I am currently sitting in my cousin’s delightful coffee shop, sipping on unquestionably the best chai latte I’ve ever had, munching on a cinnamon-roll hybrid infused with vanilla and cardamom and jotting down many seedlings of thought in my little leather journal of my road trip to the town of Bend, Oregon, and of my thoughts about the next transition of my life.
It’s been a month and a few weeks change since I’ve come back from Japan. I spent many of my days at home, in our little haven of a farm surrounded by tall redwood trees and all kinds of birdsong. I’ve enjoyed the R&R thoroughly, but once thoroughly enjoyed, the rest and relaxation turns into restlessness and reality. The “reality” is that: as much as I complain about not having a moment to breathe when I’m constantly out the door, working and going to school all hours of the day, trying to maintain a decent sleep schedule by night, that truly, that is the kind of lifestyle I thrive in.
The restlessness does not one bit take away my love for my home. I often find myself, by choice, not leaving the premises of our farm for days on end – simply because I feel as if I have everything I need there. We’re a ways away from town, but the silence allows for nature’s noises to be heard. Our two horses stand in the pasture just in front of our porch where I can sit in the sun to paint.
In the mornings, when the sun is glowing pale yellow, my favorite thing to do is run in the forest with my german shepherd Nani, and play hide and seek, and pick raspberries off of bushes.
Evening golden hour changes the signature shade of redwood tree branches from green to golden green, a shade my dad says is his favorite and can’t be produced anywhere else. And truly, even if I can match the shade with my watercolors, they can not contest with the richness of their inspiration. Should I decide I need a change of scenery, the beach is three minutes away by car.
If anything, I become restless because I am so recharged from these days. (A third “r” word, anyone?) I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my post-Japan transition period anywhere else before I head back out to the big city in Southern California.
So what do I do before I prepare to drive the grueling nineteen hours to San Diego from Humboldt? Drive seven and a half the opposite direction to Bend, Oregon.
My cousin Jodi and her husband Jason have two lovely children, Rayna and Summit, and a coffee shop (their “third child”) called Palate here. I’ve met Jodi a few times – really, when I say few I mean probably two – when my parents and I have made our way up to Minnesota to see my dad’s side of the family. I must’ve been 10 years younger the last time we met.
I decided to take this road trip for a few reasons.
- I wanted to meet the kiddos so very badly, because Facebook photos are simply not enough.
- I’ve realized how out-of-place (not unloved by any means, just not able to fully merge in) I can feel with my family on my dad’s side when we meet every six or so years. It’s to be expected, especially since I was raised with my Hawai’i family who I could reunite with at any time and need no introduction. I figured if 7 1/2 hour road trip would be all it took to strengthen a connection with one member of my family of that side then it was completely worth it.
- I love working in coffee shops. They’re where the writing magic happens.
- I wanted to take a solo road trip at the ripe age of 21 even if I only had one destination.
- I am R&R. (Restless and recharged.)
Growing up I learned that my family is unique in that we tend to migrate. And migrate, and migrate. Already, the merger of my dad from the mainland and my mother from Hawai’i meant the joining of two worlds so different but both so full of warmth. And now, with my four brothers spread out over three continents – when I was in Japan it was four continents – reality has really hit me that if I have a chance to see someone within my reach, to take it.
I would give anything for my brother Erwan in France to be a mere eight hours away on the same continent or for Australia and Hawai’i to be bound by an ocean-crossing bridge.
But we are lucky to have highways.
Before leaving, I spoke with my Grandma Beverly (my dad’s mom) about embarking on my solo road trip to see Jodi and her family. She sang with praises of Jodi, and told me tales of her own solo road trippin’ days, when she’d be cruising “and be sure to have a basket of fresh berries sitting in the passenger’s seat” so she could reach over and munch. After our conversation I was sure to pack cherries into the passenger seat for my journey, and every time I reached over to pick one, I’d think of her.
It felt really good to experience new scenery by myself again. It felt really good to be both uncomfortable and excited at the prospect of meeting people and getting (only a little) lost.
At one point, I was driving down a long stretch of road covered by tall redwood trees. I was the only one on either side of the road and so naturally I rolled down the windows and blasted my favorite tracks from the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. It was so out of place but fit so perfectly too. Organs filled the trunks and branches and ears of all the forest.
Speaking of Phantom of the Opera…
Chesi’s List of 6 Ideal Road Trip Songs This Summer
- Number one belongs to Top of the World – The Carpenters. It’s the best to turn on at the moment you embark on your journey. It never fails.
- Work On Me – Kings of Leon. Just a nice rolling guitar and drum. I feel like I drive 40 miles when this song plays.
- Dancing in the Moonlight – King Harvest (Especially fun when driving curves on the side of the mountain)
- Not My Baby – Alvays (best for long straight stretches of highway) (perfect if you’re driving away from someone you don’t want to be with) (this wasn’t the case this trip but it was still a good one to drive to!)
- How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees (and if you’ve overplayed this song like I have and still aren’t sick of it but would like a more modern take, check out Loving is Easy – Rex Orange County ((warning explicit word in it!!))
- And of course, can’t feel free like a gypsy without some Fleetwood Mac. Say You Will has been on repeat lately!
Meeting Jodi was like meeting a best friend again. I couldn’t believe how much I could tell her and how much she could tell me and it all felt completely natural. She was also a college student in San Diego and we discovered we both love to dance at live music shows we go unaccompanied to, we both worked as baristas, and that we both have a love for the beach. We took a walk for an hour and a half along the Deschutes River with her newly adopted dog, Luna, and we never stopped talking except to navigate over a few boulders. It was the kind of conversation that left you feeling so energized and so joyful, even when we talked about heavier things.
From the moment I met her and her family I never once felt out of step or out of an embrace. My nervousness that I’d experience when meeting family I hadn’t seen for years dissipated as soon as I saw them across the restaurant we arranged to meet at.
Our days since have been filled with the gorgeous nature of Oregon, the endless chatter of Rayna and Summit that I just know I will long to be a part of when I leave, and a lovely flow through the days. I’ve come to the coffee shop every day. Everyone I’ve met has a huge smile to deliver just for you and have no problem stepping aside for a long chat.
The heat is very high and dry, so we cool off by dipping our toes in the river or heading to Sparks Lake to do some paddle boarding (my FAVORITE.) Yesterday Rayna and I spent over an hour and a half paddling around and looking at baby ducklings, rescuing buggies from the water to return them to shore (a harder feat than it sounds), and witnessing the awesome sight of an eagle diving headfirst into the water for a fish right in front of us.
Honestly, I used to be nervous around kids, scared I wouldn’t know how to handle situations or how to even talk to them. But that girl just let me be the girl I was at 8, when every moment was a mission and an excuse to let my imagination fly wild. I haven’t had so much fun on a paddle board for years. I realized we’re all still kids. We just need someone that will sit there and accept us for that. And in this case it was a fellow kiddo whose mind astounded me.
Instead of having a “wow” factor to look forward to day-to-day, the energy that’s been flowing through the past few days has kept me in a constant state of glee and lightheartedness. It feels similar to my time in Japan, where I was happy to wake up with family and step outside to take a simple stroll or take a two hour train ride to a new destination. Anything is fine with me because I’m somewhere new and lovely and with the best people.
Tonight we had dinner outside in this wonderful little lot with food trucks and a bar and a nice lawn for games. Dinner outside is the best. Nothing beats that cool summer evening, I’ve learned. Baked from the sun, the crisp night seals the day into your skin. It’s the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep. We topped off the night with some shave ice.
The trip back home was just as lovely. Except it would’ve been better if my kombucha hadn’t exploded all over me when opening it and having to drive probably 1/2 of the way back smelling like fermented liquid. I have a lot of thoughts, especially on the road by myself, and sometimes those thoughts come in the form of one-liners. I write them down often, but this one I had to share.
One-liner quote of the return trip:
“I smell like scoby.”
Not “a” scoby. Just scoby. That’s exactly how my brain said it. For those who don’t know, a SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It’s what gives kombucha all those yummy probiotics. I know this cuz I brewed some! Anyway, back to the post…
I’m very glad I took this solo road trip. It’s not as intense as those who go cross-country and live out of their van. I was lucky to have a bed to sleep in and to enjoy dinner in a warm home with my family! But every little experience is still worthwhile, and this was just my kinda trip.
The kinda trip that brings you closer to loved ones and is sprinkled with lovely views.
until next time,
Chesi M. K.
*** Stop by Palate Coffee Bar if you’re in Bend, OR! I promise it’s a must-stop!