Some time ago, I had a mental breakdown. Few things were going as planned. I found myself driving from Seattle towards Tacoma in the state of Washington on a Sunday afternoon. My most recent relationship had soured, so I did what any man in his early 30’s would do. I packed the car and almost immediately found myself 1700 miles from home somehow.
The vistas in traveling I-90 eastbound are some of the most beautiful that you can really experience in mid-October. There are evergreen trees, and a variety of fresh pine air scents to encapsulate your mind and nostrils. And it will likely be overcast with a healthy precipitation index. I was soaking this all in as much as possible while my primary mental state was still in pain.
What are any of us doing at any one time? Do we know what we’re doing? Are we confident that we’ve been there before? Are we using history as education so that the current pain won’t be repeated? Or, are we somewhat devolutionary, or at least temporarily masochistic, in that we bask in the hurting that exists at the forefront?
The windows are down in my sedan, and I’m hauling it at a crispy 50 miles per hour. Damn the traffic and those who feel they have to get to the city of Spokane any bit faster. Because I simply don’t care. But I am exhausted.
I pull off at a truck stop to stretch my legs. It’s been about 200 miles since my last stop. Bleary-eyed, I get back into my car and take a hat and put it over my face, hoping to catch a few winks of sleep. The last few days have been spent in Seattle, and they had been good days amid the uncertainty. I was looking for something there that I didn’t find. So I left that Sunday afternoon.
Shifting truck brakes awoke me. It was a few minutes after 9pm. I’m not a vagabond who sleeps in their car, but damn it all to hell if those few hours of unconsciousness didn’t jar one good thing loose. Keep going, this is all constructive, somehow.
Back onto the road, I get to the city limits of Spokane. At night, it’s underwhelming. So I keep going. Into the wilderness of Northern Idaho. Nightfall has brought a heaping amount of fog with it on my pal, the I-90. Dense as it is, it’s a challenge. Hardly a game, but just small adversity. I don’t have a stopping destination for the night, and now it’s actually into the wee hours of Monday morning. The thickness of the fog begins to concern me, and I’d like to be living into Tuesday instead of having driven off the side of a mountain.
Kellogg, Idaho. I’m weary from all the driving. I’m weary from not treating my body as a temple, as it should be. I’m weary from emotional stress. I’m weary. It’s 1am and the night clerk at the nearest Foggy Inn wants to charge me $105 for use of a hotel room. Check-out will still be at 11am, sir. I don’t care about this hotel’s rules. I exit back outside into the deep fog and the inside of my car’s passenger seat. It welcomes me.
I stare past the windshield into the immense fog. There’s untold mysteries everywhere, and they seem amplified to be discovered on an unforgiving night like this. I’m in bundled clothing three layers deep. Putting on the second pair of socks yesterday morning was a smart idea.
Nearly 2am, I begin to drift off into sleep. The sleep bubbles popping around my skull were surrounding me and will protect me from the unknown mysteries cloaked by this fog, this moisture, this unknown. I’m certain some of these mysteries will never be figured out, but I did find that being in this place and this time there in Kellogg, Idaho, allowed me to realize the very thing I was looking for that wasn’t attained at any prior part of this long road trip.
It was distance, and I had it.