I was sat in the biggest plane I had ever been on, with three very excited travel companions in the seats behind me and one very tired one in the seat next to me. I flew to the US with my former boyfriend and a couple of his friends. We had already booked the trip before our split and figured we might as well just go ahead with it. We were supposed to get married in Vegas, but decided to add an extra day in LA instead.
Two hours after take-off, the fuselage lights were dimmed in order to lessen our upcoming jet lag a little. My ex-boyfriend was slowly falling asleep in the seat next to me, his long legs folded underneath the chair and a little red pillow supporting his head. He lost some weight and his face was starting to show some charming wrinkles. He looked nothing like the boy with sleep-depraved eyes that left our apartment just after Christmas. I think I secretly looked forward to spending three weeks together again, sharing a bed and brushing our teeth together. While my friends started drifting in and out of sleep, I was wide-awake. Eleven hours of flashy Hollywood productions and air plane food on trays to look forward to.
We were in San Francisco for two days before we left for the mountains. The city hid in fog as I watched it getting smaller from the rear window. We were on our way to Yosemite Valley, away from the bikes, the trams, the people. I longed for some mountain air. We left at the crack of dawn and I watched the early morning sun reflecting off the Grand Lake View theatre as I stared into the cars that passed us by. I saw a woman drinking juice with a straw, a man with pilot sunglasses rhythmically tapping on the steering wheel, a young lady applying lipstick in her front mirror. We took our turns behind the wheel as the radio filled the air with the voices of loud deejays. The landscape changed dramatically while we did our best to get somewhere. Vineyards grew in to yellow hills with windmills on their shoulders, commuters with a rocky mountain backdrop changed into tall pine trees, framed only by the window and I couldn’t stop looking at them.
The weather was perfect when we reached the grey mountains. We had spotted a tiny lake just after we drove through the toll ports and we decided to go for a swim. I don’t know why, but I felt really good when I changed into my swimwear in a public rest room. Maybe it had something to do with the feeling of ‘being on the road,’ the ultimate feeling of freedom you only read about in books¹. So here I was, crossing a parking lot in my bathing suit, listening to the cheerful chatter of my friends while we made our way towards the lake’s edge. The water was so clear that I couldn’t decide whether to swim in it or drink it, so I ended up doing both. In my enthusiasm I busted my leg, trying to photograph my friends climbing over some rocks. I could have chosen not to, but my camera would have been lost. When I bandaged my leg it dawned on me; I did not have to limit myself to just one profession, I could be a photographer and a nurse at the same time. I sat back and looked at the colours of my bruise, a miniature milky way on my skin, and I realized I really wasn’t home any more.
The Grey Mountains is part of a small series of travel stories Rebecca Rijsdijk wrote and photographed on a roadtrip accross the United States of America and published in a little zine called ‘A Man Went up the Mountain.’