Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 1-The Ultimate American Road Trip

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to take a cliche roadtrip cross country. My friends and I talked about it, but life carried on without the epic journey. From high school I went to college, then grad school, to a career in graphic design which was cut short to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. It has been a year since I started the trail and 6 months since I finished, and it is time for another adventure! To Americans, there’s nothing that appeals more than the classic road trip. I plan to visit four friends along the way, starting in Connecticut I will head to Nashville, Tennessee; the king of country music! From there, Memphis a town full of soul. I will visit my friend Justin in Los Angeles but not before stopping in Texas, Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and New Mexico. After, loop around to Utah, visit my friend Shane in Colorado, and Allie in Kansas City. It's been years since I've been to St. Louis so that will be a stop as well before my last friend stop Anna (Scout) in Louisville, Kentucky. If there is time, cross over to North Carolina and come up the gorgeous coast back to Connecticut the day before Mother's Day, if not; there's always next time for that part. I guess it's about time I stop saying I, and start saying we. Two days ago I told my cousin Rosie that the car was rented with or without her, so she might as well pack her bags and come along, and I'll be damned she agreed! My family thinks I'm unconventional and spontaneous but I've got to give her this one for being pretty awesome to just drop everything so last minute and come along! This country is big, and there is still so much more of it I want to see than the 29 days I set aside for this trip. Last year on the trail I was away for Easter and Mother's Day and figured I better be home this year for them! To me, travel is more than visiting somewhere you have wanted to go, it’s about exploring the unknown. Seeing new places, and gathering more stories. Sometimes it simply means getting in your car (or for instance a rental in our case) and driving off to explore your own country and learning to appreciate everything it has to offer. Since Rosie was leaving her job so last minute, she still hd to work Friday meaning we couldn't leave until after 5:00pm. I knew I would be stir crazy so I went to a noon showing of The Longest Ride to occupy some of my time. By the time I got home, I loaded the last few things into the car and sat patiently waiting inside with my Mom and Felix to wait for the call from Rosie. When the phone rang, I think I answered on the first ring with excitement. She would be home in 15 minutes so I said my goodbyes and jumped in the Chevy to pick up my cousin. When I got there her boyfriend Devon came down with three small bags and a sleeping bag, perfect! Everything will fit. He gave me a hug and said I better take care of her, reassuring him I will. He replied I know you will, you hiked the whole Appalachian Trail by yourself! We said our goodbyes and off we went, talking about how it hasn't truly hit us yet the adventure we are about to embark on. Jumping on Interstate 84 West, I noticed my phone GPS and AAA Triptiks were not the same directions, naturally I agreed with the GPS when we got off some random rte 202 exit that we thought the written directions were taking us. We did a nice little 10 minute or so detour getting caught at a few red lights and that is when I thought, this doesn't seem right lets follow the GPS and back on the interstate we went. The drive through Connecticut into New York flew by and the traffic wasn't bad and before we knew it we were crossing the Tappan Zee bridge. New Jersey was next and my eyes and body were growing tired. So, we stopped off to get gas; perfect an Exxon station right off the highway. Getting off it is nowhere to be seen, so naturally I turn right. (Later we learn I should have went left.) So we drive down the street a bit to a one laned construction area with no lights in sight, yup should have went the other way. As soon as there was an opportunity to turn around we did so and I opened my AAA app to search for nearby gas stations, noticing if I just went left I would have found the Exxon station the first time. We got out, stretched our legs, filled the tank, and went inside for a bathroom break and some energy. Rosie picked up two Mountain Dews and I got a large Starbucks vanilla frappuccino. I decided I was still alright to drive so off we went, and then all hell broke loose...literally. I pulled out of the gas station and went to shake my large frappuccino drink spraying it all over the car and our laps. It was as if a volcano was erupting from my hand and there was nothing I could do about it, in the matter of seconds our laps and whole front of the car from door to door were covered with sticky, cold, and wet coffee. I burst out laughing not knowing what to do, maybe all of the memories to be made will all happen within the first 14 hours. We drove for a minute soaked so we could at least get to the on ramp and just pull off to the side of the road, well that takes care of the new car smell. Once we pulled over I didn't know where to start, overwhelmed we cleaned some of it up with napkins and realized we needed the wipes or everything would be all sticky. I got out and went in the trunk to our neatly organized drawers and pulled out paper towels and baby wipes. We cleaned everything up and decided to change our pants as well. Pulled off on the side of the on ramp, I opened both the passenger and backseat door and stripped my bottoms off inbetween the two putting on a nice dry pair of pants and then Rosie did the same. Now that everything was cleaned up, we were dry, and half of my frappuccino was gone; we were ready to hit the road once again. Passing through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia were uneventful. We did stop again about 8 hours into our trip to another Exxon in Virginia to fill up the tank, bathroom break, and switch drivers. Both Rosie and I can't believe 8 hours have passed, I feel like it's only been 4 or 5 hours. The nice thing is we will gain an hour back once we hit Nashville which will be nice for the time difference. The cool thing about this trip is now that I am down here we are passing places I went while on the Appalachian Trail like Harpers Ferry, Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Brings back some great memories enjoying the time spent with my Nana and Papa during that time slack packing on the trail (refer to prior AT blog posts if you are lost.) Further along I was reminded of my amazing hitch into Marion and the amazing people down here in the South. It's nice to reminisce the towns and memories of a year ago over again while driving. The gas light came on forcing us off the highway and so we saw a sign for Shell, the only problem was they were closed when we pulled in. Only 10 miles until we switch interstates so I figured there would be gas stations at that point, you know what they say about assuming. In other words, I was crossing my fingers and toes we wouldn't be pushing the Chevy down the highway tonight and thankfully we wouldn't! Another Exxon station was now in sight. I started to drive again and we debated if we would drive straight through since we were just over two hours away from Nashville. That would mean we probably wouldn't sleep at all until the following night. The other option was to stop and sleep for a couple hours and then continue on. I drove until sunrise and then decided to pull into a rest area, probably a good thing too since when we stopped my vision was doing the same movement that happens when you get off a treadmill. I didn't like it at all, I closed my eyes and tried to be as comfortable as possible in the crammed driver's seat. I tried putting my legs up on the dash, I tried one up one down, I didn't know what to do with my head but I knew I was tired and needed to rest my eyes. I dozed off soon thereafter and woke up with a limp "sleeping" right leg, and then full of pins and needles; how pleasant. We rested from about 7:00am-9:00am and Rosie decided she was good to take on driving the last hour and 30 minutes to Nashville!

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