The Divide

A lake near the continental divide at Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s as beautiful as it is frigid.

Something that struck me most about leaving Flagstaff, AZ for my around-the-country road trip was how underwhelming it was. This place had been my home for 8 years, and I was leaving to travel and never return as a resident. But, I never really had THAT moment, where the magnitude of the situation hit me. I did that one thing a lot of TV series finales do, where I stood in an empty room and was silent for about 20 seconds. But even that wasn’t as intense as I thought it would be. Most likely it was because I was spending all of my emotional energy on the frustration of packing/purging everything I owned in Flagstaff. When I spent my last night in town with friends at a bar where a guy was playing sad country music, I wasn’t reflecting on all the life I had lived the last 8 years. I was more annoyed that I was leaving tomorrow and I STILL had kipple to deal with.

And, yes, maybe part of it was because I had already moved on. While I appreciate the city to this day, it was starting to get on my nerves. And I could tell Flagstaff was moving on from me too. Because the beginning of my trip started with me stewing in traffic at a time when the roads should have been clear. Well played Flagstaff… This isn’t supposed to be a mean-spirited rant against the town. It’s just sometimes you move on from places. It’s part of life.

Inversely, on road trips, you seem to leave places before you want to (most of the time), especially when you are visiting someone. But usually there’s also usually another destination, a “next place” to help pull you along. The most prominent destinations being the ones that make you realize how much you are traveling.

The first of these places came early on when I crossed The Divide. It’s the first of let’s say four “borders” between the western part of the country and the east. There’s the temporal border of crossing into the Eastern Time Zone. There’s the classical east-west mark of the Mississippi River. There’s the “biome” boundary of the 100th Meridian which splits the country between arid ranch land in the West and wetter farmland in the East. And then there’s The Divide.The Divide is in the Rockies and breaks one part of the continent from the other. Essentially, if you spit on one side of The Divide, that water will flow to the Pacific Ocean. And if you spit on the other side it’ll end up in the Atlantic. Out of all these boundaries, it is probably the most Awesome (in the classical sense of course, hence the capital ‘A’). Time zones were created by the railroads, rivers shift and the biome boundary is also moving over time (seriously, NPR did a story on it). But The Divide is geological. A huge mountain range from time immemorial that splits a continent. Even the name sounds like some dramatic title (hence why I put it in italics). It was the first time the region I was in seemed different than the place I had left. So when I crossed The Divide, THAT was something I felt.


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