When We Came to the West

Celia C-2
Celia and Jim on the road, 2004

To celebrate our new MacBook Pro, we have been watching Ken Burns “The West.” It’s a documentary series that, like most of Ken Burns’ work, is a time commitment. So far, it’s not been a happy series. Lots of mass slaughter, sneak attacks and plenty of history you are never taught in school because it would leave you fairly traumatized.

We came to Washington state in 2004. We left Kansas City on Halloween and drove the first night to Salina, Kansas, the first place I ever saw Bob Dylan perform years before. That night of the concert, we drove back to Kansas City, never dreaming a few years later Salina would be our launch point for leaving the Midwest forever.

After Salina in our trip to the Northwest, we drove all the way to Rawlins, Wy., and stopped for the night because it was snowing pretty hard and we’d seen some off-the-road pileups starting to occur. Our soundtrack for the trip was Brian Wilson’s remake of “Smile.”

“Light the lamp and fire mellow,
Cabin essence timely hello,
Welcomes the time for a change.” 

I cannot listen to “Cabin Essence” off “Smile” without thinking of that snowy stretch of road.

The next day we drove to Boise, Idaho, then on to Tumwater, Wa. Our first residence was in Tumwater before we eventually settled in Olympia.

And that was it. Our trip was as far removed from Ken Burns’ “The West,” as it gets. We benefited from those wagon trains’ harrowing six-month journeys with a sanitized interstate experience, us and two cats packed in our Mazda staring at the endless ribbon of highway ahead.