turn of the century architecture), both of the kids fell in love with the space, and the price was right. I had told the landlord about the situation and how fast I needed to move. He gave me an application, and I asked if we could expedite the process with the lease and deposit. He was okay with that.

I went home to fill everything out and planned to get the money from the bank to give to him. During this process, I received a call from a woman I had dated for a short time and had remained friends. She was in the process of selling her home and looking for a rental. She was gushing over the new place where she had just signed the lease and was elated to share it with me because it was the place I would adore.

You guessed it – it was the same place I had just viewed and was scrambling to get everything gathered to submit. I was distraught. She asked if I wanted to come to see it since it was close to where I lived. Fighting back the sadness, thinking about how I would tell the kids that the place they loved was not meant to be our new home, I told her that I had just been there earlier that day. 

She was stunned. She asked if I was sure that it was the same place. I confirmed it by reciting the address. I know she felt bad. She knew how hard it had been to find a home and the current landlord situation. It wasn’t her fault. 

I reached out to the landlord, he had apologized, but it felt hollow. Everything felt hollow. It was how things were aligning.

At the same time, friendships were showing strain, and I realized that many people I thought were a part of my “inner circle” had started to show the true shallow nature of our relationships. The pandemic and isolation became a time of reflection. I began to realize I had been living in a circle and grasping onto validation from a world I had blindly been a part of—an active and willing participant.

To Road Trip or Not to Road Trip

At one point, while I was navigating the insane new world, a friend living near Salt Lake City was gearing up to move back. She had moved there for her job. She liked it out there, but her boyfriend, parents, and close friends (myself included) were back in Oklahoma. My friend was coming to the end of the contract and missing everyone back home.

My friend is a bit of a fashion addict. Okay, a major fashion addict. Don’t get me wrong, I have a worrying amount of clothing in my closet…well, closets. But she tops my wardrobe on numerous levels. It was a topic that came up in most of our conversations as the time for her to decide whether to renew her contract or move back was fast approaching. The problem that arose was getting everything packed for the movers independently. 

It seemed like a great opportunity to finally sort through everything to reduce her inventory into sell, donate, and keep categories to reduce how much she would have to move. At the same time, I had so many major decisions to make. I needed to create a plan, push my resume to companies willing to hire someone remotely, and continue to look for a new place to live.

On top of that, there were decisions about the kids’ schooling. They were starting to do remote work since schools had closed. If I could find a remote job, would I be able to juggle the education and at-home learning schedule for two kids and start a new position? Their dad, in the meantime, owned his own business and had far more availability when it came to time. We decided he would handle their schooling.

Ultimately, I decided that a road trip and short stay with my friend would be good for me. Allow me to refresh and come back to these issues with a fresher perspective. Since I was now unemployed, the kids were going to their dads during the week for online schooling; it only seemed fitting I made the drive to help her.

It was a bonus since I had never been to that part of the country. I’ve traveled mostly through the southern portion of the U.S. and a few areas northward like Wisconsin. Beyond the Texas/Oklahoma border, the whole western world was strange foreign lands.

We picked a timeframe; I packed what I needed, loaded my Xterra with minor camping gear, and my dog – Constantine the Morkie. We were off on a new adventure.

Utah: Dinosaurs, Sleeping in the Xterra, and the Moab

I was simultaneously terrified and thrilled. I had never solo traveled so far in my life. I decided to travel northward through Kansas to Colorado, where I would stop for the night to camp in my Xterra at a KOA. I learned a few things from that experience, camping in the Xterra.

First, the back of the Xterra with the seats folded down is quite spacious. So much room to lay and sit comfortably. Second, the lining on the backside of the seats and cargo area is that durable liner, and it’s very hard. I really did not prepare well for sleeping. I skimped on the gear for that portion of my trip. A lesson well learned in future travels. Third, KOAs are a rather nice affordable option for various needs of those traveling the road. The facilities are quite nice.

The journey to Salt Lake City by way of Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming is stunning once you get beyond Kansas. I lived part of my early childhood years in Kansas; it’s fine. For the life of me, the mountains and terrain of Colorado, Wyoming, and finally, when you reach Utah, are breathtaking. I was in pure awe of the natural beauty.

I envy those who have mountains on the horizon as their daily view. I often think about them. How magnificent they are protruding from the earth, reaching towards the heavens.

The time I spent with my friend was a much-needed break—a break from the isolation and worries of my life. We ordered food, talked, went through clothes, and packed; we explored some of the neat outdoors recreational areas. We went to see dinosaurs.

It was purely by accident, finding that dinosaur park. My friend took me to The Greenery Restaurant at the Rainbow Gardens to try a Mormon muffin. They’re a popular food item unique to this restaurant made of bran and other ingredients slathered in honey butter. Unfortunately, they were closed and not set to open until later that day or the next. Here we were in Ogden, having traveled there for this muffin.

We stood in the parking lot talking about what to do next; that’s when I saw it, the glorious sign that said Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park. I must have fallen silent because my friend followed my gaze. 

Like the 10-year-old child I am, I exclaimed, “Oh, we have to go! We need to look it up and see if they’re open.” My friend laughed, and we looked it up. Sure enough, they had just opened. It was outdoors, too, which was perfect since we were still in the early days of the pandemic lockdown.

It was one of the best days I had experienced in such a long time. 

Eagerly I went from dinosaur to dinosaur, admiring their shape, size, and colors. The dinosaurs at this park are well done and based on the skeletal structures found by paleontologists. I took so many photos of the dinosaurs on display. It renewed my love of dinosaurs and became a little bit of an obsession for finding various parks throughout the U.S. During trips; it has become a motto of mine that “will stop for dinosaurs.”

When it was time for me to go home, I decided to go a different route. It made sense to take advantage of exploring other areas I had not yet been. I decided to travel south through Utah to New Mexico, taking a direct route through the Texas panhandle. I had no idea that this route would be a major turning point in my life path.

The Moab – I know I said I loved the mountains, but I fell deeply in love with the desert. People see stretches of desolate land filled with dirt and a blur of sienna and umber hues. I found solace in the somber tones of the geological landscape. I saw a sign signifying campgrounds and hiking trails, so I decided I would take a detour to explore those trails. It was about time for Constantine to have a potty break.

A quick side note, my darling little Constantine loved the trip. He loved every moment of it. He was excited to watch the world pass us by and make the many stops along the way. The people we crossed paths with (he loves people).

I found a trail that required a drive up a slope that my Xterra was well equipped to take on. It’s a Pro-4X Off-Road edition with off-road tires. Once I reached a point where I could park and take to a trail, I got Constantine sorted out on his harness and loaded up my backpack with water and gear. We began to make our way up the windy trail that came to a slight overlook where I could see the highway I had initially been. 

The cars were coming and going; they looked small. It was then that I suddenly realized I could not hear them. I couldn’t hear anything except the occasional gust of wind. It was pure silence.

I cried. I am not ashamed to say that experiencing total silence was overwhelming at this moment. In life, especially in a city, there is always noise. It’s constant. There is noise even now, sitting in my home office in a small town in the middle of Oklahoma. There is always noise, even in my woods. My house is relatively isolated and surrounded by our 10-acres of woods, yet there is still noise. Noise from my two dogs, Sally the Frenchie and Missy the Pittie (Constantine now lives with a dear friend in the city, living his best city dog life) and noise from my oldest son as he Facetimes with his best friend. But there, at that time and at that moment, I felt peace.

It was like my life was restarting. It was a cacophony of feeling alone yet simultaneously a part of the world around me mingled with the realization of how tiny I am in the universe’s grand scheme. At the same time, I could accomplish anything. I mean anything—a burst of confidence and realization of how capable I am. I knew right then that I had to leave Oklahoma.

As I was returning to the main highway from the side road I had taken, I saw another dinosaur park. It is called Moab Giants – it is on my list to visit and remains the only dinosaur park that I have not been able to explore. It was closed, but I could see the amazing dinosaurs they had displayed throughout the desert landscape from the highway.

Follow the Dinosaurs

I am not one to make decisions based on omens or signs, but if there was a time when signs were popping up in my life to show me the way, that was it. I found solace in the dinosaurs popping up as I began a journey, not realizing that all of this would lead to major changes in my life. Where dinosaurs would lead the way…

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