Eagles and Deer and Cats, Oh My

catAt the beginning of the road trip, my daughter and I agreed we’d go where we wanted to go—we had no plan about where we were going and when. When I told people this, not everyone understood, most notably the woman at AAA in Portland. I went there the night before MEH (My Engineer Husband and I) left Maine.

Here’s how it went down:

Me: I need some maps and trip planning books; I’m driving across the country.

Her: You should talk to one of our trip planners.

Me: No, I don’t need to…

Her: Okay, maybe you should come back closer to the trip when you know better where you’re going…

Me: I’m leaving tomorrow!

Her: [[blank look]]

Me: All I know for sure is the end point, San Francisco.

Her: [[blank look]]

Me: My daughter is starting a job and I’m taking her, then I’m driving back by myself.

Her: [[Jaw drops open, followed by…] And  you’re okay with that…

Me: Yes?

Her: I’d have to stop by 4 each day to be comfortable with that.

When I left AAA (with an assorted stack of maps and travel books), I wasn’t sure if I should cancel the trip or be mad that someone who worked at a TRAVEL DESK was such a stick-in-the-mud downer. Needless to say (a) I didn’t cancel the trip, (b) no way I’m stopping before 4 everyday or I’ll never make it across the country in less than a month, and (c) We’re having FUN not knowing where we’ll end up…

Like yesterday. Our original thought was that after Chicago we’d head south, on our way to Colorado and the Grand Canyon. But here’s the thing, we both wanted to go to St. Paul, Minnesota, where my cousin and his family live. I told my daughter we couldn’t fit in both St. Paul and the Grand Canyon (and still get her to SF in time for her first day of work).

She said: “People over places.” And so it was that yesterday we drove from Chicago to St. Paul, via Wisconsin.

And here’s where I get to the animal portion of this post. It was on I-90, going through the farmlands of Wisconsin, that we saw the single thing that we both agreed made the entire trip worthwhile. As we drove, we were sad to see deer after deer along the roadside—in all about sixteen (if you count the one coyote-wolf-deer—we weren’t sure). No, this roadkill was not what made the trip worthwhile.

It was this. As I was driving, I looked over into a newly plowed field and saw a deer walking…and I said to my daughter: “Finally! A live deer!” But then, as we were watching the deer, we saw something else. About twenty feet from the deer: a bald eagle, sitting in the field! Then the most amazing thing happened, the deer turned toward the eagle and started running toward it, and then the BEST thing happened. The eagle took off and flew. We were both absolutely stunned, to the point of shouting with absolute glee.

All this to say… if we’d stuck with the original plan, we’d never have seen this amazing “Wild America” moment. And my daughter wouldn’t have played football in my cousin’s backyard with his two kids, and we wouldn’t have enjoyed the amazing feast my cousin and his wife prepared for us in their lovely, cozy home. And we wouldn’t have gotten three important potions to help us along our journeys (long story, but thank you L and S!). And I wouldn’t have been woken up by their sweet cat Mibsy who was watching a bug flying around the room (see pic with this post).

It was one more memorable day on the road, but an even more memorable stop along the way—as we said to our cousins: “You are our Grand Canyon.”






  1. How amazing!!! I am green with envy. Spontaneity definitely rules! xo

  2. Emma Pass says:

    What an amazing trip! I’m green with envy too!

  3. Julie Luek says:

    Oh I love moments like that– I always think maybe there is a sign in that. What does it mean? (usually means nothing, but I like to think it’s a divine sign anyway). How wonderful that you shared it together.

  4. Erika Marks says:

    No pressure, but I am LOVING these updates and looking forward to them when they arrive online–so I hope you’ll keep them coming–but most of all I hope you both are having the time of your lives–and I KNOW you are!:)

  5. Barb Riley says:

    You’ve raised a wonderful daughter: “People over places.” (That’s my kind of girl!) And I’m with you on Ms. Downer Travel Desk Woman discouraging nearly every aspect of your trip. Sheesh!

    An eagle taking off in flight AND a live deer all in one moment? That’s a much better way to experience a journey than viewing road kill. Seeing dead deer is terribly upsetting, isn’t it? They’re so majestic and innocent, it hurts to know they came to that kind of end.


  6. Such an AMAZING piece of nature you witnessed. How absolutely wonderful, Julia. I love that you’re winging it – and that you had that travel agent so flummoxed with your adaptability! Sounds like the trip is going wonderfully.

  7. Wonderful post, Julia. I’m not sure why the quality of AAA reps has gone down so much; they used to be so cool. We used hand-drawn Triptiks for many years. But you and your daughter made the right decision to just go by maps. It can be magical to drive cross-country, for the reasons you mentioned (and that awesome scene you witnessed!) I know you’ll both remember this time for years to come. Safe travels!

  8. Nancy Kelley says:

    Deer! Eagles! Football! It sounds like yet another fabulous day on the road. And seriously, the AAA lady couldn’t understand the call of the open road? She is clearly in the wrong line of work.