Recent discussion of road trips has prompted me to reminisce about some of my past adventures on the road. While some may feel otherwise, I am a fan huge of the road trip. Whether it’s the family road trip (about which most people have at least one harrowing tale) the road trip with friends, or, if you’re so bold, the solitary road trip. While I do not take road trips all that often anymore (rarely, in fact) I have experienced, to some degree, all three categories of road trips and have come to the conclusion that road trip stories often go hand in hand with TGHW stories. Trips. Gone. Horribly. Wrong. These are my favorite trips. Despite the general carnage involved in trips gone horribly wrong, they always bring a smile to my face when I think back. I have a lot of TGHW stories (remind me to tell you about walking around at 4am trying to find the police station soaking wet and legally blind….) but my last true road trip is one of my all time favorites.
Two years ago, I took a trip with a few other people to Atlanta, Georgia. The idea for the trip was the product of a heated discussion regarding No Child Left Behind that ensued after a statement was made that Georgia was nationally ranked as one of the lowest states in terms of high school retention/ graduation rates.
We had gotten an appointment with a member of the Atlanta Board of Education, we had an appointment with the superintendent of one of the school districts in the city, and one of the people on the trip had contacts at a non-profit in Atlanta that was devoted to social justice, etc. (the name escapes me now….crap). In retrospect, it seems like a somewhat overzealous endeavor stemming from a discussion, but whatever. With social change on the brain and a sense of adventure in our pockets we set off down south in a van that had a jumpy accelerator and no suspension.
Things went downhill pretty fast. We had agreed to drive straight through from Minneapolis to Atlanta and around hour 12 on the road it became pretty evident that 3 people on the trip were complete lunatics, two of which had decided that they didn’t want to be on this trip anymore and were trying to rally everyone else to turn the van around. Hell no.
Our lodging in Atlanta was conveniently located in a crack neighborhood boasting the seediest strip club I have ever seen in my life. We filled up at the gas station across the street and I noticed that the bouncer of the club was wearing rubber surgical gloves. *shudder* We had arranged to stay at a community center-turned-hostel and as we parked we noticed that the parking lot was literally COVERED in used condoms. I’m not talking about a number of used condoms strewn about; no, EVERY step you took involved stepping on at least three condoms. When asked about the condoms in the parking lot the woman who let us into the community center shrugged and said, “at least they’re being safe”. She had a point. The woman gave us a key to the empty room (literally) that we would be staying in and prepared to leave for the evening giving us a few instructions on her way out, “Showers are across the street; don’t walk too far, though. Listen for gunshots and remember, our door is heavy; ain’t no one busting down that door. Oh, and don’t drink the water. Goodnight!”
Our attempts at driving around Atlanta always resulted in one of the three lunatics screaming at whoever was driving accusing them of going the wrong way or, in the event that one of them was the driving, refusing to listen to the person who was holding the map. We got horribly lost a number of times. I let this slide, though, as this seems to be a pretty standard aspect of a road trip.
On day two of the trip, Ryan came down with the Norwalk virus which quickly spread to 3 other people in our group. I was the only one who didn’t get nauseated at the sight/sound of vomit and soon earned the title of “house marm” as I sat on the floor giving water to my retching trip mates. On night four of the trip, Ryan and I made the decision to take the latest victim of the Norwalk virus to the emergency room because he was so sick he couldn’t move. Miraculously, I was spared the agony of the Norwalk virus despite nearly swimming in vomit and excrement for two days straight.
Our 20 hour drive back to the Cities was spent nearly in silence after Lunatic 1 started to literally choke Lunatic 2 for “playing shitty music and refusing to change it”. The four Norwalk victims were exhausted from spending the last few days horking into a dirty toilet on a cold cement floor and I was exhausted from cleaning up after them.
Surprisingly enough, we managed to keep our appointments and, among other people, we had a great chat with Khaatim S. El who is an amazing guy.
Plus, I found one of my favorite pieces of street art to date:
It’s a squirrel wearing a jumpsuit!