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There’s Something About a Road Trip

(Just for Fun, Class of 2021) Permanent link   All Posts
Jasmine Rodriguez

It starts off with a few glances at the clock, and nowadays a second glance at the estimated time of arrival on the GPS gauging speed limits, distances, and traffic. It starts with a list of the things you brought to pass the time: once, it was Phonics Blasters, books, drawing pads, and the atlas. Now, it’s downloaded movies, match-three phone games, an old hand-held Gameboy, a couple of books (more sarcastic and cynical than the ones you used to read), and snacks snuck in or granted from the front seat.

An hour in, you’re adjusting position to trade your foot cramp for a leg cramp. Two hours in, the smell of dog is ripe and the bladder is begging to be emptied a little too early. Three hours in, one book and five puzzle-game lives down, the smell of dog becomes homely and cozy. The dog smells like love and radiates warmth on your cold feet. The desert view is a little less boring, especially when you pass the occasional casino resort or sketchy rest stop. The sky is the most painful, bland blue ever recorded in history. The pop music has been switched to the ever-lasting drawl and twang of country singers pulling on the older passengers’ heartstrings. The always-just-a-little-too-loud sibling conversations and quibbles turn into silence, graced either by sleep or books or electronics. Unattainable, beautiful cars glide past, made to stand out even more when surrounded by dust-covered minivans and scratched trucks toting huge RV’s. Every now and then, the bumps on the road become a singing competition with good-old manufactured staccato. “Aa-aa-aah-a-a-a-a-aaah-ah-ah.” A bored glance around the vehicle, a thought about eating from boredom, relieved by sleeping for five minutes at a time before the bumps in the road smack your head rudely against the frame of the door. Time passes slower the closer you get. First hour, flash, second hour, buzz, third hour, hum, fourth hour? Are we still in the fourth hour? Barely brushing the fifth hour at the second rest stop, and the sixth hour, it might as well have taken six hours on its own.

Can we have more food? Why can’t I sleep? Every position hurts. Suffering together because misery loves company, and family sticks together. The billboards become more frequent to denote civilization along the highway and then fade out of existence again. Boxes of color dot the brown environment, and then they’re gone once more. Even though you haven’t been to Taco Bell in years, a Quesarito and a Baja Blast slushy start to sound like ambrosia for the fake hunger of boredom. Your mind wanders off for who-knows-how-long, was it an hour? Two? Just two minutes? Better daydream again…the clouds are great inspiration for this, when they’re available in the sky. Sometimes the only cloud is the jet trail interrupting the wide, blue plain. The white noise of the road becomes strangely quiet as the city slows the drive, and then it fades loudly into the background again as you leave the city. An hour and a half left? Man, where does the time go! But how long will that remaining ninety minutes really take?

There’s something about a road trip. Dreaded, but romantic. Long, but brief. Simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable, crammed together for too long to be neutral but not long enough with the people you adore, or are at least supposed to. A family truce is in place. We have to live with each other in this prison-cell sized space for these consecutive hours ─ no arguments from the past, no irritations or raised voices, nothing that could distract the driver whose hands contain our very lives. God help us all if someone cuts him off. The driver is the heart and soul of the vehicle, and we are just the cells in the body. A conversation here and there about mundane things or plans for arrival passes some more seconds. Some more shifting, more silence, more nothing out the window. The kind of sleep that isn’t deep enough to feel good, but is just enough for you to leave a wet spot on the cushy thing wrapped around your seatbelt to keep it from slicing your neck. The kind of sleep that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and tingling little pricks under the skin of your arms.

There’s just something about a road trip. The journey, the destination, the return. The character-building. Patience, tolerance, how to sleep anywhere, how to sit and think quietly for hours, flexibility, resourcefulness, the discipline to hold your bladder ─ things every good person should know and perfect.

There’s something about a road trip, just something I hate, and something I love, something I wouldn’t trade faster travel for. Give me family, friends, a dog, a car, a tank full of gas. Let’s go.