I realized today the worst thing about driving across country is operating an automobile. Seeing things you’ve never seen before, talking to strangers for a minute or two, reporting back to friends and family are all great things. The basic operation and maintenance of the car and making sure you don’t crash into anything or anyone else crashes into you though, that’s my least favorite part. Worrying about if the car is going to break down, if you’re going to run out of gas, if someone is going to break into it and steal all your stuff. Anything revolving around the car, the very tool you use to carry you across the interstates and small highways drives me into an insecurity nightmare. Thankfully it only lasts for a few minutes. My head is in a good place I think. I should back up though.
Leaving this time was the hardest. I’ve done this “move” twice before (okay, one and a half times) and neither times it stuck. I feel like this time I don’t really have a choice but to make it work. I’ll make it work. I need to sleep before I get into this.
June 1, 2015 – Rolla, MO
I can’t get too sentimental on this trip especially now, exactly 1551 miles into it, which is essentially halfway there. I can use a good amount of commas. Leaving New England again was bittersweet. The last few weeks there were particularly physically and mentally exhausting. I try to hide that stuff as much as I can as I don’t really feel like strangers or even casual friends need to know what I’m feeling at all times, or even every once in a while; this subject kind of came up yesterday in St Louis with my friend Mike. I’ve somehow invented some sort of persona on the internet that is certainly not me. I’m hardly a grumpy person (although I did just secretly wish every single person ever involved with Bank of America would die tomorrow night) but I guess it makes people laugh. Perhaps they are all grumpy and feel like they can relate to that person. It’s something I always have a little hard time with. First world problems, really. Who cares about this stuff, let’s talk about travel, where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going.
Although it’s only been a few days into this trip I feel like this has been the best one so far. This being the sixth time I’ve done this drive by myself I’ve learned some things throughout the years of how to do this the right way, at least for myself. The one major thing is to improvise each day. Well, at least have a skeleton or idea of where you want to go and then just see what happens. There are a number of places I definitely wanted to see and things I wanted to do. One of them I wasn’t able to do yesterday logistically (go on one of those riverboats on the Mississippi) but it worked out, the day turned out great. Back to that in a minute though. I decided early on that if I saw one of those signs saying something was off an exit and it was in a reasonable distance, free, and remotely interesting I would stop it. I imagine for most people “World’s Largest Windchime” doesn’t sound that interesting, but I guess it beats the drive to work every morning, or going into the same coffee shop every day and seeing the same faces. That stuff is all great and everything but these kinds of stops, mixed with real “big stuff” like The Grand Canyon, The Alamo, etc fill in the empty spaces and break up the monotony of the long stretches. I’m not on any kind of schedule. As a forty-five year old man with no job or prospective job I guess I should probably be a little more responsible and have a schedule and idea of what I’m doing with my future but, this middle crisis isn’t gonna suck itself. Wait, is that the saying?
My first day driving was long, I made it to Ohio at dusk and settled into a cheap but nice room up on a hill surrounded by malls and chain restaurants. As far as where I stay every night this is where I want to stay. It feels “safe” to me which I only really care about because EVERY FUCKING THING I OWN IS IN MY CAR. Granted I am taking the three bags into the room every night that have anything I would be upset about if stolen, but I feel like I’m better off than staying in the middle of a big city or somewhere dark and secluded. I felt like that first day I could have driven a couple more hours but I don’t like driving at night at this point, and even though most of the country off the interstates isn’t that exciting, especially east of the Mississippi, I don’t want to miss anything. I had dinner and discovered that Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home was nearby. I plugged it into the GPS (oh yeah, GPS. I decided early on I would not use the GPS for “general driving” I feel like you end up looking at it ticking away and if you put any destination in it you spend time in your head too much going “oh fuck, another 97 miles” the route is pretty easy, and with simple math you can figure out how long it’s going to take and that kind of thing. As long as I never go “east” I feel like I’m safe) his address and drove over there. It was pretty uneventful but I did feel a slightly creepy vibe in general but that was mainly because I was just thinking of the kinds of things he did not because I believe in “evil powers” or “bad vibes” and shit like that.
Earlier in the day I stopped in Elmira, NY, I had never even heard of it A friend let me know there was Mark Twain history here and I located the Mark Twain Study, which was basically a little enclosed gazebo type thing that he would write and smoke cigars in. The vibe in there was more my type of thing. I mean there was no vibe or feeling I felt other than just “wow he was in here and wrote ______ here” which to me is pretty heavy. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy most. Being somewhere someone famous once stood or did something years before.
I drove to Effingham, IL next which has been a stop every trip I’ve taken out here. At first I stopped here because of a sneaker outlet here, buying sneakers. Even once arriving too late and staying overnight so I could go in the morning. I did go in there this trip but did not buy anything. I don’t really need any more sneakers at this point as there are literally pairs in my car that I bought there in 2009 that I have never worn. NEVER WORN EVER. The drive to Effingham got pretty intense with rain to the point where I had to almost pull over to the side of the road but I fought through it and kept driving at a slow speed with my hazards on as others were doing. Visibility was about a car length.
Yesterday I went to St Louis again. I’ve now stopped here three times. The first time I went under the arch in the museum there, took pictures of the river and the arch and then drove on. The second time I met up with my friend Mike who lives there. I arrived late in the afternoon and we had dinner and he gave me a great tour of the city in his car. I was struck by how much I dug the place. This time, yesterday we planned ahead to see a baseball game. Mike is a diehard Cardinals fan and knows more about baseball than most people I know. The Cardinals would be playing the Dodgers, my favorite team as a kid. With me moving to Los Angeles we both acknowledged the light symbolism of that. Mike lives in this great neighborhood that kind of reminds me of where Cambridge and Somerville meet. I arrived a couple hours before the game, we drove down and found a cheap parking space ($5.00) as we were a little close to game time to get a free spot on the street. The walk to and from the game was great. Mike knows so much history of the city, names of all the buildings, what was there before, what is happening there in the future and everything in between. His passion and deep love for his city is intense and inspiring to me. And what a beautiful city, we saw some truly amazing architecture. I took some photos but like most large things like buildings it’s hard to capture it in a photo unless you’re a professional, which I am not. Busch Stadium was great; it’s nice to be at a field surrounded by passionate fans of the game. We sat until about the eight inning and then toured the rest of the park. The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the city with Mike giving me an amazing tour. Again his enthusiasm and knowledge of all things St. Louis is wonderful. I’ve always said I thought people having “circumstantial pride” in something like where they were born or their heritage didn’t hold much merit to me, but I feel like I’ve changed my attitude on that. You can have pride in your background and where you’re from and not be an asshole about it. That’s great if you think say, Miami Florida is the best place in the world and everywhere else sucks but you sound like an asshole. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. Well I do, but I need to get back in the car shortly. The one thing that stuck with me as I left Mike’s house was something he said “These experiences are the marrow of life” and it’s so true. Mike and I met online via what I’m doing right here, blogging. Years ago, in 1999 or 1998 maybe. We’ve remained friends since and having the ability to spend a few hours and have these real deep conversations and experiences with friends while in the midst of this big life change I’m going through makes it all worth it.