The road was my home away from home for two months. Everything I owned went either into storage or to friends and family. I packed necessities into the back of my Subaru Outback and I was off. My cross country journey awaited me, and while I had a vague idea of a few places I could crash, a lot of that was left up in the air.

What worried me was the long stretches of driving where I didn’t know a soul on my route. I knew I needed to find an alternative to my lodging arrangements, as hotels were becoming costly.

My dad was the one that suggested the Kampsites of America (KOA). It is a chain of campsites all over the country. I was heading up to Colorado from Southern Texas and knew that I would have to make a stop overnight somewhere. I decided to give the KOA in Amarillo a try.

I drove through the plains of Texas, passing along lots of cattle ranches and wind farms. It was such a simple, beautiful thing to see. The sky feels so big in Texas; everything was so open. It was a surreal drive, and I started to feel like I was really far away from home at this point.

When I arrived at the KOA in Amarillo, the nice lady at the desk made me aware of the membership card they offered. It was 20 some odd dollars to sign up, and you save 20% on each reservation you make with a KOA. She also included a directory of all the KOAs across the country, with all the essentials: directions with maps, phone numbers, and brief descriptions of what the Kampsite has to offer.

I was nervous about my first night camping out. I didn’t bring a tent, but I had an even better arrangement: my spacious Subaru. With my LL Bean sleeping bag, foam mat, and extra blankets, it was actually a really comfortable set up.

I decided to venture out and get something to eat and see a little bit of Amarillo. I was a minority amongst the large Mexican population in the city, and found it to be very different than what I am used to. I decided it would probably be a good idea to stop at Tacos Garcia, a really busy Mexican eatery. I found a seat at the bar and the bartender served me chips with 3 different kinds of salsa to try.

It wasn’t long before the locals started filing in, ordering their usual drinks. It was like the Mexican Cheers, where everyone knows your name. It doesn’t take long in a place like this before someone unusual like me gets some questioning looks.

I won’t lie, I felt a little out of my element, sitting at a bar in Amarillo, being all the way from Maine, hanging out with some real tough Mexican dudes. My bartender friend ended up breaking the ice for me and announcing I was Christina from Maine. Everyone seemed intrigued that I was so far away from home. They asked what I was doing, and I explained I was on a tour of the country. They ended up inaugurating me into the city by buying me a Chelada, a Dos Equis beer mixed with tomato juice and lime, and a salted rim.

I made it safely back to my campsite at the KOA that night and crawled in the back of my Subaru to pass out for the night. Sleep did not come to me too quickly. I lay awake, staring out the windows into the dark night, wondering if this was a good idea. I wasn’t sure if I was safe, and honestly felt a little frightened. With a little help from melatonin I eventually passed out, only to wake up a few hours later with the sunrise.

I awoke, stepped  out of the car and stretched. I said good morning to the Amarillo sky, feeling so extremely blessed to be free, on the road, experiencing these places and people all on my own, so far from home. I phoned home to let my parents know I was safe, and crawled back into the car for a few more hours of sleep before taking off en route to Colorado to visit an old friend. The KOAs would become a valuable part of my cross country crusade, as this wouldn’t be the last KOA I visted.