I started in some obscure suburb of Jersey, because as it turns out, you can drive a Rent-A-Wreck anywhere in the continental US, except the 5 burrows. It’s a hefty fine if they catch you.
$600 got me a Kia Rio and insurance for a month. She leaked transmission fluid and had a trick for just about everything from fastening my seat belt to rolling up the window, but we’d learn to tame each other.
The first step in doing so was to be in tune with each other, on the same wavelength if you will, so I made a pit stop at the first Best Buy and got myself one of those iPod FM transmitters.
On my way there, and only half a block away from where I rented the thing, while I was filling her up, engine off, some old man trying to pull out of the station gently backed into me with his Oldsmobile. No joke.
The good thing about renting a shitty car is that they don’t walk around the thing with you checking off all of the dings and scratches.
The elderly gentleman was relieved to find out I didn’t care about the little ding he’d just left. Really relieved, like maybe it wasn’t his first mishap and “The Man” was one more accident away from confiscating his license.
“Well” I thought “That’s an interesting start to this road trip”
And just like that, it was just me, the Kia, the atlas, the road, and the freedom of turning left or right on a whim.
The terrifying freedom of knowing from now own each decision was mine and only mine.
The paralyzing freedom of the open road.
I could go ANYWHERE I wanted, but where did I actually want to go?
Thankfully, a car keeps going even if you’re immobilized by overwhelming emotion in the driver’s seat. And so the faithful little Kia chugged along, cruise-control 9 miles over the speed limit, on the course I’d set her on: 80 West; direction Chicago.
It was a 12 hours drive, and I didn’t expect to make it in one go, but I’d get as far as I could. I’d mapped the Motel6s on the way.
I made it about 4 hours into the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania when drowsiness set in. By this time it was about 7 p.m. not a bad time to stop, but the closest Motel 6 was another hour and a half away. I could make it.
I pulled off at the next sleepy exit with a McDonalds and got myself a drive through large coffee, then kept driving.
The next hour was tough, but I had no choice. By the time I got to that Motel6, it seemed I had pushed through a sleep cycle and no longer felt the need to stop, so I figured I’d rest at the next one, 40 minutes away in Youngstown.
I drove past that one too, and nine more on the outskirts of Cleveland.
And South Bend…