on the road to a new life


Already tired but ready to get this show on the road.

When I was 18, when most of my friends went just two hours away from home, I drove 2,500 miles for college. It was a scary time, and an exciting one. I’d lived in the same small town in Northern California my entire life. I was ready to see something new.

In many ways, that decision was a turning point and a defining moment in my life. This small town girl was exposed to a whole new world — Chattanooga, Tennessee was nothing like Placerville! You see . . . Where I came from, a “hog race” would indicate a pig race not a Harley race. Thunderstorms happened only rarely (and only during winter) at home. “Y’all” and “you’uns” were not in the dictionary. And grits? Fried okra? Sweet tea? Huh?

In many ways, it was like being in a new country, with the only difference being that English (albeit Southern English) was the written and spoken language, and I didn’t stick out everywhere I went — that is, until I opened my mouth.

In embarking on our recent journey from Tennessee to California, Jon and I created something of a reverse culture shock for him — and taken it to a whole new level. If Placerville was nothing like Chattanooga, Chattanooga is on a different planet from Berkeley! From rural Signal Mountain where Jon could recognize friends by the sounds of their cars passing on a two-lane highway, we’ve moved to busy University Avenue, where traffic never stops and our closest friends live several hours away!

The best example I can think of regarding the difference between living in a small town versus a big one, however, occurred while waiting in line at Comcast the other day. Jon and I were waiting to pick up our Internet modem when a large African American woman began a loud telephone conversation in line behind us. “. . . Hey, yeah. Yeah, I’m jes’ out payin’ bills. Yeah, I know. Jes’ remember we can’t affor- no f***-ups. I . . . Yeah, I’d like to see you, too, but I’ve jes’ been so bi-sy . . . Nobody gives me no respect. You hear that? No-body. Everybody is always disrespectin’ me and the way I raise my keeds and trying to tell me what to do. And so you know what? I’m gon’ re-move myself from the situation. I’m jes’ gon’ go away so there ain’t no one can find me no more. If they don’t respect me, I’m jes’ gon’ go away . . .”

Oh, boy.

Below are pictures from our road trip across the country. We drove the northern route, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive, but man am I glad that it’s over. I cannot stand sitting in a car for hours on end!


At Jon’s before we left — that’s a scooter and three bikes on the back of that truck!


Hello Illinois!


Can’t forget the St. Louis Arch.


Because my friend Jeff lives in Nebraska, I’ll go ahead and say it’s an awesome place. Otherwise, I’d just say it’s flat!


Old barn somewhere along the way.


Jon contemplating our truck’s sagging hind end at a gas station. That scooter was heavy!


Hello, Wyoming.


Light at the end of the tunnel.


I heart clouds.




Somewhere in Wyoming.




Boulders in Wyoming.




Salt Lake City area.


Salt Lakes, Utah


Wind-blown and worn out


She’s still holding up!


Sky meets salt.


Jon was excited about this.


Getting closer.


Driving, driving, driving.


Almost home.



27 thoughts

    • Yes, the mud is deeper. Very true. Sometimes the history is deeper, too… Thank you so much for the compliment on my writing. That means more than you know!

  1. Good to have ya back in Ca. Jess. Berkeley is a different planet to the other Californians. I wish your husband the best of luck in adjusting. And maybe the Comcast lady will re-move herself to Chattanooga so you can run into her again sometime. LOL. No I wouldn’t wish that on anybody actually. Have a good one and Welcom Back!!!

    • Haha, John. Thanks. There are lots of other people like the lady in Comcast here and everywhere. I’m sure there is a lot to her story that we don’t know. And Jon isn’t my husband — yet!

      Good to hear from you. I have so many of your amazing poems to catch up on!

      • Thanks Jess, Sorry, I just assumed. Regardless of status, hope you are both extremely happy together, and my best wishes for you both in this time of transition. Drop in anytime and catch up on the reading. I am always thrilled when you visit my blog.

    • We only went through a corner of Illinois, so no tolls — thankfully! The windmills were cool. They had windmills in Taiwan, too. ;)

      Always great to hear from you, Joe!

  2. That really was one long road trip for the both of you. The photos are gorgeous and the States looks absolutely scenic. I would love to go on a road trip that long. The longest drive I’ve been on was from Singapore to Malaysia and that was only six hours in total each way. I’m sure you and Jon had a lot to talk about during the drive and that it wasn’t boring at all. Usually I play music when I’m travelling in a car for a stretch :)

    Hope you guys are all settled in your new town. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for you, and good luck.

    • Thank you, Mabel. You are very sweet. And yes, six hours doesn’t seem very long to me. It takes at least twelve hours just to travel from the bottom of California to the top!! The United States is cool and really like a lot of countries all crammed into one. Kind of like Australia, I guess.

      So sorry I’m behind on so many of your posts! I will catch up soon!

  3. Great roadtrip photo’s Jess, I’ve not been on the blog for a while as I have been too busy, so happy for you that Jon and you are starting a new life together. I will be doing my own roadtrip from Rochester to Nashville in about 6 weeks time :) very excited about coming to USA for the first time.

    • Really fraggle? Nashville? Damn I wish I were back there — we could meet up! What is bringing you to the States? And glad you liked the photos — iPhones really are a handy thing!

      • I’m coming to visit a friend who I ‘met’ on Flickr a few yrs back, she lives in Rochester NY and we’re going to Niagara Falls, then hubby and I will be doing a road trip to Nashville. Can’t wait!!

  4. it’s so interesting how different regions have different variations in language. i can relate..when i moved to the northeast i definitely had to adapt to the different accents here than from what i was used to in the south. did you see this article in the NYT? http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/12/20/sunday-review/dialect-quiz-map.html?_r=0

    when i took it, it narrowed down my hometown pretty well! you should take it too to see what you get. =)

    • I *had* seen and taken this survey. I just took it again and came up with different results. Some of the questions are kind of difficult to sort out! I fully agree that language is interesting, too. Linguistics was one of my favorite classes in college. :)

  5. Driving across several states is pretty hectic. Glad you made it back to “peaceful” Nor Cal! One of my surfing buddies lives just on the northern side of San Francisco in the country and drives to Santa Cruz to surf or Ocean Beach in S.F. and he says that it is a city operating on a different level of zaniness compared to some other larger cities.

    Well, good luck getting settled back in and acclimating yourself. I am sure blogging is on the back burner for a bit.

    • Thanks, Matthew! And thanks for the comment! Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. Usually I am much better, but lately my life has been nuts! I see you’re from the UK? It’s been years since I’ve been there. I want to go back!! Hope you’re having a great week.

      • I’m envious of your trip! :-) Don’t worry with the late reply. Life can sometimes be hectic and pleasing people starts at home, The weather has finally just started to get good in the UK, if you’re not leaving tomorrow or today though it could be bad by the time you arrive haha. Take care, Matt

      • I will definitely be back someday and know I’ll love it no matter what the weather is like. :) That’s the way it is with foreigners — they can’t grasp what it’s like to deal with certain things all of the time… That’s why I loved actually living abroad rather than just visiting abroad! You take care, too. :)

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