Saturday, December 31, 2011

Never Stop For Gas In Mclean, Texas (road trip part I)

The entire journey began shakey. As life is unexpected and often suprising, something difficult and truly heartbreaking occured two days before I set out on a cross-country road trip. Leaving my sisters and mother after an incredible time together only made the packing up and heading West even harder. My heart is in Philadelphia. 

That said, this has been one of the most interesting and crazy journeys of my life and we've only been on it for twenty-four hours. 

This past week I've seen so many sunrises. Because either A) I'm trying to be all deep & girly, or B) I have insomnia and way too many anxious feelings and suffer from a deep inset of Italian and Puerto Rican neurosis. I'm going for the latter but pretending it's the former. 

I feel like I need to break up this road trip in a few chapters. Let's begin with chapter 1. 

Chapter One - Middle America, Now It's A Tragedy

People who think Pennsylvania isn't beautiful and full of nice landscape are obviously cracked out on something. Because driving through Lancaster and beyond proves otherwise. But then...ugh, THEN...once you pass out of Pennsylvania you start to hit not-so-pretty states. Like West Virginia. What the heck is West Virginia even good for people? Huh? I have nothing of use to blog about in regards to West Virginia.* 

*might be influenced by Philadelphian hostility, no offense to West Virginians

.. Alas, we truck onward through our first experience with a barren land (West Virginia). 

We hit our first obstacle. The music situation. My car doesn't have a tape deck, none of us have iPod hook ups and Jason is the only one who brought CDs. For those of you wondering, there are three of us on this road trip. Me, en route to my mainland Los Angeles after spending time with family in Philadelphia for Christmas. Then there's Jason, the token ginger, and Josh, the adventurous writer, who are the only two friends of mine crazy enough to agree to accompany me on a last-minute, spur of the moment road trip. 

Back to the obstacle--NO MUSIC. And goodness knows we aren't going to listen to the radio stations in West Virginia, nowhere Ohio and later Indiana. Oh no. Unfortunately, the majority of Jason's CDs are completely RUINED. We listened to his Tupac mix tonight and I'm pretty sure Tupac didn't have a stuttering problem, but eh, who's to say really?

All I can say is thank goodness for Five Iron Frenzy, some random mixes and wahh-lahh! My iPod Home I realized today I had stuffed away in my trunk. Music problem pretty much solved. 

Yesterday we trekked through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and ended our travels for Day One right outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I managed to capture the Ohio sky sunset:

Not bad, Ohio. Not sure what else you got besides passionate  psychotic football fans, but your susnet wasn't too shabby. 

Can I just take a moment to say that it warms my heart when I look at the back of my car and see Harry Potter books strewn about?

When I'm feeling homesick or tired or cranky on this trip, I just take out my dear friend Harry and it instantly makes me feel better. 

* * * 

We made it to Indiana where we met up with Josh's good friend from college--Jacob. Jacob lives in Indiana and took us out to dinner in Indianapolis. Y'all, I was pleasantly surprised with this little city. I probably sound so pretentious but I just honestly never really thought about Indiana as a state let alone any cities within it, but Indianapolis is home to a cozy Cajun restaurant where we had dinner and it was super nice. Not only was it delicious, but there were a plethora of attractive hipster men. What's better than cute hipsters serving me Cajun rice and chicken? Um, NOTHING!!! It was awesome.

Cute little downtown. 

Wouldn't you love a cute, shaggy-haired, "I definitely listen to Fleet Foxes and journal in a Moleskin and probably ride a bike to work" guy serving this to you? I sure did!

After parting ways with kind Jacob, we were back on the road! Ugh. At this point, my body began screaming for a bed. This is where the travels started to get interesting. We had our first encounter with zombies. 

Seriously, I swear the people at the random Illinois travel stations were zombies. 

Google image "Illinois Zombies"

Ugh I so agree. 

Then we needed something to entertain us, so we turned on the radio station and it was a legit SHERLOCK HOLMES SHOW. It was raining, there was wind, we were driving away from the scary Illinois zombies down a dark road listening to Sherlock Holmes. It was just one of those moments where I had to pause and think, "Yes, this is happening in my life right now."

I wish I could say after we settled in our hotel and enjoyed a well-rested night of sleep Chapter One came to a close. But alas, it continued. We awoke, enjoyed our free breakfast courtesy of the lovely Comfort Inn, and were back on the ROAD!!! YEEHAW. 

Here's a little collage I made of Day Two on the Road, still entitled "Middle America, Now It's A Tragedy."

Right there you have my New Years dinner...McDonald's..., the long road somewhere in Missouri, the Oklahoma sunset and me enjoying wondering if we were going to encounter any more Zombies. Yikes. 
Today we traveled through Missouri, Oklahoma and are finally in Texas. I'm going to skip basically everything because I need to tell you about Chapter Two, entitled:

Chapter Two - Never Stop For Gas In Mclean...EVER.

I learned one thing from this afternoon and that is basically, I never want to live in Middle America. But also, the people are really nice, but I still don't think I could do it. Props to you all who do live in Middle America, but the long roads alone would drive me crazy. I NEED COASTS. I'm a coast kinda gal. 

Anyway. All day we drove...the sounds of Hanson, Tupac, Yellowcard, Mumford, Nelly, T-Swift.....basically, the most random songs in the entire world, accompanied our ears. Things were going pretty well until we hit...


As if the wind wasn't terrible enough (I could literally feel my car swerving every which way and tumbleweeds kept rushing past us...yes, actual tumble-freaking-weeds) the part of Texas you enter straight from Oklahoma is one crazy place. It was around 8pm when we started to need gas. At least, I think it was around this time. I'm not really sure since my phone is on Philadelphia time still as is my car and my laptop is California time. Anyway, at some point at nighttime we entered a wormhole. 


google image: wormhole.

Not only were we Rick Rolled on the Texas radio station, but I'm pretty sure we traveled back in time to about 1971. As I stated before, we needed gas. The nearest exit was Mclean...oh Lord, if I had known what awaited us in Mclean I would have braved the few more miles until the next town. 

We were hopeful as we exited the freeway, but it all went downhill from there. First of all, Mclean is a GHOST TOWN. This became extremely evident extremely fast. I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle and my breath quickened to a sharp pace--I was nervous. I felt relief wash over me as we spotted a gas station a bit ways up the road but I couldn't help the eery feeling that had settled deep into the pit of my stomach. I had never seen so many abandoned buildings. This was New Years Eve! Shouldn't there be some sign of life? But all I could see as we crept down the vacant street were empty building after empty building. This place was the definition of a ghost town. I was feeling nervous but when I saw the creepy motel on our left, I began to feel genuine fear. It was straight out of "Psycho" - I'm pretty sure Norman Bates was hanging around in there somewhere. Of course Jason and Josh vowed to visit the motel on the way back from gas, but I just cringed...this was not a normal town.

We reached the gas station to find that non of the pumps worked. We looked at each other and agreed silently it probably wasn't a good idea to venture into the gas station to ask where the nearest place was. We immediately turned around in the car and headed to where we thought was the highway, but of course we had to pass that terrifying motel. I'm telling you it was this:

Actually, that looks nicer. Jason pulled my car into the empty lot. My heart was racing as the guys jumped out of the car, each filming and documenting the utter sketchiness of it all. I opened my door to loud gusts of wind and immediately screamed. I couldn't help it--it was ominously empty. There wasn't a car in the lot save for the owner's parked by the office. The wind was whipping at speeds that made my hair dance around my face, Josh and Jason were off running around and filming and I was having a near meltdown at the impending doom. Plus, we were running out of gas and FAST. When it became too scary, the guys jumped back in the car and I yelled for Jason to floor it out of there. 

And there it was - the gas light. By now I was practically hyperventilating. What were we going to do if we broke down on the Texas highway with no cellphone service and no internet? My GPS wasn't working, our phones were as good as gone and the wind was picking up speeds. The nearest town was twelve miles away and I prayed the entire ride there. We thankfully made it just as I was about to cry. There was only one gas station and we found it and I nearly kissed the nozzles! My heart finally returned to a normal pace. I'd never been so happy to be at a run-down gas station in a town with a population of about 500 people. My favorite interaction of the night:

Jason: (To gas station man) Is there any fast food around here?
Man: There ain't nothing around here.

Yep, exactly.

What a night. Now I sit here, reflecting over this last year in a random Texas city. Tomorrow we drive to Vegas and then to Los Angeles. I am so grateful I am experiencing all of this. I am so thankful and grateful to God. I can't adequately express all that is going on in my heart and head right now. So much has happened this past week. It's been a really difficult week, emotionally and spiritually. Dealing with the death of a person - a beautiful and young person - is always difficult but when it is truly unexpected it is so hard. I know God is faithful and works everything together for His good, but sometimes I can't help but feel so confused and want to ask Why? Why God? I am on this crazy adventure and all I can think about is being home with my sisters, with the people I love...all I can think about is my friends, new and old...and I wonder. Life really is just one crazy road trip adventure. It could end at any minute, we have no idea which exit we get off. We need to radically live life. It's so easy to say, "Live everyday as if it were your last" or to say things like "We never know what's going to happen, no day is guaranteed" but do we truly understand this? If we did, we would live such different lives.

I pray we can each take our life and appreciate every stop - every strange town, every bump in the road, every sunset and sunrise. I don't care if it's cliche to say those things. Each sunrise and sunset is A GIFT. A precious, fleeting, beautiful gift and we need to cherish it. I'm not big on New Years resolutions. To be frank, I think they're dumb. But that is my life resolution--to just be so grateful for every moment I have here, to truly praise God in every single season. We can't worry about the future and stress out. God doesn't want that for us. I don't think we want that for us. And as my dear friend JK Rowling says, 

"There was no point in worrying yet... what would come, would come... and he would have to meet it when it did."

Too true Miss Rowling. Too true. 

But as the author of life says it best:

“I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5

Happy New Year's. 

1 comment:

  1. Ohh I should have read this part first because I thought I missed something with the whole "Mclean" saga. OMG. I think I would have freaked with a capital F if I had to drive through a ghost town like that at night! And low on gas! Seriously this whole situation sounded like you were in a horror flick. Eek. I'm glad you made it out ok! Good story!

    And I'm really sorry to hear about your friend. I pray God's peace over your heart and mind as you deal with this. I know it is never easy.