The sun shines in through the car window, beaming warmth onto your bare arms. Songs of the day move through the speakers, through your hair, through the wind. The open road seems endless. Pavement stretches for miles and miles. Gas stations become fewer and farther between. When the car is stopped, the air is still. You take a moment to pull over, snap a photo of the landscape so that you dare not forget its vagueness or its individual spirit. Stretch. And further on down the road, you travel.
Summer road trips are ideal. The weather is stable, people are out and about, enjoying the streets lined with crafts and fresh berries.
Farm stands decorate the country and a community event is never too far away. Winter road trips contrast the warm embrace of summer on the road.
It is cold out. The road is covered in ice and snow. Rain forces the windshield wipers to interrupt the soundtrack of inspiration. Farm stands are closed for the season and the streets lined with crafts have tucked themselves in for a few months of hibernation. The gas stations remain, few and far between.
What was still in the summer now rips and roars through the trees; wind is ever present. Getting out of the car takes more effort and force; getting out into warm sunshine is so much easier than stepping out into a foot of snow. But winter road trips offer a sense of solitude and peace. Trading in the bare skin for a few layers turns the perspective inward.
“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. In spring, summer, and fall, people sort of have an open season on each other only in the winter can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.” Ruth Stout.
In November, we mapped a route that would wind through the volcanic region of Northern California, across the Southern Oregon Countryside, alongside rivers in valleys that deepened and widened and became increasingly narrow at times, and through new landscapes.
A typical road trip for us would occur in the summer months, when school is out, the weather is nice, and gas prices are at an annual high. In contrast, a winter road trip would equate to lonely roads, slow travel across snow and sleet, and a sense of solitude. Our time estimates were doubled, our nightly destinations were halted by weather, and the views we looked forward to were enveloped in clouds.
But the quiet was unparalleled. When the peaks showed themselves in the brief winter sun, we appreciated them with incredible gratitude. Road closures reminded us about how life doesn’t always go as planned. We danced in the rain. We ran through the snow. And few people were around. Parking lots were nowhere near capacity. Gas prices were low. We had the choice of any camp site we desired.
Photos and reviews of hundreds of people in these exact locations in the summer were replaced with quiet, stillness, and solace.