Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vacation PSTSS: "Pictures of You"

Come early Monday morning, we'll be hitting the road, to begin a 3500-mile-or-thereabouts round trip out West. Our destination is the Pacific Northwest--specifically Spokane, Washington, for a big family reunion. Along the way we plan on stopping and seeing the aquarium in Denver, checking in with old friends and relatives in Wyoming, and hopefully making it all the way out Portland to celebrate our 15th anniversary with a stop at my friend Nick's new restaurant, Kenny and Zuke's. As for the reunion part...well, yes, that's right, we did have one of these just last year in Utah, and we drove all the way to that one and back as well. The driving isn't actually that much of a problem (even with these gas prices, it's still cheaper than flying when you include the four children); we've been throwing the kids into the car and racking up the miles for as long as we've been a family. But I admit I do wish these things would stop being planned in late July and August, which is just when the tomatoes are ready for canning, and besides, after a few years of these westward journeys, Melissa's family--who are almost all to the east of us--deserve a visit.

Even with the wear and tear and days in the car, I think we're looking forward to this trip. We like seeing the country; we like being our own little family unit for a while, just plugging along, seeing the sites, stopping when we're tired, driving into the night when we can. As long as it's not Christmas, hitting the road is something we're okay with. I don't think Melissa and I will ever be bone-deep fans of traveling; we like coming home and being back in the place where we belong too much! But traveling does give us a chance to see other places, and how people make homes for themselves there. There's a kind of romanticism to it, I admit, and even the occasional screaming-kid fit doesn't seem to shake us of it.

Way back when we lived in Washington DC while I was in graduate school, Melissa and I went to see a show featuring the Red Clay Ramblers, a wonderfully innovative bluegrass and folk stringband based in North Carolina, but which has made a quite name for itself over the decades. I picked up a recording of theirs that evening, titled simply Live, recorded in 1997 and released in 2001. It included a fantastic tune by Bland Simpson, an English professor, composer, and pianist who often plays with the band: "Pictures for You." Nominally a love song, it's actually a tribute to being on the road while always thinking of one own place and people back home. And as an added bonus for me, the paths Simpson was traveling down his mind as he wrote this song are paths that I know pretty well--the roads and train tracks and mountain paths and rivers around Washington and Oregon, which, as much as Kansas is growing on me, will always remain a homeland of mine:

I'm going out west for a while--
riding alone, though, that ain't my style.

Just 'fore I left, I heard what you said:
"Keep you eyes open; never forget
there's someone back east." Oh I'm missing you so;
tell you what I see wherever I go.

Like the sun going down over Boundary Bay,
that big barn in Washington burstin' with hay.
Oh the Columbia River, all indigo blue...
I took every one of these pictures for you.

Oh crossing the desert again--
pulled up alongside of a hundred-car train.

Burlington-Northern, the Cotton Belt too;
let Southern serve the south--baby I'll be servin' you.
Going to race that old train, probably come out ok...
another story to tell you, got to tell you today.

'Bout the sun going down over Boundary Bay,
that big barn in Washington burstin' with hay.
Oh the Columbia River, all indigo blue...
I took every one of these pictures for you.

That day coming through the Cascades--
got tears in my eyes, wherever I gazed.

I saw you in the fir trees, that blanket this land;
I saw you everywhere: I was in the palm of your hand.
Came boltin' down Snoqualmie Pass about noon,
surrounded by mountains, singin' this tune.

'Bout the sun going down over Boundary Bay,
that big barn in Washington burstin' with hay.
Oh the Columbia River, all indigo blue...
I took every one of these pictures for you.

Some might have forgotten--that's something I would never do...
I took every one of these pictures for you.

I'm sure we'll take plenty of pictures while we're on this trip. Maybe I'll post some once we're back. Until then, take care, and thanks for reading.


Rob said...

Russell, if you see this before you leave, please check your email. There is an open invitation to visit our home as you make your way through Portland. If you need accommodation, we have room.

Matt said...

Road trips in the station wagon were a yearly event in my family growing up, every other year to souther California, where my mother's family lived. (In odd years we just went camping.) It was about a 20 hour drive, maybe a bit less. My father would try to do it straight through if possible. In more recent years, though, my parents have been as likely to host the reunions as to go to them and everyone seems to enjoy that, too. (I've not been to one in years as they've been too inconvenient, but that's the story I'm told.) Maybe next year you should host? It might be fun for the extended family to see your new place and go somewhere new, too.

John B. said...

Be careful, and safe travels.

Michigan Madsens said...

We've been talking about the pagent in Palmyra and want to someday take the can come too. At least it's the middle of July instead of the end.