You’ll remember Rob and Joe from my post, How to: Live In a Van For 32 Days With 2 Strangers – they the two strangers I traveled 2,876 miles along Australia’s East Coast with. We dropped off the rental van in Cairns, just before we were due at the airport for flights to our respective next destinations. I haven’t seen them since. Group texts are brief but nostalgic.
Flash-forward to March 2018. I get a call from Rob with news he’s moving from Pittsburgh to Denver, not far from where I am living. Joe finagled two weeks off work to co-pilot a twelve-day road trip by way of the South. Rob said the departure date hinged on how quickly he could sell his old car then buy a new one. They aimed ideally for the end of April.
I told him I too was on the car market. Three coinciding factors created my desire to buy near my home outside of Philadelphia – I hadn’t seen my family and friends in some time, my birthday was on April 26th, and I’d a few left-behind possessions I wished to have in Colorado. Three birds stoned at once, or however it goes. Tentatively, I planned to be driving back to Colorado around the time Rob and Joe were. More tentatively, before this phone call, my mind crafted a straight-shot, two to three-day drive. Rob proposed a caravan; a not-so-distant cousin of the van, except two vehicles required, one following closely behind the other on the same route. A dubious, many-moving-pieces, can’t-commit proposition, but when the stars are fighting to align, best to let them duke it out, or however it goes. I asked Rob to keep me in the loop as the time neared, and we hung up.
A week later, Rob FaceTime’s me. Joe’s with him. “Here’s what we’re thinking: meet in Asheville, drive through the Pisgah National Forrest, then maybe check out Atlanta on the way to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, after that, push to Austin for a few days, up to Dallas, over to Palo Duro Canyon, haul it to Santa Fe, then Taos, arrive in Denver by May 11th. “Yea cool, love it, never been down South,” half-understanding where or what Pisgah, Jazz Fest, and Palo Duro were and half-believing I could afford a twelve-day excursion. If I kept a want-to-do list, returning to the open road with those guys would be near the top, but in reality, I hadn’t booked a flight home yet, my ongoing car search showed no promise, and I made a commitment to be back to start work the first week of May.
I pushed off buying my own car as long as I could. I’m indebted to countless for rides and lendings. I got by this past winter thanks to a roommate on the same work schedule, but that luxury ended with the ski season. It was time. I noticed that Subaru’s and Toyota Tacoma’s flood Colorado roads, presumably evidence they’re reliable mountain cars. I was set on one or the other. I landed in Philadelphia on April 24th. My dad joined me on the tour-de-dealerships for the better parts of the 25th and 26th. No luck. I remember feeling a sense of relief as Dad and I drove home; relieved that I had a good excuse. I was typing a text to Rob and Joe along the lines of, “I’m out, no luck on the car front, just gonna fly back to CO and find something out there,” when my dad interrupted from the kitchen, “How ‘bout this?” It was a 2013 Subaru Impreza on cargurus.com, sitting at Rafferty Subaru – 20 minutes from our house. We headed to Rafferty right then, took the Sub for a test drive, and I bought my first car on my 25th birthday, three days to spare before Rob and Joe’s finalized setout.
That was exciting, but I still felt anxious about the twelve-day road trip. I told a boss I hadn’t met yet I’d be ready to start work May 1st. Not wanting to get off on the unreliable foot, or however it goes, I typed, then deleted, then typed, then double-clicked the home button, swiped up, then opened iMessage again, typed, deleted, reworded, made up a tiny white lie, deleted, finally asking honestly and apologetically if I could push my start date back. Radio silence – no response for a fear-compounding eighteen hours. Well, unemployed, suppose I can do the twelve days now. And if I just eat rice and beans, and we’ll be camping or crashing with friends or friends of friends, and surely there’s plenty of seasonal work out there, and…the self-convincing was ramping up when I got boss’ response, “No worries take your time and enjoy!!!! Safe travels as well! See ya when u get here.” Shoot, that’s a lot of exclamations, maybe should have tried to wiggle my way into fifteen days. Hindsight always seems 20 times easier after it happens, or however it goes.
Car sorted, boss supported, left me no excuses; the stars won the fight. The caravan was a go, but only after a weekend with the boys – my group of nine, still intact, most-prized, never a day of GroupMe inactivity, friends since high school. The majority are living and working in Philly, the few that aren’t made the trip from NYC and DC. Late nights with the boys usually follow with early mornings – we call it the Schleicher Effect; a not-so-distant cousin of the hair of the dog, except no alcohol required, just each other’s company. The boys always make it hard not to stay home. But, more to see places and people to go with, or however it goes. Monday, April 30th, I pushed off for the little over nine hours and 600 miles to Asheville. Let’s see what makes my new Subaru a Subaru, or however it goes, doesn’t really matter, we’re going.