I pulled out of Maine on the first day of spring. For three months, I spent most of my time behind the wheel of a vehicle that seemed ready to quit. The transmission slips and it’s burning through fluid. It’s been doing this for over a year. I barely got it from the middle of an intersection in Atlanta. There are dents along the driver’s-side front quarter panel and door from a collision with a deer on Highway 96B in Ithaca almost two years ago. The blinker part of my headlight is broken from the same incident. The hole is covered with clear packing tape. The passenger side fog light is hanging on by a screw and the bumper just below it is cracked from slamming into a snow bank this past winter. The speakers went out after less than 4,000 miles on this 15,000 mile trek. My auxiliary power is hardwired to the battery and there’s no passenger seat—a modification I made partly for the comfort of Kamani during the road trip and partly out of fear that the airbag would break her neck if deployed. Around 5,000 miles, just outside of Santa Fe, my temperature gauge red-lined a half a mile from the camping area I was driving to. I parked the car to let the motor cool and Kamani and I hiked to the campsite. Later, I retrieved the car. The next day I found a tiny leak in one of the coolant lines and repaired it with zip-ties and liquid metal, which held for the rest of my trip.
During the life of this car, I’ve slept, eaten, crashed, moved, lived and fucked in this machine. And I certainly can’t condense the experience I had over the past few months on the road in one blog post, so I’ll handle the most pressing matter now.
The vast majority of my friends and the people I spoke to along the way were incredibly supportive of this trip. I saw so many of my old friends, and I’ve already begun thinking about next year’s road-trip.
One of my oldest friends wrote me while I was on the road and asked me what the journey had brought me. Someone else asked me what three things I learned about myself because of the trip, but I didn’t buy into the second question. I don’t buy into the self-help book philosophy or any of its ambiguous questions, which, by the way, only lead you to buying more self-help bullshit.
I took this trip because there was a large percentage of the country I’ve never seen. I took a car most people wouldn’t chance to drive to work and drove it to the Pacific Ocean and back. I had a leash, a back pack, my .380 and two thumbs. The car wasn’t the trip.
Some comments that resonated with me a bit more throughout the trip were:
You’re so lucky.
God, I wish I could do that. You’re so lucky.
Must be nice to be so lucky.
I was stopped by a state trooper on the Fourth. I was speeding. I saw him turn on his blinker and I knew he was coming for me. There’s no inspection sticker on my car. He made his turn and hit his blues.
I made a left turn down a side street and he followed me, so I pulled over.
“Where’s your seat?” The trooper asked when he got to the window.
“I took it out so my dog would have more room.”
“Do you have an inspection sticker?”
“License, registration and proof of insurance, please.”
I handed those things over.
When the trooper came back to my car, he handed me a ticket for not having an inspection sticker. He didn’t write me tickets for speeding or failing to register my car, which had expired at the end of June. Then we talked about fishing and Wyoming for several minutes.
That was luck. That I didn’t get herpes from my ex-wife was luck. Someone telling me that I’m “lucky” to have taken the trip I was on is annoying and insulting because of the context that it comes from:
You’re lucky to be able to do this because I live in the real world or I have children or a real job or grown-up responsibilities.
I’m tired of hearing shit like this in a tone that suggests I should be grateful that my life isn’t as stressful or more hindered by things I don’t want to do. My ability to take this trip came from a series of conscious choices. I don’t have children. I didn’t sink myself into a mortgage. I don’t have a job that requires me to work 40 hours a week. And I don’t need a fucking spouse or partner to be happy or feel complete.
I’ve finished three degrees, including a terminal degree. I’ve worked more than a dozen different types of jobs. My first novel, Porcelain Moths, will be in print next year. And, I’m directly responsible for a significant part of the education of almost 100 young adults every year.
Finally, and most importantly, I pull out.
So, what is this real world, real job, real responsibility bullshit again?