Even though we had two stretches of major driving (three if you count the drive from Allegheny to Rochester), I felt like the best way to write it all down would just be to keep it in a single post.
Like I said, the first stretch of road for our crew of vagabonds was actually from Meadville to Rochester, and there isn’t too much to say about that one. My friends Milton and Till fell asleep within maybe 20 minutes of the drive, which left my friend Bolan and I to sit up front and talk for the majority of the trip. We listened to music and talked about school and how we thought the trip was going to go, and the time passed quickly for most of the ride.
Our second stretch was from Rochester to Omaha, but it was broken up with a drive from Rochester to Erie to pick up our friend Rose. We left on Tuesday afternoon, music blasting and ready to get started. I had the drive until Toledo, so I drank two cups of coffee and a Starbucks doubleshot before heading out. More of the same, until Erie–singing, talking, sleeping for those in the backseat (rule no. 1 for the passenger seat: NO SLEEPING ALLOWED!). We got to Erie around 10pm, hung out at Rose’s house to drink more coffee and chill with her cats and her mom, and then got back on the road. Night driving is a little different when you know you’ve got a long way to go. My total drive was around 8 hours, but there were a couple of stops along the way for gas, so it wasn’t entirely Mad Max mode.
The drive from Erie to Toledo was dark, but also pretty beautiful. We went over a few bridges and drove by a lot of small cities and towns with gorgeous lights. I quite liked the drive, actually. Around the third fill-up for gas, I decided I’d had enough for the night and gave the wheel over to Till. He and Milton took the front seat, while Bolan and I swapped to the back (Rose couldn’t drive, so she spent most of her drive in the backseat until halfway home when we realized that she couldn’t sleep in cars which made her the perfect passenger seat candidate).
The driving schedule we had originally set up wasn’t really what happened. We had people who needed to sleep, people with aching legs, and people who weren’t the best at passenger seat driving, which meant quite a bit of rotation. One thing a person learns while driving through the midwest: IOWA IS THE BIGGEST STATE IN THE WORLD. Or at least it feels like it. We stopped four or five times and still weren’t out of Iowa, and at that point we were pretty sure it wasn’t actually a state but a giant black hole summoned to kill us all.
We drove into Nebraska around 4am, and it was a foggy morning. Everything felt like a baby blue-grey. There was no corn, because it was March and cold outside, but there were plenty of fields where you knew it grew in the summer. People aren’t joking about the West–it’s flat. The highway into Omaha started to feel like it was in front of a Flintstones background, just repeating the same scenery over and over again, hoping we wouldn’t notice. It was pretty beautiful, in a way.
The way home was much of the same, only we started the drive in the rain. Something about being in a car in the rain is very comforting to me, especially at night. It wasn’t really night, but the sun wasn’t anywhere near up by then so I still count it as night. About three hours into the drive, the entire backseat had been asleep (myself included), and Till leaned over and whispered in my ear, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could like, get some breakfast?” The whole point of the driving system we had was to keep ourselves from stopping for more than about 15 minutes. But the second he mentioned breakfast my stomach started growling and I had no interest in feasting on the granola bars we had stored in the backseat. Half an hour later we pulled into the parking lot of a Perkins.
I think my favorite rest stop of the whole journey was in Iowa (because, where else?). It was writer’s themed, with names of relatively famous published Iowan authors. It was really cool, because I even found one name with the genre, “general nonfiction,” which is the closest I saw to my major (creative nonfiction). It was almost like nonfiction writers mattered for a second!
We drove by a lot that I wish we could have seen, but we were on a time crunch. Should I take this drive again with more time to lose, I’d definitely want to stop at the Creation Museum, the World’s Largest Truck Stop, and even the Museum of RV’s and Campers. Yes, those are all real things we saw on our way to and from Omaha.
I love taking long trips with friends. You cram yourselves in a metal box with wheels for hours on end and your only respite from one another is the hope that the driver will play some decent music. You really get to know one another, in a way that siblings find themselves forced to love one another. Each of these people were friends of mine before the journey, but we grew in closeness over this adventure and I’m not about to forget it. I’ve got a lot more meditation to do on this experience, that’s for sure. But I wanted to share as many of the best parts as I possibly could.