A year ago, I embarked on a road trip cross-country. While driving through Wyoming on my way east, I called my  sister Einah to see if she’d like to head back with me on the return trip. She initially declined but later flew into Columbus, OH to join me. From there, the Jeep rumbled westward with the two black beasts, my aunt’s wedding china & silverware, beer from Columbus Brewing Company, and Eins.

Sassing JennYears ago, when Eins lived in DC and Philadelphia, I’d fly out around Christmas and drive home with her in the trusty white Volvo wagon dubbed Nemia. We called these trips Trudging Towards Bethlehem— I’d have made mix tapes and we’d wander back to OH via the turnpike, countless rest stops, and such. One Christmas when she was at college in PA, I drove 13 hours on a lightning round-trip journey to bring her home. On that trip, we locked our mom in the car at a rest stop and got distracted inside making comical business cards out of a vending machine. Our mother was not amused when she woke up in a freezing car with snow piling up. Oops. 

Before last year, we’d not traveled that far together for that long. Well, except when were kids. Eins once remarked that she regretted teaching me how to read on those childhood trips as it’d sparked my annoying habit of reading aloud roadside signs, billboards, etc. The picture above is Eins sassing me outside the Big Texan in Amarillo, TX. I can’t remember why she was sassing me. We can’t blame her for being a little sassy; she’d sat well-behaved inside for nearly two hours, waiting out an insane blizzard, while country western christmas carols played…yup. that’s real snow on that there ground…

Einah's bag, ready to be wrappedEinah is a New Yorker. She doesn’t drive. I’m not saying she can’t, but she doesn’t. This made her a great co-pilot. She kept us stocked with supplies, took the photographs, kept the music flowing AND she didn’t nag me about how fast I drove. She made sure I wasn’t hungry, thirsty, or too tired. Road-tripping is easier when your co-pilot has opposable thumbs. It’s the little things—she picked up bananas for the dogs when she got our morning coffee, she organized the to-go containers safely out of the pups’ reach, she opened my water, she ooh and ahhed and inspired many of the stops we took a long the way—beginning with our sprint down the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. I loved showing her the West. We stopped at several places I’d been before on previous trips. It felt great to be back there again and sharing it with her. Photographs from our westbound journey can be seen here. I haven’t blogged about the trip because I can’t conjure the words…

When I studied anthropology in college, I was fascinated by humankind’s need to document their history non-verbally through art and icons a la cave paintings, Lakota bags, and southern slave quilts. Over the years, I’ve made a few story pieces including the batik that hangs in my bedroom.

In the same vein, Einah’s “big” present for Christmas 2010 was this  story bag. It’s made of strong duck fabric, has a large brass zipper and canvas flap with brass snaps. I began thinking about it while we were still traveling— she had a lovely side bag but it wasn’t rugged enough to get tossed about. I found these in an army surplus store and bought one for this project and a few for camping. On the trip, I bought a few patches here and there. A few were given to me by friends. The rest were purchased off the net. Each patch should spark a memory for her. As not to bore you, I’ll post the pics of the panels but only explain the top and a few here and there. The rest represent places we visited and a few places we blew past on the freeway (sorry we didn’t get a Winslow, AZ photo for you Cyn!).

the topTop panel: Using Girl Scout sash numbers, I sewed on the miles we traveled. We awarded Einah two Girl Scout patches— one for good citizenship (because she was sooo well-behaved  in God country) and the other for pet first-aid for remembering Sky and Sid’s morning bananas AND for making Sky pee on MY bed in Shamrock TX.  Additional patches represent her music-manager and photographer duties. She ran a tight ship too. The Jeep was always clean and she continually organized our growing stash of road trip loot. Sometimes, it was a great challenge getting everyone back in the Jeep— I remember a stop in New Mexico where Siddhartha thought he’d wander off into the red wet clay and leave us crazy girls to our own devices…etc. The five squares belong to the nautical alphabet and from left to right represent “E” for Einah, “J” for Jenn, “S” for Siddhartha, and “S” for Sky Harbor. The last flag is flown immediately before a ship sails from port, & pretty much means, get your ass aboard or we are leaving without you.  The otter (below the numbers) represents me. Einah’s patch is on another panel.

side 1

Side panel 1: In Kentucky, we discovered Four Roses Bourbon. I don’t think I or Eins will ever be without a single batch bottle now that we’re dialed in. The bottom left patch bears some explaining. We drive up to the inspection station in CA and the Jeep’s crammed full of stuff and I say on the approach, “Eins, don’t say anything. Resist the urge to say anything. I’ll do the talking.” We pull up, the guy takes a look at us, sees the Jeep crammed with stuff and asks, “where you coming from?” I stammer, stammer, and finally eek out “umm, everywhere. I mean, New Mexico.” He asks us a few more fruit-related questions and we continue on. Eins looks at me and smirks, “oh yeah, you did great, Garry.”

For those of you who don’t know us from college, Garry is her nickname for me. Eins finds it far easier to call out GARRY! in a crowded place rather than JENN!! and having half the place turn in response.

Worth the Uturn to get the picture!We saw A LOT of God-related billboards, truck signs, and in general, weird god-related t-shirts. Who needs a lifeguard when yours can walk on water? read one t-shirt in a Oklahoma truck stop. That’s priceless. I purchased the Jesus Christ mock-CocaCola patch at that truck stop. Gotta give ’em points for enthusiasm, I suppose. Anyway, Eins found this God-centric culture fascinating. World’s largest cross on the side of the road in TX, the OK City skyscrapers with crosses on them, that sort of thing. Oh, and the Texan truck stop that had the banner “God is not a Swear Word. He is the Lord.” Yup. You understand. We saw this little gem (to the left) alongside the road in Cuba, MO—by far our favorite sign. We really liked the town too!

side two

End panel 1: Every night before crashing, we’d spend some time searching along our next day’s route for interesting places to sightsee and snag something to eat. Many of our food stops were pulled from Food Network shows including Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins. The best stop, though, had to be that diner in Barstow where the woman ordered boxed wine and then asked the waitress if the vintage was any good. Hmmm, i should really try to track down my Facebook status updates from the trip. Some of them repeated the classic gems we heard…

side four

End panel 2: The funniest patch here, I think, is the NYC Harbor patch. Eins live in NYC and Sky Harbor and her had a bit of a rough go at first.

Sky laying on SiddharthaSky is skittish and this often made for comical situations. In general, this was Sky’s expression when she looked at Einah. It wasn’t until Arizona that Sky decided she was probably, most likely OK. The caption for this photo comes from Eins. Hi. Don’t touch me. And don’t bother Siddy either. He’s sleeping. By the time Einah flew home to NYC, they’d become pretty good friends.

side three

Side Panel 2: It’s heavy on the southwest as we blew through the middle states to spend as much time in NM and AZ as she’d not been there before. On NYE morning, we woke up to a crazy blizzard in Shamrock, TX. It made the drive to Amarillo, TX quite a challenge even for the Jeep.  The photo below is from our hotel room at the Irish Inn also known as the place where Einah made Sky pee on MY bed. Just for the record.

New Year's Eve morning
The abandoned house (left) Eins likesFrom Amarillo, the skies turned blue as we rolled into New Mexico, by far one of my most favorite states in the union. We spent NYE in Albuquerque, NM after heading up the Turquoise Trail to see Madrid, a small-little town that is especially beautiful at Christmastime.

We  headed into Flagstaff and then drove south to see Montezuma’s castle before retiring to Jerome, AZ. The old abandoned building in the upper left— that’s the one Eins loved best. Can’t you just see it restored and serving as a small inn? If you haven’t been to Jerome, there’s a treat awaiting you on the side of Mingus mountain.

I highly recommend the Connor Hotel above the Spirit Room. For $145.00/night we got a huge  room with two large queen feather beds, with comforters and pillows covered in high-count cotton sheets AND the largest cleanest bathroom I’d seen on the road stocked with my favorite brand of toiletries. What’s more, they are completely dog friendly. I’d rung them up the day before and they welcomed the labs. In my head I was thinking oh man, I hope they mean the really big ones like Sky. They provided beautiful sage green wool blankets to keep the red-clay doggie prints from staining the comforters. No pretense that the dogs would be sleeping on the floor. Love that town.

Jenn and Siddhartha

One of the things about traveling solo or simply with beings who lack opposable thumbs, is that certain moments go undocumented. I thank Eins for taking this candid of Siddhartha and I. Curled up on the bed at the Connor Hotel, I’m telling him while this down-feather bed was certainly the nicest we’d seen on our trip, we’d be sleeping in our bed that night as we were headed home. After a few weeks on the road, I don’t think Siddhartha thought he’d ever see Wildlands or more importantly, his queen feather pillow-laden bed again. I remember this moment fondly—while I loved the road trip, this recovering nomad wanted to be home.

After a slight delivery snafu, Einah’s presents were delivered today in NYC. She opened them and they included the story bag, a bottle of Four Roses single barrel, and a coffee mug I had made with the Jesus King of the Road sign on it. Merry Christmas Eins. xo sorella