The plan for “Roadtrip 2k14” was brilliant, in my opinion. My little green Honda Accord got excellent gas mileage and had proved itself to be a reliable car over the past year it had been in my possession. It could make the trip from Spokane, Washington to Olathe, Kansas for about $500 round trip, according to rough estimates from the internet. I’d grab my friend Abby and the pair of us would head down to our annual writing workshop in Olathe, splitting the cost between us and thus substantially cutting down on travel expenses (our usual flights tended to run around $500+ for just one of us, so this plan would split the costs in half). Not to mention that we were planning on bringing another friend, Collin, of ours back with us. She’d chip in and it would lower the costs even more.
I don’t know how I convinced my mother that my plan was brilliant, but somehow she went along with it and Abby came down for the trip.
As we drove, we talked to pass time and left no subject undiscussed. God, stories, friendship, family. The scenery around us changed from trees to mountains to flat planes. The morning light faded to afternoon to evening to the pitch black of night on a highway. The number of bug splotches on our windshield increased. All this happening around us, not to us, really. We switched drivers in gas stations and fast food parking lots, almost never breaking conversation as we did so.
I’m sorry to say that our destination wasn’t everything we’d hoped. While I enjoyed seeing several close friends for the first time in a year, the atmosphere was vastly different from previous years and I felt overwhelmed most of the time, and after some discussion with various friends I learned I was not alone in this feeling. When we left, I was glad to be going home, in all honesty. I was still teary-eyed from leaving friends when we got on the road, but I felt relief as well.
By the end of the first night of driving, I was exhausted. It’d been over 14 hours and we were getting ready to find the nearest motel when I realized I simply couldn’t go any further without falling asleep at the wheel. I pulled over off the side of the road, jostling my passengers as we went over the speed markers and parked on the shoulder. I clambered out of the car, met with a rush of cold night air. And then I promptly had my breath taken away by the view of the night sky outside.
Out here, on a deserted highway, in Colorado, the whole sky was lit up, a clear view of the dusty streak in the sky that is our galaxy. I shouted for Collin and Abby to get out of the car and I could hear them gasp as they looked up. We slipped onto the hood of my car, squeezing close together and shivering and just watching the sky for a few minutes that felt like forever.
In retrospect, as I think back to that moment, I think there’s something to be said about road trips and life. People always say life isn’t about the destination, but contrary to popular belief, they aren’t about the journey either. Life and roadtrips are about the people who ride shotgun and fall asleep in the backseat. Life and roadtrips are about the people who wind up sitting on the hood of a car on an empty highway to look at the stars with you.
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