It all broke (down and apart and finally let some light through) on the Loneliest Road in America

It all broke.

Well at least my car did.

Definitely me.


To let some light through.

I drove her into the ground, literally.  She had been my trusty companion of 17 years.  We had traversed desert raves and Southwest road trips, Burning Mans and coming-of-age stories, singing out loud and screaming out windows, and driving to different schools and grocery stores and jobs and everywhere else a car can take you.

And there she was, on the side of the The Loneliest Road in America in the Nevada desert: one electric window down past the point of no return, a passenger-side wheel blown out across desolate desert asphalt, a driver-side wheel scraped to its metal innards, grinding out its own swan song, and the paint eaten away from the radiator fluid that had spewed over 10 feet in a breakdown two days prior.

What a great place to finally break.  She and I were Nevadans after all.

Oh epic journeys.  It’s funny how they actually work out.  I had visions of desert hot springs, Great Basin Bristlecones, cabin cribbage with a good friend in the Rocky Mountains, and a solo camp trip weaving through the layered desert colors and sandstone sculptures of Arches and Canyonlands.

And of me, finding myself somewhere in-between.

The calm before the storm was beautiful, as it usually goes, submerged in hot springs overlooking a desert meadow full of wildflowers under the full moon.  It was here I took out all I had left of a painful ending to a relationship of 3 ½ years that I have been desperately trying to let go of over the past year.  I thought I would cry, but under this full blue moon I took out letters and pictures and other assorted mementos and one by one held and thanked them.  Then I burned or bathed them in desert moonwater.  Afterward, I turned to this new man who held intimate space for me and, yes, we actually danced naked in a hot spring under the desert moonlight, a man to whom I was also saying goodbye.  The next morning I woke up early, walked straight in between the sand and sage, and buried what I thought I couldn’t let go of.

We made it another 100 miles before she gave out close to Ely.  And after side-of-the-road hitchhiking, desert-weathered car mechanics, a night drinking and playing pool in the locals’ bar, a small-desert-town-three-police-stop while getting my tent out of my car, and crying and camping in a train ditch, we got back in and headed to Great Basin National Park.  I thought I’d make it all the way to Colorado, but I realized within hours nothing was really healed.  It was all just temporarily fixed to get me to my next point. At least I made it to the Bristlecones Pines, some of the oldest known living things on the planet.  I touched my forehead to a 3300-year-old tree still gnarling toward the sky through winds and rain at tree-line, reminding me that all beings weather adversity.

I had started this pilgrimage with an intention.  In an effort to remember who I wanted to be, I decided I needed a trip to put me back in the right space.  As a seasoned traveler, that is often the way I roll.  I started this one with the intention of giving, receiving, and letting go.

So this is the part where I’ll interject to say that I highly DO NOT recommend a breakup trip. Nothing was quite as romantically parting-of-ways as imagined, except that night in the moonlight.  We fought too much, from too little sleep, too much car trouble, and from taking a trip to break up.  And besides the obvious, when you take a breakup trip things break, a lot…like everything.

Which brings me to waiting for a tow on the side of the Loneliest Road in America.  It wasn’t so bad really, with lots of caring passer-bys, stopping to make sure we were ok and one even giving us waiting-for-a-tow beers.  It was here I finally stretched out, looked into a cracking desert sky, and realized I had indeed let go to the best of my ability so far.

I let go of a pain that had turned my heart inside out for the past year, with a touch of gratitude.  I let go of Lola, my 91′ Toyota Corolla, who had literally navigated me through the majority of my adult life.  I let go of a man I still cared for, knowing it was time.  And I let go of the person I had been, thanking it all.

All these intentions and hurts and desires went out of me and into the Nevada desert, into the smell of freshly opened sage flowers, into the desert sky silhouetted in wraps of grays and silvers and streaks of sunlight.

That is where it all broke.

That is where I broke.

That is where it opened up and some light came through.

Ever break so much you fall apart in the best way possible?

We Are Brokenly Unbreakable.  We Are Battleborn.

“We are Nevadans.  We fall and fail and get back up ready for what’s next.  That’s how we are made.  We are Battleborn.” ~ the man with the Battleborn tattoo

Desert dwellers get this.  We are made of rocky, parched landscape.  Our roots are deep, allowing survival of the inhospitable.  Because to us, we nourish underneath.  We wait for the rain to come, and it always does.  Even offering just a sip, it sustains us.

We are open.  We know the low places where the Joshua trees bend into crooked shadows in the early evening sky.  Where the wild horses still run into the brambly void.  Where you can see nothing and everything all around.

We are connected.  We know the high places where the aspens unite for miles underground.  Where the Bristlecones gnarl stories of thousands of years into their beingsWhere Stone Mother protects her people of the desert lake.

We are in-betweeners.  We know the slotted canyon places, where Bighorns spring between stones that once lived thousands of miles underwater.  Where if you run out of gas in the middle of the night, chances are you will be stuck til morning.  Where bullet holes riddle the ceilings of saloons with people who two-step fully holstered.  Where ichthyosaur bones sprawl as deep as the creosote roots.

We are tousled.  We know the sage will bloom with scent and roll away.  Where cities will build and collapse to rubble with only ghost-dust footprints.  Where the heat waves will help you dream insanity on the long stretch of highway nothingness.

We are withstanding.  We know the steps to twirling naked in sandstorms in cities we build for a week.  We drink whiskey and shoot bullets into the middle of nothing.  We grow organic food in downtown abandoned city street corners.  We climb rocks and slope down mountains and lose ourselves in the vegetation for days.  We glimpse mountain lions behind pines, bears in the city, and rattlers when we squat to pee.

We are stilled.  We know the silence that comes from unmarked crooked wooden crosses at sunset.  Where you can hear absolutely nothing but the breeze confiding into your ear.  Where the morning sun slowly yawns across peaks and valleys and the crisp night sky awakens the movement from within.

We are pulp inside the spines.  We know which plants to cut into if water cannot be found.  Where secrets of survival bury behind outlandishly spikey exterior.  Where 5,000-year-old rock stories retell of those who also knew, just like us.

We are brokenly unbreakable.  We know how to struggle through drought and slip through floods that come to revive us or wash us away.  Where hallucinations of rivers streak boulders smooth.  Where the ground cracks in patterns that remind us of the beautiful fragility of our ruggedness.  Where we know we must stand through the blaze holding patience for the whisper of rain, however long we must wait.  Where when it does come, we open in magentas and tangerines and sunbursts for only a moment to revive the desert floor before retreating back to the quiet, undisturbed spaces.

This is how we live here, and this is who we are.

We are Battleborn.

How does where you come from make who you are?

Image credit: Natasha Majewski