When my best friend since childhood could not commit to a cross country voyage due to a final round interview, I had a male model (think cooler than Ben Stiller in Zoolander) and good friend on deck for my San Diego to Maryland journey. My dad said he would do the trip with me part deux (he helped moved me there during the fall of 2010), but basically wanted to launch 3,000 miles back home fast and furiously. “One way flights are cheap, so find a friend, preferably, a guy, who can handle car issues just in case something happens.”
I knew just the man, I thought. I anxiously dialed Steve, envisioning him answering his indestructible non-smart cell phone in plaid shorts, sans shirt, charcoal Chuck Taylors, maniac yet, masculine facial scruff and brazen “Mount Airy” pec tattoo to tow. A month before, while visiting home for Thanksgiving, bonfire-front, marshmellow stuffed, and Natty drowned, I confessed to studly Steve I had been mentally Mortal Combatting home vs. back east and if the time came, would he interested in driving with me. “Oh, this road trip could be gold. Keep me posted on how the war ends, Roenick.”
At age 20, he joined the full-time ranks of the Girls and Boys Club of America, serving as a mentor, role model, and hell, probably even a crush for kids across the county. “Mr. Steve” the giddy girls and guys chant as he bounces into school classrooms and cafeterias alike.
So, I proposed my serious question to Steve over our shotty cell phones, 3,000 miles away and 3 weeks after I originally asked him at our usual hangout house over the Turkey holiday. “I do have a hectic schedule, but I might be able to pull this off since I have a week in advance. Plus this is a once and a lifetime opportunity. Let me figure this stuff out and I will give you a definite answer tomorrow, Roenick.”
Steve’s affirmative answer came the next morning with a rush of excitement similar to hearing the wonderful news that Arrested Development was coming out with another season on Netflix. “All I ask is that we stop as many Goodwills as possible.
I mean I can imagine the South has some pretty great, no-where-else-like-it kind-of-stuff.” Are you kidding me? Easy peezy request. I was swallowing this guy’s week up until Christmas Day in moving my life back to the four-seasons climate and he just wanted to be a glutton of Goodwills? Be still my hometown heart. Inside, I thanked the Lord for great friends and my deep appreciate for inexpensive retail.
Once I texted Steve a reminder text to check in for his flight, I took off to wave goodbye to the Pacific waves one last time that Saturday night. It was my last sunset on the west coast as a California resident and I wanted to celebrate it solo style. That collection of hues and rays scored the gold medal in my favorite San Diego sunsets I’ve ever experienced. It was highlighter pink, my favorite color of the neon rainbow.
I can still smell the solace that sunset session gave me and it is 3 seasons later as I write this. I stood on the Pacific Beach pier, teeming with locals and vacationers alike, for a solid hour in silence, soaking in the comfort that coast had given me at some pivotal periods of my life. California was the answer to my questions at one time, but then I answered that pang. That hour set of the melodic surf was the crescendo to the finale of my California Tour concert. I was so in tune with myself, with nature, with life, that I almost wanted to cry, but I was not feeling downtrodden one bit; there weren’t any tears to stifle back. Since October, I learned “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by one of my favorites bands of all-time, Coldplay (Mia and I went to our first Coldplay in July and I’m a lifer). I knew I did not need a good cry like some girls need sporadically (it happens dudes…not often, but it does). I was gracefully slacklining serenity and just wanted to honor that inner peace in silence. I can still taste the reassurance that sunset seasoned up my taste buds. God painted that sunset just for me that night, knowing the internal wrestling I had done within myself the last few months.
The next day, Steve flew in to San Diego a day before our our descent down (actually it’s flat and across…) on Route 40. I was tied up with last-minute packing in the morning and an all day affair of that epic Ravens Chargers game in the afternoon/evening, so Steve gallivanted around town with one of our best friends Steph and her husband, Mike, showing Steve his first views of Californaaay. Steve scored some buys at two Goodwills in Pacific Beach, blocks from my house, toured La Jolla, watched the sunset from Shore Club (one of SD’s finest dives with a sick oceanfront view) and imbibed brews while playing games at Steph’s bayfront home, just how Steve envisioned a great full day in San Diego.
My car was packed up the day before with Steph, Mike and Steve’s help. By some miracle, all my crap fit into my Honda CRV (the C%RVix or Crave as some calls it). So at 8 a.m. Monday morning, we were off.
We bro’ed out at times with intermixing of talk surrounding movies, sports (CAPS, Fantasy, NBA), our friends, our futures, our recent relationships, our families, our fears. We occupied the silence with my favorite Road Trip game,
The Alphabet Game (basically Categories rattled off through the 26 letters).
Steve and I marveled at the scape of Sedona, we jaw-dropped (and I Tebow’ed) at the Great Canyon
and all along, we pelted the lyrics to Pandora’s finest. We jumped out of our seats over exit 7 on Route 40 being called “Wagon Wheel” (town in Arkansas as it’s our Shenandoah River camping trip’s anthem song. As we drove into Amarillo Texas, we cackled at the joke of “is EVERYTHING bigger in Texas?” Together, Steve and I shared shock over snow on the ground in states such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. We discussed the pros and cons of Albuquerque after we saw it. We noted the monotonousness of Oklahoma City. We smelled the Barbecue and river run in Memphis.
We knocked out a a windshield tour of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and I wined over the wonder a new bridge being built over the Tennessee River (I got a thing for bridges…).
Craving deadlines, loving high stress, sucking in no sleep- is the recipe I usually follow in my Top Chef kitchen of life. Sometimes, unfortunately, my daily intake of Women’s One Dailies do not act as God’s perfect pill of health. Eventually, the duress, malnourishment and insomnia coalesces into sickness. Of course that is what happened the week of my road trip. During a decent amount of the voyage, I overdosed on Robitussin and was out like a light during a fair amount of the drives. All I could was to sit (drool while sleeping) in the CRV, be silent (had nearly no voice) and be sick. I apologized profusely to Steve for having being cursed with the plague. Poor guy had to share close quarters in the car and hotel rooms with sickly me. I just kept saying I better get my energy better for Nashville, which Praise sweet baby Jesus, I did. Steve was such a man that even when I offered to drive throughout the week, he wouldn’t let me (or he feared my driving?…). He looked so legit driving one-handed with that Shore Club (PB bar) wet bandit glove on. I learned miscellaneous sports facts from Steve and Dan Patrick that week during my no-voice Tuesday.
Before between Memphis and Knoxville, we raveled in two whole days of country music magic in Nashville.
We spun around Gaylord (the largest of Gaylord Hotels hosting 7 Atriums , Vanderbilt, Belmont University, the Ryman Auditorium (the original Grand Ole Opry), Bridgestone Arena (where the Predators play hockey), and LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.
We dined at Tootsie’s for lunch one day (Willie Nelson couldn’t make it that day…), we shopped for Christmas presents at the boutique Broadway stores and Steve purchased himself a brand new wardrobe practically at the Goodwill Nashville. A constant long running joke was that despite the car being stuffed to the brim and borderline uncomfortable up til Nashville, at least we drove safely with Steve behind the wheel. But if anyone were to rear end us, we would die at the hand of the arts (my paintings) and our Christmas presents purchased for our families. After the Nashville shopping sprees, we kept saying if this tough drive does not kill us, then the recent addition contents of the car just might murder us: 4-foot umbrellas disguised as ninja swords, photo frames, life sized stuffed animals, new shoes, bags of vintage apparel, 5 ceramic mugs and a partridge in a pear tree constantly poking at our heads or on our laps during the drive, especially when the brakes were moderately touched. The sword umbrellas really did have the capability to slice my head off in one false move from a bumper hugger. But, cowboy it up-it was all part of the experience and I secretly loved every minute of it despite my complaints.
After a few nights in hotels (Gallup, NM and small desolate town in Oklahoma we cannot remember), we wanted to see a city from a local’s eye.
Thankfully, at the Ravens Chargers game days before, my San Diegan girlfriend Ginny (a proud Vol) set us up to stay with her college bff Mike,
who showed us southern hospitality by opening up his home (letting us two stranger dangers crash), mind (full of info), and liver (honky tonk!) to us during our 3 day stay. Our last night, the three of us took Tennessee by storm by bar hopping on Broadway to a few amazing honk tonks in NashVegas. The next morning, even hungover as Hades, Steve still honorably took the wheel because he is a Chevy-like a rock.
During that Christmas break, Steve drove me all 2,896 miles across America.
I walked into my parents house on Christmas Eve, celebrated the holiday with my family for two days, then left for Manhattan on December 27th for my annual Upper East Side stay with a great group of college friends. Couple days later, I was soaking up the Atlantic salt water in Ocean City, Md, with of college dorm mates for the New Year- officially concluding my Coast to Coast trip. I went from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, peppered in Manhattan’s Hudson River in a week.
If you zoom out, I shimmied from the San Francisco Bay (Coast cruise with Katie the week before) to the Chesapeake Bay in 2 weeks.
I remember when I finally got home from Ocean City, it was January 1st, 2012, at 4 p.m., and I had not unpacked a thing. In that month, I re-learned God was a script writer and an artist. I was welcomed home by a majestic
rainbow over my neighborhood, Sun Valley Farms, when there had not been a drop of rain to account for that week. What a way to polish off 2011, another rad year for the books. Tired as F, but happier than ever is how I started 2012, one of my favorite years of life so far, if not my favorite. Despite being exhausted from a month of packing, travelling and well, partying, I thanked the Lord for keeping my safe and for that 7-colored high five in the sky before I collapsed into a much need, 15 hour straight slumber starting at 4:05 pm New Years Day.