Road Trip

A redacted excerpt from a story I submitted online. Non-fiction, if for some reason they decide its worth posting maybe I’ll put up the link to the whole thing.

(picks up from Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas)

Set out early the next morning, grab a hearty breakfast, two bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddles, and go to Walmart where you take a six hundred dollar cash advance from your credit card, and also buy a digital audio recorder with 256 hours of memory.

And head west young man.

Cross into the stunning, lonely desolation of the high plains in western Kansas and eastern and central Colorado. Watch entire storm systems move across a view that is two thirds sky, twenty miles in radius, and is, quite literally, devoid of trees. Talk idly of religion, politics, ‘what if’ scenarios, life, and philosophy. Let your conversation ramble across a territory as expansive as that you’re driving through, and just as full of sound and fury (signifying nothing).

Breeze through Denver at 80 miles an hour after a white knuckled fight through some of the most intense thunderstorms you’ve experienced in your 24 brief years of existence. Relinquish the wheel to your friend and cross into the cold and snowy rockies.

Leave 800 dollars worth of electronics bound up in a camera, battery, and internal memory, sitting on a bench outside a rest stop overlooking a massive valley bejeweled with the twinkling lights of vacation properties.

Cross into the canyon lands of Utah just as the second night of your trip begins to darken. Fall into a tortured kind of dozing sleep as the landscape flies by, enormous boulders looming, more sensed than seen, in the inky blackness crowding the headlights from all directions.

Wake up eight hundred un-fucking-believable miles from where you fell asleep and realize that your friend is far more of a warrior than you ever thought possible. Stop outside of Vegas on a gravelly shoulder and lay on top of your car while your friend sleeps, looking at a sky filled with more stars than you’ve seen in years.

Realize that you might inadvertently starve if permitted that view all the time.

And onward to the city of sin.

Don’t even stop in Vegas, drive straight through that seductive mirage, that siren song of a town, and stop twenty miles outside at a casino where 26 bucks a night buys you a smoking room. Leave the asthmatic, elderly, desperate, down-on-their-luck gamblers grinding it out at perhaps the seediest casino in the state of Nevada the moment you wake up, saving a trip across the casino by exiting through a side door.

Hit desert, unending, merciless yellow desert, baked and broken from Vegas to Barstow, a paved course over the Clark Mountain Range, through Baker, Zzyzx of fourth grade renown, and the Candy Mountains, and cruise into Los Angeles, California in the dappled, late afternoon sun of your fourth full day on the road. Drive to Santa Monica, eat paella at a restaurant you can’t really afford, take pictures of the Pacific Ocean, find a cheap motel, and go get some drinks. Pass out.

Leave California the next morning, acres of windmills and unforgiving cactused emptiness retreating in your mirrors. Less than 24 hours have passed since entering the state.

The return feels quicker. Arizona, miniature dust cyclones, more breathtaking scenery than most people see in five years, chit chat for hours.

Mountains give way to Texas plains, Texas plains give way to Texas scrubland, and 15 miles from the Louisiana border crash your mother’s 2006 Corolla into the back of a semi at nearly 45 miles an hour.

The front end disappears, gone, vanished in an explosion of machined parts and industrial lubrication.

In the midst of smoke, terror, blaring alarms, and confusion get your car off the road. Discover your friend can barely walk (he has a broken ankle), call your parents and confess everything, hole up in shocked disbelief and pain in a dilapidated motel in a decaying small Texas town. Recover your snowboard and books from the car, which is destroyed by any measure of the word.

Its back end has almost fallen off. Realize that crumple zones, air bags, and seat belts, and, this is important, an incessant seat belt alarm, saved both of your lives. Literally. Listen to the crash on the audio recorder on which the aural story of your entire trip from Kansas forward is recorded, cringe, thank a god you don’t believe in that you aren’t dead.

Spend the next 36 hours on a Grey Hound bus, your fr

iend in complete agony, before arriving home where the trip began, Greensboro, North Carolina. You smell like a sewer and haven’t changed clothes in 4 days, you’ve barely eaten. But you are home. And you have gone on a fantastic adventure.

And you are alive.


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