This week, please welcome our 13-year old daughter, Flannery Lundgren, as she shares her experiences from ten weeks on the road “working” with her parents!
by Flannery Lundgren
This summer, I had one of the craziest and best adventures of my life. When my parents finished their new film Phoenix, Oregon, I was finally out of the craziness and was ready to have a relaxing 7th grade summer with my friends. I was not planning on getting in an RV and driving around the country.
I remember the first time my mom mentioned the trip. She sounded excited, but it also sounded like one of her crazy, unrealistic ideas that never happened. In the beginning, I didn’t believe her. It was like a fantasy that wasn’t going to come true, and I was very doubtful to be honest. Now, I know my mom, and she would stick to an idea for a while. This was one that she was intent on following through on. But it was not until the day I first saw the RV wrapped in the movie billboards, that I finally realized this fantasy was not just an idea sitting in the vast brain of my mother.
Getting into our RV for the first time brought mixed feelings of excitement and dread. My stomach flipped as I climbed into the motor home, smelling of gross floral cleaning supplies. Unloading my stuff in the bunk above the driver’s seat felt like moving into a new house, inviting us in. The worst things about leaving home were saying goodbye to my friends and my dog. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the fun things my friends were going to be doing without me. Now, of course I think they should be the ones jealous of me. But back in that moment, stepping into the RV, I just wanted to run back home and have the summer I planned for.
The first few days dragged on slowly. We were still in Oregon, and I had already been to most of the places. To keep myself busy, I created a bucket list of things I should try to do that summer. Most of which I completed. That list kept me going through Oregon, and once we got about two weeks through the tour, I realized this was going to be the best summer ever. I started having more fun with everything as we started moving through the states. I had never been on a road trip this long before and to all of these new places. I was feeling pumped.
The first amazing landmark we stopped at was the Grand Canyon. This brings back great memories. The canyon seemed unreal, the sunlight hitting it in just a way where all the colors lay perfectly still on this real life photograph. It was fun seeing it for the first time. Also it was the first time that summer that we stayed in an actual RV park. One of my favorite memories on the tour took place there. It began when we entered a nearby store, looking for firewood that night. We all had a clear image of a fire pit in our campsite. So after getting the charcoal as instructed (we weren’t allowed to use wood), marshmallows, and hotdogs, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Well it was just our luck that when we got back to the campsite, the fire pit we swore we saw was just a figment of our imagination. It was pretty hilarious seeing all of our stuff just laid out on the table, as we stared in astonishment at the blank space where our fire pit had been in our minds. So the next best idea, which I found quite amusing, was to just build our own. After changing our minds several times about the placement of it as to not bother our neighbors, we got worried about someone seeing it and kicking us out, so we got our table and dragged it in front of it, sort of hiding it in this little space behind the RV. I have to admit, it looked pretty professional, and I was very proud of it. We enjoyed our meal (no, we did not get kicked out) and afterwards took apart the fireplace, like nothing had happened. My family still laughs about that, and that was just one of the pretty funny moments on tour.
We seemed to drive fast across the next few states, and before I knew it, we were in the South. We went to Meow Wolf in New Mexico, ate Texas barbecue, enjoyed the bugs in humid Arkansas, and had lots of fun along the way. But I was surprised how fast we reached the Southern states. It seemed like just yesterday when we left. When we arrived in Louisiana, my dad and I broke off from the group to go to some rooftop screenings in New York City and Brooklyn. Getting up at four in the morning was not going to be fun, but I was so excited to go see New York. It would be my third time going there, and it was going to be fun going to the screenings on the rooftops. When we stepped off the airplane, we were finally in New York, which I had been thinking about for weeks. The screenings went amazing, and I had a great time. Then, we flew back to North Carolina, where we met up with the rest of our group. It was good to reunite and see everybody again after being away for a while.
As we drove up through the states, I started noticing a lot more history. Even though our own western states have sad history, a lot of it is covered up. There, there were buildings built so long ago, that paint was peeling off and each one had their own story. I could still see signs of cities that used to be segregated, and landmarks that had sad stories. I knew a lot of this history through school, but I think it was good to see it with my own eyes. So many people struggled back then, and there were still small traces of their hard lives.
As we went farther up, we planned on seeing more landmarks, such as Washington D.C. and Niagara Falls. I think Niagara Falls was my favorite stop on the tour. It was so beautiful, and I had a lot more fun than I thought I was going to. Seeing the water sweep over the cliff, sending out a wave of mist was an amazing experience. Especially when we took a boat tour around the falls. Since it was pouring rain and spraying us with mist, we were soaked when we returned. But that was definitely the best part.
As we were leaving the Northeast, we began heading back home across the top of the US. We entered the Midwest, where we swam in Lake Erie, saw Mt. Rushmore, and got a flat tire in the Badlands. When we pulled over on the side of the road in South Dakota, we realized one of our back tires had been busted. Unfortunately we spent the majority of the day sitting there waiting for the tow truck. I remember my mom being pretty stressed, because she had to call about twenty places to finally get a truck to come get us. Luckily one came for us, and we watched our RV being towed up onto it. I remember imagining a news article titled, “Phoenix, Oregon finally breaks down after 12,000 miles of touring.” But eventually we were back on the road, headed to see Mt. Rushmore, where we arrived at 9:00 at night, when it was pitch black. Since we weren’t going back in the morning, we had to try to take the best pictures possible which was hard, considering we were there at 9:00.
The next day we were back on the road, and we entered the West, and I started to imagine home. I had had such a great time on tour, so I almost wanted to just keep going on the road. But I knew as we were getting closer and closer to home, that I was very excited to reach it and see my dog, cat, and all my friends.
After driving through Montana and Idaho and seeing Seattle for the first time, we arrived in beautiful Oregon. As we drove closer to home, I began feeling ready to be back for the first time in three months. Our final screening in Portland was wonderful, where even I got to answer a few questions at the Q&A. This screening was special but also sad, because it was also the very first place we screened, so it really gave the tour a sense of closing.
Before I knew it, we were back home. It was a bittersweet feeling, but I knew we were all ready to be back and get back in the routine of everyday life. I know I will always remember this amazing adventure, because it meant so much to me and my parents. My mom and dad got their movie promoted to the whole country — Shoutout — I’m so proud of you guys! Love you! And I got an awesome vacation. I’m so glad this one out of all of my mom’s ideas and dreams became a reality for us. Because this was truly the best summer ever.