For those of you who know me then you already know that by profession I am an investment advisor. If you’ve read a couple of my blogs you’ll know that I have a passion for photography, cars, and the outdoors. I’ve been lucky enough over the years to end up with some wonderful clients that live in the Pacific Northwest scattered from Portland all the way up to just below the Canadian border in western Washington. I make it a habit to go see these people every year. I feel it is important since I manage most of their net worth. Anyway, I make the journey every year in my truck.
A couple of my newer clients were quite shocked to find out that I had made the journey from my home near Salt Lake City, UT to Portland, OR by automobile. I was pretty sure they thought I might be crazy from their expressions. They asked me, “Why would you drive clear up here when you could just fly up in a couple of hours?”
In my head I said, “Why wouldn’t I drive?” Using the little bit of filter that I have, I figured that probably was not going to be a proper answer. So I replied that I drive because it saves me money and that I have more flexibility. All of this is true of course, but that’s not really why I choose to drive.
I drive because I can experience the changing geography between my place and my destination in ways that would be impossible if I flew. I can see the desolation of the northwestern deserts. I can feel the harshness of the landscape. I can smell the coastal forests. I can experience the rain and the cold of the northwest coast.
I’ll have to admit something here; I’m pretty much a nerd. One of my favorite things to do on the road trip is to stop along the way and check out the historical markers and other geological points of interest. When I stop at the rest areas in Oregon along Interstate 84, they all have these elaborate historical signs discussing the Western migration along the Oregon Trail. I’ve been traveling to the northwest almost annually for more years than I can recall, and I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve stopped at the same rest area and read all of the signs. It has to be dozens. But every time I stop, I learn something new or see something else that catches my eye.
Tooling along an interstate highway in a modern vehicle with the stereo cranked and the air-conditioning on, you just can’t quite imagine what it must of been like for our ancestors to have trekked across new lands to destinations that they could only imagine. But when I stop at the rest area and I read the signs, for just a moment I’m back in time, and I can experience a little bit of what those pioneers experienced. When it’s 100° out in Eastern Oregon, I can begin to imagine what these people must of felt as they were crossing these harsh lands. The absolute fear of whether or not you will find water for yourself and your animals in time. The brutality of the sun beating down on the hot earth as it literally cooks your feet. If it’s quiet, I can close my eyes and imagine for a minute the loneliness that these people must of felt in this vast wilderness. Remember, today we’re zooming along these highways at speeds of around 70 miles each hour. But visualize walking through this land at 2 to 3 miles per hour. Everything changes.
When I’ve had time I have gotten off the interstate and taken the back roads across Central Oregon, or across the Blue Mountains, or up the Washington coast. When you get off the interstate, everything slows down and you begin to feel a little more in tune with your environment. As you drive through the winding mountain roads, you become one with the terrain as you really feel the curves and feel the transition from the deserts to the mountains and back again. When you’re in the deep woods of the coastal rain forests of Washington your senses come alive. Suddenly, you feel the cool mist of the fog rolling in and the visibility begins to diminish; the possibility of seeing a Sasquatch is no longer such a joke.
So when I drive to the great Northwest, I experience everything that is different from where I live. In a small way I can share some of the experience of our ancestors who bravely pushed across this land not knowing what lay ahead. How can you understand a place or the people who live in it without experiencing it?