Cross-country Road Trip Day 1: Leaving Home For The Last Time

Waterloo, IL to Dallas, TX. 668 miles. 10 hours and 30 minutes.

I decided to start my road trip a day early. I’m not one to hover or overstay—especially when there are extensive hours of oncoming driving involved. As Madonna said, “There’s only so much you can learn in one place. The more that I wait, the more time that I waste.” So, I showered, packed, and brewed myself a latte while my blessed mother filled my cooler with fruits, sandwiches, and snacks, cleaned my car windows, and filled up my water jug.

My mother and younger sister ducked out before I did, leaving me to lock up. As I completed one final scan of my mother’s house to make sure I had everything, I realized that I would likely not be seeing that house again, considering she is about to sell it, and I no longer live within reasonable driving distance of Waterloo. With that in mind, I took a few extra moments to look around, pet my old cat, and relive some childhood memories one last time. When I locked the door behind me, it felt as though I had—after nearly nine years of living away—finally left home.

After a quick stop for a new lug wrench (my last one was warped out of proportion by some very stubborn lugs), I was driving southbound on I-55 by 12:30 p.m.

The last time I made this journey was to visit my now husband during one of his residency program rotations. I left Chicago at 4:30 a.m. and crossed four state lines in the 15 hours that followed through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Upon mapping this portion of my journey, I learned that there are two major routes from Waterloo to Dallas. One goes through Oklahoma, and one goes through Arkansas. I’m not one to take the same road twice, so I decided to take the slightly longer route through Arkansas and get some new scenery. Unfortunately, Arkansas wasn’t much to look at either. (No offense, Arkansasians.)

There were a few adventures along the way. During my first stop for gas somewhere outside Corning, Arkansas, a fly, a mosquito, and one of their little buggy friends broke into my car and proceeded to torture me for several hours. I was finally so fed up that I tied my hair back and rolled down all four windows until I was sure they had been ejected from the adventure machine. A few hours later, the semi-truck cruising in front of me blew a tire, and the pieces came flying toward my car like rubber shrapnel.

Now, let’s pause for a moment before we continue. At birth, I was granted one superpower: emergency situation super control. I discovered this superpower in 2009 when I got caught in a rip current in the Atlantic Ocean after swimming out too far with a friend. I was mid-breath when I got pulled under the water. Choking, I started to flail and panic until I couldn’t tell which direction was up or down. Then suddenly, everything got quiet. It was like I had left my body entirely, and someone else took over.

I remembered my mother telling me to swim parallel to the shore, but knew I needed to find the bottom first. I went completely still and let the current pull me as I sank. When my toes found the sand, I pushed up off the ocean floor, broke through the surface, and saw what looked like buildings in the distance. I started kicking and flapping the water in their direction until my hands were slapping the sand on the shore. When I came to the realization that I was no longer in danger, I started bawling my eyes out. There were people standing around me shouting, and my swimsuit top had fallen down to my waist in the current.

I’ve had several experiences like this throughout my lifetime, and each time I’ve been confronted by a potential or imminent level of serious danger, I’m granted approximately 30 seconds of Wonder Woman like self-control before the waterworks set in, and I return to my normal cry baby self.

So today, when an exploding 110 pound tire came flying toward my car at 75 miles per hour in the passing lane, I locked into my superpower and veered out of the way to avoid the pieces (save one or two that thankfully just bounced off my windshield) and then back into the passing lane as he exited. For a very brief moment, I felt like 007 in a high-speed chase or a Fast and Furious speed racer. I was about a mile down the road when came the—you guessed it—waterworks.

I had planned to split the drive in half and pull off at a rest stop for the night; but, when half the drive was over, and I still wasn’t tired, I elected to finish the trip. I rolled into my cousin’s driveway around 11 p.m. and quietly snuck inside and up the stairs to their guest bedroom.



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