Words by Alexa Daugherty + photographs by Luke Batten and Eon Mora
Days 2 and 3 of TSH’s Runaway Saga have proven many things. Among them, the idea that travelling across America is much more of an international than continental (breakfast or otherwise) experience. And, secondly, that something about an open, extensive road makes people want to talk. Even about directions.
On our second day, TSH stopped off somewhere between North Platte and Dubois to fist-pump the blood back into our car-weary hamstrings. Never the ones to bypass a deserted town, we found a now defunct motel painted in fading bands of red, pink, and yellow. At the building’s back, a sight even more magnificent: the multi-colored color scheme smushed into a lopsided rainbow. There it stood. In Nebraska dust, a BNSF train thundering to the right, sun blazing on weatherworn bricks. Complete with its own pot o’ gold, this creation made us literally smile and flag-fully SMIL. What else was there to do but stand, in powerful celebration of the beauty found behind random American corners?
Still, this encounter left us with a few questions:
What does it mean that a Danish word can so easily appear in any town? Did we just create a physical embodiment of the Internet? Who else has smiled here? Did the artist of this rainbow like pop tarts as much as we do?
One thrift store bought, pre-cold war trivia game later and we’re still searching for answers. Maybe left with more, actually. Eager to search, we continued our treck through goose bump inducing western air. Our route took us to the base of the Tetons. We heroes could hardly believe these peaks exist in the same time and space as the skyscrapers cemented outside our bedroom windows. And yet, while gazing upon these craggy peaks, an even more bewildering sight distracted us.
At our very same rest stop, amidst black asphalt and buffalo, stood a neon-clad Korean family cooking lunch. Knowing anyone who dresses so rainbow-brite must be joyous, we eagerly started a conversation in perhaps the best way possible: a compliment. Not five minutes later, and we were standing in the Tetons’ grandiose shadows splitting ramen, rice, and kimchi with this three-generation family. We heard of former 15000-mile road-trips undertaken by the grandfather, hat shopping in Korea, and their plans to go from L.A. to Yellowstone upon a path illuminated by fluorescent clothing. It was, without a doubt, one of the best TSH meals ever consumed.
“I am seventy and never aimed to get money. I did what made me happy. Living, that is what I did.”
After slurping up the last noodle, each party got ready to head towards their respective ends of The American West. But we didn’t depart before hearing some life-advice, graciously given by the family’s grandfather. “I am seventy and never aimed to get money. I did what made me happy. Living, that is what I did.”
We admire the ease with which your family cooked a simple meal surrounded by stunning beauty. We admire your grandson’s chartreuse outfit. We admire your advice and will try to follow it – perhaps starting with the purchase of a Tenspeed Hero rice cooker.