Five States in Five Days
Written by
Kristen Caven
July 2015
Written by
Kristen Caven
July 2015

This bit of writing, an exclusive to, is nowhere near as ambitious as the thirty-one posts of the Ten Pounds in Ten Days blog I wrote this spring about a trip to Italy in which I went alone while my traveling companion had brain surgery. No, this is the opposite of that: one post, ten pictures, a few stories, and boom, home safe.

This trip had one purpose: to help my ill mother get her car back from the Rockies to the Coast. She had driven out with my brother and spent a month there, recuperating from an attack of the Shingles after recovering from Pleurisy, all in the third year of a Colitis flare-up. Such charming diseases, really, all so mellifluous and/or evocative of earlier times. If only they weren’t so painful and/or such a pain in the ass. I agreed to drive back with her if we could take the "scenic route."

So here goes: 

After four days of visiting as many high school friends, cousins, parents, aunts, and uncles as I could jam into a few days in my home town, staying up past midnight, waking up too early, fueled by wine and coffee and chocolate, I woke up way too early last Sunday, met mom at Denny's, and hit the road.


We both started the trip exhausted. Mom drove. I tried to nap, listening to A Prairie Home Companion's Great American Jokes show. It was sad to say goodbye to the Flatirons and my home town, but it had been a great visit that had even included ice cream, a radio interview, and some horse-time!

New Mexico 

Caffiene had started working by the time we crossed the border. I always love how New Mexico skies put me in a philosophical mood...I wondered how the last 10 years had flown by. We had a rough night at the house of an acquaintance on Canyon Road, but a visit to St. Johns College restored the soul. I dropped a few philosophical comics off at the bookstore, and we had lunch at Pasquals, where the molé is as black and bitter and mouthwatering as a tepid Guinness, before hitting the road for Ojo Caliente. There, we slathered ourselves in mud and soaked in all kinds of magic waters to rinse off all bad juju of the recent past and start fresh. We spent the night at Leafwater Cottage, a sanctuary on the Chama river with an amazing and beautiful stove called a "kachelofen." The next morning, a few minutes at Lake Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch made me wish I were doing a week at AROHO…but at least I got to take a few deep breaths of high desert air and write a few poems. Shortest writer’s retreat ever!


We had lunch back in Southern Colorado, in the funky town of Pagosa Springs, and in Durango I got a new cowgirl hat and a cassette adapter so I could spin some better music from my iPod. We crossed the border into Utah in the late afternoon and got to see the setting sun light up the red rocks of Moab just before sunset.

The next morning we enjoyed as much of the Canyonlands as one can from the highway, then turned north on 15 towards Salt Lake, rather than heading straight west through Ely. This was a bad thing, since we had to wait an hour and a half in the middle of nowhere for a crash to clear. But this was a good thing, since there was a grinding noise that meant a rear wheel could have fallen off at any time. We stopped in Spanish Fork and found out the car needed a new hub assembly! We bought fireworks at the grocery store and had an early dinner at Café Rio (with chocolate flán and Apple Beer!), only to find out the part was not available. We pressed on to Salt Lake City and managed to find one at Auto Zone, open late. We found a motel and I woke up at 7am to find an open garage to install it. By 8am I’d found one, and enjoyed a lovely breakfast and caught up on email at the Blue Copper coffee room, which proved that hip doesn't mean too cool...they were so sweet and friendly!

On the drive past what is left of the Great Salt Lake, we enjoyed spotting the Morton Salt Mines and trying to decipher the markings in the sand which, along with “El Coboy” in Wendover, featured prominently in my existential comic, In Gods Country, one of the many "other stories."


By now, we had figured out a good system. We switched drivers every hour or so to keep things fresh, listened to a lot of John Denver, and I described episodes of Breaking Bad to my mom, who is allergic to violent TV but found the story and images fascinating. We met some young bikers with German accents who said they were from Philadelphia. I drove through a pounding rainstorm while dancing, in my seat, to music from my Zumba class. I gushed about the beautiful emptiness, but mom didn’t feel it. She tried on my sunglasses and then saw. Life is better with 80% Amber! We hit the Sierras way before sunset, amazed that we had driven for 10 hours and still felt alert. Mostly.


The fifth and final night of our journey was spent in Truckee, where I worked on a 3-D puzzle and we caught up with yet another set of beloved old friends. I had run out of the advance copies of The Souls of Her Feet, See’s Candies, and Meyer Lemons that I had brought as house gifts… but they cheerfully made us waffles (and more coffee!) for breakfast anyway. 

As the trees thinned, I was sad 

to say goodbye to the feeling of vast wilderness, but when we got close enough to home to smell the water, I vowed to keep the open spaces in my soul.

Let's be friends

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