“The winds in Washokey make people go crazy.”
Like Mandarin ~ Kirsten Hubbard
Mandarin and Grace, the main characters in Like Mandarin, do some crazy things -- a little skinny dipping, a nighttime mission to liberate the town's animal head trophies, you know. The usual. Have you ever done something crazy, on a whim?
I'm more a Grace than a Mandarin. I always wanted to be the carefree, spontaneous girl, but I'm just not - except when I travel. The precedent was set from the very first trip my husband and I took together: Just pick a direction and drive.
So we point the car west and go. Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho... We tried to get to Oregon and Washington once during college, but ran out of money in northern California and had to turn east, back toward some friends in Colorado.
We take a few guidebooks to scout for attractions (hence the last minute decision to see the petroglyphs at Thermopolis, Wyoming), and when we can make it work, we route ourselves through towns where friends live (which made it possible to stay in places like Santa Cruz and Berkeley when our budget was only $500 for two weeks).
We did Europe the same way. We bought Eurorail passes that lasted a month, made a list of countries, and got on the train. Every few days, we picked a new city to visit and headed that way.
Have we ever regretted it? Almost. When we showed up in Rome and were told that every hostel in the city was booked, when we got lost in Paris and wandered the streets with heavy packs until 1am, when we accidentally crossed over from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez and ran out of gas with no pesos.... yeah, we almost regretted it. But we survived, and now we have good stories to tell.
And nine times out of ten, we've seen and done amazing things. Like catching Mass at Notre Dame. Or soaking in the Tabacón volcanic hot springs in Costa Rica. Or meeting the bed & breakfast owners in Dover who gave us an engagement gift - that turned out to be the money we'd paid for our stay.
It's a little harder to do those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants road trips now that we have two little boys, but they're already big fans of picking places on the globe to learn about. In a few years they'll be old enough to point to spots on the map and tell us which way to go.
Yes, I'm already planning to teach my children how to be spontaneous. I still fail at it.
But I'm looking forward to it.
Want to win an ARC of Like Mandarin? Enter at YA Highway - playing along with today's prompt gets you an extra entry!
Photo locations after the jump
Top left: 1998 - Medicine Bow National Forest, WY; Dinosaur National Monument, CO; Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Grand Teton National Park, WY; reading Salinger in the Tetons; Lander, WY; more Tetons; Sinks Canyon, Popo Agie Wilderness, Wind Rivers, WY.
Middle right: 2000 - Arches National Park, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; on the road with Silas the Bear; somewhere in CO, NV and UT; lost in Juarez; Canyonlands, UT; Mackerricher State Park, CA; Arches; somewhere in AZ; Canyonlands; Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, CA; UC Berkeley; Joshua with a Joshua Tree; the butterfly exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, TX.
Bottom left: 2000 - Rome, Paris, Paris, Neuchatel; Florence, Oxford; Gimmelwald; Florence; Bayeux; London, Rome; Murren; Rodin's The Kiss, Paris; Gimmelwald; Cornmarket Street, Oxford; The Duomo, Florence; friendly swans in Oxford; more Gimmelwald; a studious Kate in Oxford.
Bottom right: 2005 - Cache la Poudre, CO; the Wind River Mountains and Medicine Bow National Forest, WY; Plastic Jesus at Garden of the Gods, CO; Plastic Jesus takes on the Rockin' Chicken in OK, and meanwhile, me 20 weeks pregnant.
All photos copyright Josh and Kate Hart.