Olympia From the Interstate

We’re trying a new thing called Just Produce Content For Crying Out Loud. So here goes.
I love roadtrips by myself, driving through an America that’s totally different than the one I’m used to, flipping as erratically as I’d like between Malcolm Gladwell books on tape and Usher’s entire discography. I like driving through the mountains in Tennessee: the way the the Earth is forced to show it’s cards, layers and layers of rock on either side of straight flat roads.
Despite my romanticizing, no one else likes my roadtrips by myself quite as much as I do. It might be the standing reputation with car trouble (I get in a substantial accident more frequently than I see my dentist), or just the general idea that 21-year-old females shouldn’t cross 800 miles alone without a substantial measure of worry. But if I’m stubborn on a normal day, I’m three times as stubborn when you worry about me. My brain translates worry as patronization, I’m working on it.
So all that to say, this weekend I’m in Memphis with eight hours of Sunday afternoon separating me and home in southwest Ohio. What I don’t realize is that there’s an impromptu blizzard in Northern Tennessee and maybe actually the entire United States. I really should keep better in touch with my grandparents for a firmer handle on the weather.
So I’m driving home through the blizzard, more precisely Winter Storm Olympia, and there has to be 4 inches of snow on the roads themselves. We’re all feeling lucky if we can get up to thirty miles an hour. It’s the snowstorm solidarity of the highway, finding a truck to drive behind and playing follow the leader, lines of cars in each others tire tracks, making our own lanes. It was endless, anxiety-inducing, hell. And I drove the slow miles, every muscle clenched, having a serious conversation with myself.
“Victoria, this is why they say 21-year-old women should not go on solitary road trips. You got yourself into this mess because you are stubborn, and you are not allowed to feel sorry for yourself. You’re an adult, chill out. Imagine that you’re a suburban dad carrying his young children and their frightened mother to safety. Don’t you feel better now?” I did. For some reason being a father made my efforts seem worth it.
I coached myself through my New York background with hazardous weather conditions and the parts of my brain collectively agreed to ignore the way I slipped off the road and hit a sign just a couple weeks ago. It was an impressive display of personal teamwork.
At one point I reflexively reached over and locked my doors, only afterwards realizing my normal solution to fear in the car wouldn’t work this time.
I prayed with a singlemindedness that I chastised myself for not having all the time. “Gracious, Victoria. What if you prayed like this about everything. That’s what you’re taking from this experience, FYI. Put a pin in this.”
I slid out on the highway twice, the adrenaline proving much more powerful than my RedBull in keeping me alert. At a gas station/McDonalds on the edge of Tennessee (have I ever written a phrase as horror-inspiring as that?) filled with people that would have rather died than get back in the drivers seat, a trucker laughed that it took him four hours to get there from the Kentucky border. I didn’t get the humor.
A few hours later in Northern Kentucky I started seeing substantial patches of pavement. Malcolm continued calmly explaining to me his sociological theories, unaware that we’d been through a traumatizing event, and Caleb called to I Spy me through Cincinnati, the eleventh hour in every sense. I rolled in at 1AM, grateful. And sort of, just a little bit, planning my next trip.
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