~ The Road Trip ~
In April of 2017, I departed from my home in Columbia, Missouri for a 10 day solo road trip where I drove nearly 5,000 miles.
I had been feeling complacent, bored, and most unsettling of all, I was comfortable. Having recently graduated from college, I was working full time as a candy maker at the same job I’d had since 2009. I was doing nothing productive to achieve the escape from the midwest that I’d so desperately been searching for for so long.
I knew I wanted to leave. I had known that since I was 17. I needed to go somewhere new, but in all reality, I had no idea what life was like anywhere else. It’s clear to me now why none of my family left Missouri – it’s safe, it’s quiet, it doesn’t challenge their way of thinking, and it’s conducive to a very normal life.
I wanted no such normal life.
So I took corrective action to finally accomplish something for myself and not for my family. I needed to do something that would make me happy.
From Missouri, I drove 13 hours to Colorado Springs, CO and stayed with my aunt. In the valley below Pike’s Peak, the winds that night were tremendous, but I had no idea what was in store. I departed the following morning and the winds persisted as they had the night before.
Western Colorado is immensely beautiful and navigating the winding ups and downs of the roads through the Rocky Mountains has a way of making a man feel quiet small.
Crossing the state line into Utah exposed an entirely new kind of barren, beautiful landscape. I arrived in Moab, UT some ten hours later and perused around Arches National Park. Despite the mild winds, brutal April sunlight, and sand in my eyes, I explored.
I was approached by a park ranger at a trail head who instructed me that the park was closing early for road construction and that it was imperative that I depart immediately. Rude.
~ The Old Man ~
Astonished and dumbfounded that I had actually reached my journey’s first landmark destination, I arrived at my campsite which was technically an RV Resort, but my classic Ford Focus and one-man tent were prepared to keep me safe in a desert sea of pick up trucks, camper trailers, and RV’s.
Taking a moment to decompress and set up my tent, a mid-60s man hobbled out of his RV and locked eyes with me.
Now, I’m rather extroverted and enjoy talking to strangers, but having driven 23 of the last 48 hours, I was ready to eat, sit quietly in my folding chair, and listen to that week’s episode of the Unbelievable Podcast.
His demeanor was pleasant, as was the conversation, and then out of nowhere this strange man says,
“You’re gonna wanna put down some rocks. It’s gonna get windy”.
“Okay? Thank you. Please walk away now, Sir.” – This is what I wanted to say, but after all, I’m not an asshole and kindly thanked him.
“You hear what I’m saying’ to ya? It’s gonna get windy“.
Okay, weirdo. You said that already. I thanked him once more, he walked away, and I continued constructing my tent.
I resumed my business and I turn around to
This old man had left my company to go retrieve boulders. Bear in my I use the word boulders specifically because the made the ground shake as he dropped each of them at my feet.
“I told you… [his tone shifts]…it’s gonna get windy.”
“Wow, thank you so much! I’ll be sure to place these on my camping stakes this evening”.
Awkwardness be damned, my compulsive midwestern politeness always get the best of me.
He walked away and I continued with my night.
Over a kerosene camping stove, I cooked dinner, opened a cold one, which was kindly provided by the RV Resort General Store, and read a book while watching the sun set over Arches National Park. To this day, it’s one of my favorite photos to look at.
I feel like it could have been the cover of an Eagles record, right?
That one little cloud in the sky still reminds me of that whole trip.
I was traveling through a completely unknown area, by myself, but no matter how scared I was, I was there.
~ The Sandstorm ~
As it turns out, Mr. Creepy Old Man was completely right. It did get windy. So windy in-fact that there was a sandstorm with 60 mph winds that persisted for five hours.
Now, in hindsight, it would have been really easy to just get into my car and ride out the storm. But no, my stubborn ass pulled the blankets up higher, and I tucked deeper into my sleeping bag while I simultaneously learned that my tent was NOT weather proof…nor was it sand proof.
The winds blew so hard that my tent was practically breathing in and out to prepare for each 60 mph gust as the air pressure around me was rapidly changing.
Scared for my life, I just gripped my blankets and spit the sand out of my mouth. (But honestly, it was everywhere and it took me two full days and two showers to get it off of me.)
~ The Dream ~
During this stressful, hellish night, I had a dream about my mom.
My mother Christa Schilb passed away from terminal cancer in June of 2004, and I have had several dream about her in the past, so this was not totally out of the ordinary, but what happened this time shook me to my core.
My mom and I sat together in a nondescript location and as dreams go, it seemed like we had been sitting there talking for a while.
Aware of my conversation, I took the opportunity to ask my mom what I apparently considered a very important question.
“Mom, what’s your favorite kind of wine?”
Stupid question. Not, “what happens after we die” or “Have you and John Denver gotten to hang out yet?”
My Mom responded with two words, “Elena Rose”, and the dream ended abruptly.
I woke up and the sun was rising. The storm had passed, and there was a full inch of standing sand inside of my tent that had blown through my mesh windows all night.
Shoveling the sand out with my hands just so I could into my bags, I sat completely in awe of what I had just experienced. I pulled out my cellphone and Googled “Elena Rose”
Elena Rose is not a type of wine. How cool would that have been?
Turns out, Elena Rose is the name of an Italian author who wrote a book titled “Ti guardo da quassù“.
Funny how our stress dreams affect us so deeply.
Roughly translated to English, “Ti guardo da quassù” means:
~ “I’m watching you from up here” ~
OKAY. I WAS FREAKED OUT.
Without a real idea of what had happened, I hastily packed up my tent, my sand packed bags, and left Moab, Utah for my next destination. But I had no idea that it was possible to be so thoroughly weirded out and simultaneously speechless about a dream.
~ The Song ~
I wrote the song “Elena Rose” loosely referencing the events of my night in Moab, Utah. It’s a powerful, heart wrenching song, that I rarely perform live due to it’s volume and the raw strength it takes to belt the high noted chorus.
“Oh, Honey Baby, Oh, Elena Rose. You said you loved me so long ago. Tell me again and I’ll let you in my heart. Oh, Elena Rose.
When I was a little kid, long before my mom passed, she called me “honey baby” when I would get hurt or if I was sick. To this day they’re the only words where I can still hear her voice in my head. A small, and clearly affective memory.
It’s been 14 years since she passed, and it’s been 14 years since I’ve heard her say she loved me, but this dream felt like such a clear line of communication from her.
Maybe I’m grasping at straws. Maybe I’m drawing conclusions to broadly.
Elena Rose is for my mother Christa Marie Schilb – she was a songwriter…and so am I.