We flew from Kaua'i to Seattle on December 27. On December 28, we had an incredibly glamorous Grandmothers Whisper book event in a hair salon! The following day, we claimed our parked Camry and winter clothes from a friend's home within site of Mt. Rainier - and just three days ago we began our cross-country drive for the eleventh time in just over four years. We have only six nights to make the crossing East.
On night one, we stopped at a sweet, aging motel on the Western edge of Oregon, in Baker City. The second night we stopped in Tremonton, Utah - a couple hours shy of Salt Lake City.
Today we took on just about the entire state of Wyoming. Wyoming's Interstate 80, through those spectacular mountains has become very familiar - but never ever routine or boring. Every season, every moment of every season, those mountains look shockingly different - and stunningly breath-taking.
On this day, January 1, 2012: it was cold, the sky was flawlessly blue, the sun blazing. The mountains were just barely dusted with snow. It was New Years Day; the typically empty roads of Wyoming were emptier still.
Wyoming is a scenic travel poster come alive. Wyoming is also largely devoid of human population. So when we drive from west to east across the state - almost 400 miles - we don't pass cities, towns or even villages except at the eastern and western edges that border Utah and Nebraska. To put it graphically: We don't expect to find a Starbucks.
And yet, a couple hours into our drive both of us were seized by an irrepressible desire for real caffeine. (To me that means a "Grande Latte"; to 'Iokepa it means a "Vente Pikes with two shots of espresso - a Red Eye").
We pulled off the interstate into a town hugging the state border for the gas station bathroom only. In front of us sat a spanking new Starbucks! It was like a mirage in the desert. I had in my purse last week's farewell present from dear friends on Kaua'i: a Starbucks gift card. We offered disbelief - (We'd never have seen it if my bladder wasn't insisting!) - and gratitude.
We resumed our drive.
It might be helpful to know this about our drives: On these 87,000 car miles 'Iokepa has driven in the U.S. during the past four years, we have been spent almost all of them in either contemplative silence. or in our deepest, most important conversations with one another. A very small proportion of those hours have been spent with music - almost always when the driver gets drowsy.
At those times we have two choices for music: the radio (we enjoy country stations as much for the ambiance - the local color - as for the music); or the tapes, made specifically for our drives and to our tastes, by my eldest son.
Today, we listened to no music. The mountains were singing their songs; the solitude was transcendent. After all, this was January 1, 2012 - time for old pondering and new beginnings.
When we were closing in on the final couple hours of our drive, and heading toward Laramie, I asked 'Iokepa: "Would you like some music?" He answered: "Sure."
I punched on the radio and began as I always do, the random scan from station to station for the radio waves that make it through the geographical obstacles that surround us. I'd only punched twice when 'Iokepa insisted: "This one."
It was an instrumental without lyric. But it wasn't just any instrumental. It was recognizably Hawaiian slack-key guitar. Remember: We are exactly five days removed from our home in Hawai'i. Know this: It is never easy to leave home.
The song ended. What followed was Garrison Keillor's voice - that sonorous. brilliant voice from Lake Wobegone, Minnesota. And yes, miracle of miracle, Prairie Home Companion was being broadcast to our ears in the mountains of rural Wyoming on the first day of the New Year - from home, from Hawai'i.
And so we drove for the next half an hour to Laramie listening to our familiar and passionate Hawaiian music - the real stuff, by a series of gifted native musicians. And I, for one, sobbed throughout.
It is January 1, 2012. We have left home to take the aboriginal Hawaiian ancestral message across the country. We carry the book Grandmothers Whisper with us on the back seat.
The Hawaiian Grandmothers told us a very long time ago: "There is no such thing as a coincidence." We know that what they say is absolutely true.