roadtrip status: legendary

Friday, July 31, 2009 |

I’m known for starting off jokes or stories with “There was this one time…at band camp…,” stolen from the gross-out comedy American Pie. I’m going to tell you right now, I’ve never seen American Pie. Oh, I think I watched about half of it once (the second half, if you were wondering) while on a water polo road trip, because our options were that or a VH1 dating show repeat. Television programming in hotels at 2am in the heartland of America isn’t the most, how shall we say this?, edifying of experiences. I’ve also never been to band camp. But I stick by the “there was this one time…” beginning, precisely because it sets you up for the kinds of zany adventures that are my life. Otherwise known as the reason that this blog is subtitled “a series of un-lucky events.”

So there was this one time…

When I was going to study abroad for a semester in Sevilla, Spain. I had two days to get a Schengen Visa on my passport. This is the sticker that lets you get around most of Europe as a student, and to stay for over 3 months. What, you say? There are MONTHS to apply for those things! How did you let time slip past you?! All shall be explained, grasshopper.

Here’s what happened: I decided to study abroad TWICE. In the same year. Yep. My college didn’t have a study abroad coordinator or anything official like that, so I was doing all the research about programs by myself. And I couldn’t decide between a summer program in Viña del Mar, Chile, and a semester in Sevilla, Spain (where my high school Spanish teacher had studied). I related this to my mother, and she asked, “Why don’t you do both?” What a novel idea! So that’s how I found myself with plans to travel to Chile for May, June and July, and then to take off to Spain in August.

Dilemma time. You can’t (or couldn’t, at that juncture) send off your passport for the European Visa certification more than three months ahead of travel. But I was going to be GONE, and needing my passport (in my possession at all times, thankyouverymuch!), for that entire time period! So I called and emailed and cajoled the people at the Spanish consulate in San Francisco, and finally someone said: “Come next Tuesday. I will do it for you that day.” Hurrah! But wait… Turns out that next Tuesday is just 48 hours before my flight to Chile. And turning up in person meant traveling 800 miles each way. We pondered. We conferenced. We compared options. Plan A) I book a flight to San Francisco and navigate the city by myself, getting to consulate at 7am, then hop on plane back home. Plan B) My mother and I team-drive our way to California and back.

We chose Plan B. Mapquest says the drive is 13 hours. Realistically, it’s more like 16. Driving through mountains in southern Oregon and northern California is treacherous, and no matter what they say, sometimes you can’t avoid getting stuck behind a semi-truck doing a steady 40 mph. We set off in the late afternoon, leaving enough time to take short breaks and make it to the consulate (to wait in line) by 6am. We were NOT going to miss our appointment.

Night driving and mother-daughter road-tripping commenced. It actually wasn’t too terrible on the drive down. We both of us guzzled coffee like it was going out of style, and were at the ‘barely keeping our eyes open’ stage by the time we hit San Fran. At 5am. My mother suggested we find the consulate and then get more coffee. It sounded like a decent plan to my sleep-deprived senses. We walked by the office, found a little coffee place on the corner (open!), sat down…and I fell asleep over my book. My mother shook me awake an hour later, and we went to stand in line (second! Not bad.). Three hours later, I had handed over my precious passport and an exorbitant amount of money, and been assured that I would have my it back in time for my flight.

Now for the trip home! Ha ha. We were on a bit of a high at the success of the mission, and my mom suggested a short jaunt down to Fisherman’s Wharf and (maybe) food before the drive home. So we got on a trolley car and set off. I saw my first publicly-smoked joint on the ride over, and then we had a lovely lunch on a patio overlooking the Bay. Well, what you could see of the Bay. It was foggy and a bit damp, but I was used to that as a Seattlelite.

THEN we set off. Bad decision. We should have used that extra bit of energy and adrenaline to start off the endurance test that was the drive home. Oh, it was torture. Each of us would drive for about an hour at a time, just barely keeping our eyes open and our wits about us, tumbling into a doze as soon as we got out of the driver’s seat. At one point, in far northern California, we were both so tired that we pulled off to the side of the highway and slept for three hours in the shade of olive trees. The sun eventually woke us when the car became too warm. And on it went…driving until bleary-eyed, then an all-to-brief reprieve. Repeat until home.

We got home with twelve hours to spare, and wonder of wonders! the passport was ready. I can’t remember what we talked about on that trip, although I do vaguely recall some admonitions about staying safe in South America. I’m just amazed we didn’t scream at each other or drive off the road from pure exhaustion. I later got on the plane safely, and study abroad was amazing and untroubled as far as travel went (Sort of. That story’s for another time.).

Why, perchance, do I mention this several-years-past feat of mother-daughter driving? Because we’re doing it again. Extreme version. I move from Atlanta to Seattle in mid-August, and my mom and I are driving it together. Should be…interesting. 2700 miles of interesting. I welcome any suggestions of silly and fun places to stop along the way. After all, we’ll need something to talk about!


Lizzy said...

You are a brave soul! One of my friends in in culinary school, and is doing an internship in Seattle, so that means that to move all of her stuff she'll be driving from Vermont to Washington....on her own. Good luck with the move, and you should definitely stop at all the fun "biggest ball of yarn" places along the way

Nicole said...

Seattle! You're moving to Seattle?! That is like my second-favorite city in the whole United States! If I didn't love Portland so much, I would totally live there.

When I got out of college, my husband (at the time) and I moved to Nashville. I've made that road trip, oh, four times I think, twice each way? The last time was in a moving van with my brother, and we were going to just drive straight through. The weather was in the nineties when we left Nashville. We hit... oh, I don't remember exactly, Wyoming or Montana, at about three in the morning one night and we were so tired we decided to stop for gas and sleep in the truck for a few hours. Well we got out and... it. was. SNOWING. There we were in our little shorts and tank tops and flip flops, shivering and pumping gas. No clothes to change into because everything was PACKED! We were able to reach one blanket, to share between us. We put our little cooler outside while we slept and when we woke up, it was completely frozen. Good times.

One of my favorite parts of the trip is driving through Nebraska. Billboard after billboard advertising porn and adult bookstores. Then comes one that says, "Jesus Loves You." You know, to make you feel clean after all that smut. We still laugh about that one.

I always kinda wanted to stop in Little America, WY, just because there are sooooo many billboards and barns telling me to. But we never did.

I wish I had some great suggestions for your trip! I would just advise that if you see a place that catches your eye, stop and check it out! Those are usually the best memories. I hope you have a safe and non-screaming trip with your mom. And if you're ever down in P-Town, look me up!


The Clothes Horse said...

That's wild. I did a 2 study abroads in college to, but I spread them about between the 4 years at college. My whole family did a roadtrip across the US twice when I was younger and my mother, aunt, and I are doing another roadtrip this summer. So many similarities going on it's a little wild...

Elizabeth said...

There's a McDonald's in Vadalia, OK that stretches across a highway. Talk about Golden Arches. You should stop there!

Lenore said...

The same visa dilemma happened to me. I needed to get my Japanese student visa for the year I would be in Japan but I couldn't send off my passport because I was going to be in Ecuador. Fortunately, I was in Quito and I was able to get my Japan visa in the Japanese embassy there. It was crazy because they had this sign that said visas took 3 months and I panicked. But that was just for the locals I guess, because I got mine in less than an hour.

Alyce said...

Good luck on your drive (and your move)! I hope it goes well.

You really drew me into your post with your intro, because I really did go to band camp. :)

I've never driven across the country though. The closest thing I have done is ride on a couple of 19 hour drives. Once with my parents to Las Vegas (which ended with us dozing on a table at Denny's because our room at the hotel wasn't ready yet) and the other time with college friends down to LA to see the Rose Parade (which was much more fun - somehow I didn't mind staying up all night so much in college).

Silver said...

i am so jealous. That sounds like some real adventure!


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