Sometimes when you wake up, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You may have a list of things to do and not nearly enough hours in a day to do it. And when you get behind the wheel of your car, you may not often have the time to enjoy the drive. The pace of life can get hectic, and you may forget the little things, like the enjoyment of a simple road trip. The next time you’re free, hop in your car or on your motorcycle then just set off. Drive any direction and just keep going. This sounds silly, but it could change your life just as it did mine.
This will be my very last post for Jalopnik, and I want to leave you all with a smile and maybe some hope for the future.
Let’s rewind the clocks back to early 2020. The pandemic was just taking off, and there was a ton of uncertainty in the world. The industry that I worked in, K12 education, took a massive hit. Suddenly students were no longer in school, if they even left their homes at all. It wasn’t long before my tech job in that industry became obsolete, and I found myself at home doing nothing, waiting for a future that I had no road map for. It’s a feeling that I’m sure so many Americans had also shared.
I decided to continue to live life around this new normal. I met the person who became the love of my life — from Facebook Dating, of all places — and I still kept doing crazy things with cars. Hell, I even found a way to go on dates while avoiding COVID-19. My first date with the woman that I will marry this fall? We pulled up near one of O’Hare’s runways and watched planes land.
Yet, that feeling of uncertainty still hung over my head.
At some point it hit me that I didn’t have to just sit around and wait. I could use this as an opportunity to come out the other side better. And to kick it off, I would go on a road trip to nowhere in particular. So, when stay-in-place orders lifted, Sheryl and I departed for a trip in which we wouldn’t know when we’d get home.
Our steed for the trip was a 1997 Ford Ranger.
It was rear-wheel-drive with a little four-banger under the hood and a manual transmission. It was almost as basic as you could get in a truck, which meant that it was perfect. We’d tag along with friends with the only goal being that we’d participate in the Oregon Gambler 500. But what happened before and after was entirely up to us.
On this trip, I saw sights that I never thought I’d ever reach in my life. I camped at a campground in the middle of absolute nowhere at the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana. I saw a massive buffalo statue in North Dakota. And we even got to tour Yellowstone.
Along the way we stopped to take in the glory of the American west. America is beautiful, and honestly, you could go on many trips and never quite capture everything that this country has to offer. We came upon roaring rivers, seemingly endless mountain ranges, and the crystal clear lakes.
I got to swim in a random Oregon lake that to this day remains some of the best water that I’ve ever taken a dip in. There were even glorious hot springs.
And we found all of it by not having anywhere to go in particular. Instead, we just went where our hearts took us.
The way home involved even more of it, as we endeavored ourselves to take a route that involved no GPS usage and no interstates. We ended up taking roads through southwest states that reached through endless desert. There were times where we had driven for over an hour without seeing another car, and you could forget about cellular reception.
Along the way, we somehow stumbled onto the Bonneville Salt Flats, which hit a whole lot differently in real life than they do on television.
In the end, we spent about two weeks away from home. I took a trip into the unknown with a person that I had known for just two months, and I came back a changed woman. I felt like I could achieve anything and that phone in my purse was less important than I thought.
Only a few months later I would join the Jalopnik team and achieve a dream that I’ve had for a decade. It’s been over a year and a half of adventures, car buying, and even taking on a lifelong dream of taking to the skies. I love it and haven’t regretted a single second of it. And now, it’s time for something new for myself again.
Today, I don’t really look in life’s rearview mirror anymore, and I’m always thinking about what’s the next silly or great thing on the horizon. The world definitely has a whole lot of suck in it right now. And it sometimes drags me down with it. But when I swing a leg over a motorcycle or sit in that pilot or driver’s seat, it all melts away. I may not be able to control what happens in this world, but I can control this vehicle and the adventures that it will take me on.
If you can swing it, take a road trip without a destination. Do it for as long as you can and don’t be afraid to just go where your heart tells you to. When you come home, you might be a different person. That’s ok. Just remember to be true to yourself and don’t let anything or anyone stop you from being you.
If you ever see an old GM RTS transit bus painted in Texas A&M’s colors in the Midwest, give it a honk. I’ll give you a wave back, and maybe a hug if you want it. You bet I’ll be smiling as I head to whatever adventure that I’m off to next. And I hope you will be, too.