Chapter 8 – What A Long, Strange Trip

At the time, I didn’t know April very well, but I got to know her a bit more the night before the trip as we planned, scheduled, charted and micro-managed every bit of the trip.  I’m a scheduler, and planning out the trip was almost as fun the trip itself.

The next morning, I said “farewell” to my beloved San Diego with every intention of returning someday.  It would have been a more bitter goodbye were I not so excited about the big 18-day road trip.  We drove straight-through from San Diego to Tulsa for an over-night stay at my parent’s (who, by now, were back together if you didn’t already guess that was going to happen).  I had seen my mom once in 9 months, and it was the first time I’d seen my dad in over a year.  But this was no time to visit.  I dropped off my things for school at their place, and as soon as my mom’s pancakes were consumed and enjoyed by all, we were on our way to New York the very next morning.

Up-State New York looks just like the country-side in the movie Last of the Mohicans.  I had been there the summer before with Cory as a graduation gift from my parents.  It’s quite beautiful and I realized why Cory had initially not liked San Diego.  So returning the favor of tour-guide, Cory took us hiking at his favorite hiking trail, the Plotter Kill.  I had gone hiking with him there the year before, and it’s still one of the best hiking trails I’ve ever been on.  Too bad it’s tainted with the memory of me almost dying there.  Well, that’s somewhat of an exaggeration, but Cory’s sister didn’t think so at the time.

Cory, April, Andrew and I had been hiking for hours.  Andrew had taken his tiny guitar and serenaded us with a mixture of lovely and absurd ditties as we strolled through the woods (a gypsy caravan if ever there were one).  We walked barefoot in cool, shady streams, stood at the edge of waterfall cliffs…and of course, got lost.  Well, I wasn’t lost.  I knew exactly where we were, but I wasn’t the native, and no one wanted to follow the girl who’d been there only once versus the guy who grew up traversing those trails year after year.

I still have pictures of the point at which we stopped to rest, rested a little too long and leisurely, and got turned around from where we came.  I remembered, but no one would believe me.  I happen to have red-eye in the photo, which I find aptly symbolic of my then-boiling frustration. We also hadn’t taken very much water or snacks.  I was hot, hungry, dehydrated and pissed off.  Not the best sign for the coming days.  I was starting to have dizzy spells, whether hunger- or anger-induced, I cannot say.

We came upon a steep grade of sharp and unsettled shale rocks.  Andrew and Cory insisted that it would be no trouble to walk down.  I, on the other hand, felt like the mountain was baring it’s teeth and was ready to devour me if I dared trespass.  I had no choice but to follow.  My first couple of steps were fine, but then the shale acted as a tidal wave as I slid down the hillside scraping my shins and knees all the way down.  I was covered in shale dust, and more pissed off than ever.  I started to have a panic attack – though I’d never had one before and didn’t know what was happening to me.  All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe, but as soon as I could, I was going to murder Cory for getting us lost and bury him under that shale hill.

We finally reached the interstate that led to the park entrance.  As April and Andrew walked quickly ahead to get help, I was left alone with Cory to contemplate how to take his life.  After six long, exhausting hours, Andrew and April reached the parking lot that had a pay phone and called Cory’s sister.  They’d gotten out the words “panic attack” and Cory’s sister freaked out before they could tell her I was fine that she called 911.  Luckily for Cory, by the time he and I reached the parking lot, there were police and firemen everywhere readying themselves for a search and rescue mission.  My fury subsided, but I was nervous that we still had about 15 days left together.

After a few days at Cory’s parents, being stuffed with amazing food and desserts, we headed for the Big Apple.  We stayed with Cory’s high school buddy and his gay, drug-addict roommate, in a hole in the wall office they were illegally living in, below some prostitute’s apartment who had been busted the night before, above a florist shop and across the street from a deli.  At 18, this was SO New York City to me: diverse in the extreme, intimidating, glamorous in it’s filth, and as much as New York City can be, still innocent of terrorism, war and things like the Department of Homeland Security.

We devoured French food served by an intentionally rude French waitress, drank coffee at a gay coffee house decorated according to it’s name Heaven and Hell, and saw all the touristy sites.  I was even swindled by a deli-man who tried to give me less change back than he owed me.  When I confronted him, he just pulled out a twenty out and handed it to me without counting, which was far more than he owed me.  It was the best turkey and cheese bagel sandwich I’ve ever had.

After three days and some excruciating bone-spurs-for-lack-of-planning-proper-city-walking-shoes and a big fight with Andrew later, we were off to D.C.  Washington D.C. was just a pit-stop though, so it is mostly remembered at that time for a big fight with Cory.  We were all clearly getting to each other, and I sometimes wonder if the show Survivor was birthed out of our experience, because we were each ready to get someone off the island.  We were having a great time in some ways, but by the time we got to Florida, we were ready for the trip to be over.  Andrew had spent too much money in New York and had to pawn his travel guitar to have enough money for his share of the ride home.  It was in Florida that it occurred to me that Cory and April would make a really great couple.  It was a strange thought for me to be having, to be sure, but I thought so nevertheless.  We took a straight shot from Florida to Oklahoma and my last picture of our trip together shows four exhausted, pissed-off, dirty, constipated, world-weary travelers.  I can’t think of a better way to be sent off to college.

By the way, I was right about Cory and April.  Their friendship began during the road-trip and a little while later they were married.  They now have three really cute kids and are living happily ever after.  I proudly take credit for it all.  They’re welcome!

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