Road Trippin’ Part 1

Nothing says “I’m an adult, thank you very much” like taking a solo road trip.

So it was fitting that on my twenty-fourth birthday (see my previous post for thoughts on that “exciting” landmark) I left my house in Boston to drive to my home in North Carolina for the holidays. I was going to ring in this new year of adulthood in style with a million of my closest friends on I-84. My audiobook selections were on point and between searching in the cupholders and feeling around in the seat cushions, I had been able to find enough change to cover any tolls (you wanna talk about literal highway robbery??).

Road trips are great. You’re the captain of your own ship, but your ship has air conditioning and a CD player. You’re free to go wherever the winds, Siri, and the flow of traffic may lead. Embarking on this journey, I felt kind of like one of the brave heroes in The Lord of the Rings, except for me the stakes were super low and the only rings I planned to destroy were onion rings at whatever deliciously unhealthy fast food joint I would stop at for lunch.

This trip started off well enough. I woke up early and was on the road before most Boston commuters had even finished their morning Facebook scroll and gotten out of bed. The weather was great and traffic was mild. Every song on my Spotify playlist proved my suspicions that I could have made a name for myself as a professional DJ (when in doubt, add another Taylor Swift song). I was even going to make it home by dinner.

And then everything went wrong. Like, all of it.

This is the only logical explanation I can think of for the unfortunate circumstances that follow: My parents must have somehow offended an evil witch around the time I was born, and to get even she cursed their precious baby boy.

I was feeling great as I crossed the Virginia state line. I was halfway home and I had successfully made it through that stretch of Pennsylvania where apparently people don’t need to put gas in their cars or use the restroom. Then the car started to shake. It was kind of like sitting in one of those cool massage chairs, except instead of relaxation I was experiencing a bone-chilling fear for my life. On top of that, the gas pedal didn’t seem to be working, so I was gradually losing speed. At no point in my education had I learned what to do in this situation. Classical vocal music, library science, and British literature are great things to know about, but they’re not exactly helpful in this particular scenario. This was off the syllabus. But I’m proud to say I remained calm and did what any true adult would.

“Dad,” I said when he finally answered the phone. “I have a little bit of a problem.”

While I explained the situation to my incredibly patient and level-headed dad, I pulled off at the next exit. The old “turn-it-off-and-turn-it-back-on-again” trick usually works with phones and computers. Are cars really that different? I just needed to find a parking lot. My dad told me he’d do some searching on his computer to find a service station near me and would call me back. In the meantime, I rattled down a nice little country road that — if it had been dark — I’d have sworn had a resident axe murderer lurking on the side somewhere.

Finally I saw a store and pulled into the parking lot. I turned the car off, relieved at the idea that there might be people inside who could give me a jump if I needed help starting the car back up. As I turned the key, the door of the store opened and two bearded men in straw hats walked out carrying a sofa. They passed the store’s sign, which I hadn’t seen until now: “Amish Furniture Sold Here”.

While I was doing some quick mental math to figure out how long it would take me to get home via horse and buggy, my dad called me back. He told me there was a service station eight miles from where I was and asked me if I could make it. “Yeah, I can totally make it,” I assured him as I turned the car back on and shook my way out of the parking lot.

Longest. Eight. Miles. Of. My. Life.

When I was eventually going forty miles per hour in a seventy zone, leaning forward (because that would make the car speed up, right?), and thinking of all the things I had never said to those I love, I saw the exit I was looking for. The only reason I didn’t kiss the ground when I inched up the ramp and pulled into the station was because I was on a tight schedule. I told the mechanic about the car — in very technical terminology, I’m sure — and he said he’d see what the problem was.

While he pulled my car into the garage, I noticed a Five Guys next door. At this point I was not in the happiest mood and I knew what I really needed was a birthday milkshake. I could already taste the creamy goodness as walked in and ordered. As the cashier rang me up I reached back to grab my wallet. It wasn’t there.

After I had a little heart attack, I realized it was in the passenger seat of the car, which was now up on the jacks in the garage next door. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll just tell them it’s my birthday.” The words were almost out of my mouth when I realized that the only way of verifying my birth date was in my wallet. In the car. In the garage. Not with me.

After telling the cashier that Psych! I wasn’t actually getting a milkshake, I walked back over to the service station. I forced myself to keep it together because grown men don’t cry over spilled milkshake. Finally, the mechanic called me over to the garage door.

“It’s looking bleak,” he said, well, bleakly. “There are a lot of problems and there isn’t much I can do here. I definitely wouldn’t suggest trying to continue on your trip. There’s a dealership in town that will be able to do more for you.”

This story is not finished. Not by a long shot. But this blog post is turning out to be a little longer than I expected and I don’t want to bore you. I am therefore going to divide this post into two parts to keep you on the edge of your seat, like they did with The Godfather or the film adaptations of every final book in a series ever.

Will Sully make it home for the holidays? Will the car? Does he ever get his birthday milkshake? Stay tuned for Road Trippin’ Part II.

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