God I’m tired of flying. I realized it in Denver International Airport last week while waiting at the end of a very long security line that snaked around and around like a small intestine, bulging with humans and carry-on backpacks, anxious glances and screaming children. In an ordinary year, flying is a novel thing and so, in its novelty interesting no matter how odd the crowd I fly with. That day was different though, that day I was flying one-way for the fifth time in a year, going through security for the ninth time in that same year (I also stuck in a couple of round trips), utilizing public transportation for the umpteenth time and, frankly, I was over it.

Why all this flying? This selfish act of spewing earth warming fossil fuels into the air so I could get somewhere in fraction of the time it would take to drive there? None of this was for work, I assure you. At least half of it was for love (on the other end of three of those one-ways waited a romantic road trip with a special someone through some beautiful part of the American west), about 1/4 for family (also for love but a different sort), and well, more than 1/4 was for purely selfish reasons so I’m not sure how this math actually works out. Regardless, I spent more time on planes over the past year than any year previously and it was mostly enjoyable, until that day at DEN, destination Charlotte, North Carolina where I would retrieve my car, the automobile whose absence was the sole inspiration for so much cash blown on airfare, and so much of America seen from the window of a plane.

I remember the moment with the epiphany struck, it’s vague, but I remember it. I was in San Francisco somewhere, probably walking (because I was almost always walking somewhere while in San Francisco), probably out of breath (because if I was walking it was uphill), and battling a fierce wind that made the earpiece of my phone echo (because it’s always windy in San Francisco). I had recently arrived in the city, via the first of the five one-way plane tickets, and having abandoned my car in the name of lowering my daily expenses and, more importantly, learning how to be dependent both on other people and public transportation. Having spent the majority of my adult life roaming the country and living in my car, camping solo and depending entirely on myself, I was ready for a change and I thought that losing the thing which gave me most of my independence was a good first step. And so there I was in the city, walking somewhere, talking on the phone to a friend in Colorado, musing about all the money I would save on car insurance without a car to insure. “So!” I exclaimed, “I should just start buying plane tickets. I’d be spending the money on transportation anyway, so I may as well seize the opportunity to go to places I’ve never been, and the most efficient way to go is by plane. It’s brilliant!” The friend agreed, and therefore confirmed, it was a great idea. My mind swirled with destinations–Washington, Portland, the northern Rockies topping the list– and suddenly car-lessness turned into opportunity, despite my part time, minimum wage income from the travel magazine where I worked, and my occasional reliance on food stamps thanks to my inability to both pay rent and feed myself in high rolling SF. Travel trumps an empty bank account, I’ve always believed…

And brilliant it was. I spent five days in Seattle (Virgin America, $120 roundtrip), six days spread between Bozeman, MT (United, $152 oneway) and a long drive back to SF, Christmas with the family in PA and VA (Delta, $406 roundtrip), five days spread between wolfwatching in Yellowstone (one of the ‘for love’ trips, United, $159 one way) and road tripping back to CO, five days spread between visiting friends, and family, watching Fleet Foxes perform in San Francisco (Frontier, $160 one way) then driving back to CO (with said love and all his belongings).

It all culminated last week with my oneway passage to CLT, where my exercise in car-lessness would at last come to a screeching  halt (no pun), just at the vital moment when I’d begun to imagine myself lashing out at fellow public trans travelers at each long wait, missed bus, second hand cell phone conversation, getting stuck sitting next to the smelly guy, forgotten book or other reading material/distraction, and wasted hour and a half covering a distance that would take 45 minutes by car, etc). Not to mention that I was teetering on the cusp of losing my mind without a car in Colorado, a state where automobile=wilderness access, crag access, a quick climbing trip to Moab, UT access, and shit, I did not return to this state so I could stare longingly out the bus windows wishing for a way to penetrate the backcountry once again.

So I perched on the edge of my seat the whole flight through from Denver to Charlotte and when the wheels finally touched down with a jolt on the CLT runway, I grabbed my pack and charged off the plane, ready to reclaim my independence via automobile! I spent a scant 36 hours in VA (Charlotte, NC, AirTran, $215) with my parents on their captivating Heaven’s Holler B&B and readied myself for the 1700 mile journey back to the Rockies. As I bid my folks farewell and took my well-worn seat at the drivers side, I smiled. “On the road again at last. On the road and not in a plane. Hallelujah!”