Looking for Quality Girl Time? Consider a Road Trip
My friend Lindsey and I were uncharacteristically quiet as we drove out of New York City. We were too busy taking in the sights one last time, craning our necks to catch final glimpses of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the tip of the Chrysler Building. The monuments that had been part of our everyday landscape for years suddenly felt, well, monumental.
After living here for the better part of a decade, Lindsey and I were ditching New York for greener pastures, literally. We were relocating to Portland, Ore., the greenest city in the country. Our husbands made the trip by plane, like most sensible people would, but Lindsey and I wanted to mark the move with an epic road trip. We were both leaving full-time jobs for careers as freelance writers. Driving across the country together seemed like the perfect way to embark on our newfound independence while catching up all along the way. For the past seven years, we'd been squeezing our life updates into after-work drink dates and clipped text messages. Our two-week road trip would be the absolute opposite: one long, languid conversation. Obviously, filling each other in was on the agenda, but we also wanted to fit in plenty of leg-stretching local detours. We'd take time to actually experience places instead of watching them whiz by in a 70-mile-per-hour blur.
Sounds easy, right? It was. At first. In Columbus, Ohio, we did our best to pass as residents, going for a power walk along the Olentangy Greenway Trail and drinking an Ohio Riesling at the Northstar Cafe (wine $6 per quarter-bottle), where pretty much everything on the menu is locally grown, organic, or both. We even joined the line winding out the door at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (cone $4), where concoctions such as Salty Caramel and Wildberry Lavender make all the freezer-aisle flavors look vanilla by comparison.
The next morning we ran a 5K through the Ohio State Fairgrounds before getting back into the car. In Chicago, we ate veggie burgers at Uncommon Ground (veggie burger $10), a restaurant whose owners are so committed to fresh ingredients that they built the country's first certified organic rooftop farm on which to grow them. Then we rented bikes and cruised along the Lake Michigan shoreline for a few hours before we turned in at Hotel Palomar. After so many hours on the road (and on bicycle seats), the downtown hotel felt utterly luxurious, and the heated indoor pool seemed made-to-order (rooms from $249).
We were starting to feel smug: Why didn't everyone do road trips this way? And then we hit Kansas. After strolling around downtown Lawrence, we hopped back in the car and found ourselves cruising past a five-hour stretch of cornfields and hay bales. And cornfields and hay bales. Up to this point, we'd been doing more running and biking than catching up, and all of a sudden we had hours and hours to drive, without distractions. And that long, lonely stretch of Kansas somehow gave us just the emptiness we needed to fill, with conversation. We rolled the windows down, cranked up the radio, and sang along to Justin Timberlake at the top of our lungs. We talked about everything from our first boyfriends to what we'd name our future children. We read aloud from an Us Weekly we'd picked up at a gas station and passed petty judgments on every celebrity who graced its pages. In other words, we did some good old-fashioned girl bonding.
In the following days, we got back to our active routine. We went on a trail run in Boulder, Colo., and knocked back shots of whiskey with honest-to-goodness, spur-wearing cowboys while riding the leather-saddle bar stools at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyo. But when I look back at the two-week road trip, I think most fondly about the moments when we stopped doing and started being, the way that only close friends can.