Thursday, March 8

on driving across the country, part one

Since we are soon going to be journeying to New Mexico by car and moving van, I've been thinking about road trips a lot. I haven't ever traveled across the country from coast to coast. (Something I would still like to do!) And I haven't traveled from the southwest to the east since I moved here over a decade ago. All road trips have pretty much led to New York and North Carolina, but for a few to Ohio and one to Chicago. Not that those trips don't count, but in my head, it's not the same as traveling for days to get somewhere.

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Beat Generation as well as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Jack Kerouac's On the Roadand Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Testwere like bibles to me. I wanted nothing more than to travel across the country, preferably in a VW bus. Somewhere along the line, I stopped fantasizing about the VW bus, but I never lost the desire to travel. As luck would have it, one of my college boyfriends was a Deadhead and drove a VW bus. And one summer, he invited me to go on Dead tour with him. Yes! It was a teenage dream come true.

Before we started tour, we planned to drive to New Jersey (where he lived when he wasn't at school) and hang out there for a few weeks. So my first drive across the country was from New Mexico to New Jersey. We took I-40 West out of Albuquerque and I remember spending the night in Amarillo, Texas. My memory dims after that and I can't remember where else we stopped. I have a vague memory of waking up and seeing the Arch in St. Louis. It's quite possible that we were just sleeping in the bus. And then, outside of Indianapolis, the van broke down. I remember sitting on the side of the highway, wondering what the hell we were going to do; the van full of clothes for the summer, an ice chest, food, Calvin & Hobbes t-shirts that the boyfriend had printed to sell at shows. This was before cell phones and I can't remember how we ended up getting to a motel, but we did. And we stayed there a night or two, searching for a mechanic. Finally found one, some older guy who loved VW vans. He took his to his house and we stayed there at least a night, if not more. In the end, we ended up trading the van to him for a VW Rabbit. It was sad because I loved the bus, but we needed to be on our way and I think the van would have been expensive to fix. Or so he told us. In retrospect, I think the dude just really wanted the van because the body was in such good condition.

So we were back on the road, heading toward Pennsylvania and some place near Pittsburgh, but for the life of me, I don't remember the name of the place. I always want to say Ross, but I don't know if that's right. The boyfriend's family had a very old family house at some sort of private club, I don't know. But that's where we were to meet his brother and hang out for a few days. Of course, by the end of our first day in the Rabbit, the car died. Dead. Stuck on the side of the road with all of our crap yet again. Somehow we reached the brother who came and picked us up. The VW Rabbit eventually got abandoned at a junkyard.

We stayed at this family resort place for a few days, riding around in golf carts and lounging in the grass. The house was stone, I think, beautiful and quite old. It was also filled with antiques and old books. I remember finding a first edition of Paradise Lost and being blown away. But I digress. Back to the road. Being without a car of our own, we ended up piling into the brother's sedan with him and his girlfriend. It was not exactly comfortable, but who were we to complain? Finally we made it to New Jersey, sans vehicle for the upcoming Dead tour. And that was my first journey across the country.

Times like these when I have so many gaps in my memory, I really wish that I still had all my old journals. I'm sure they were filled with a lot of angst, but they probably would also provide a clue to the name of the place near Pittsburgh. And how long we stayed in Indy. Etc. But when I was 24, I burned all my journals. Yep. All of them, ages 9 - 24. Sigh.

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