As cool as I think Jack Kerouac is, there is no way he would have been able to make it across America on that budget, that dream, and those degenerates he called friends in 2010.
It’s bullshit but, because of him, I tried it.
Between desperately wanting to be part of the beatniks and believing the notion that driving across the country was cheaper than flying, which, SURPRISE, it isn’t, I, along with three of my best friends from college, met in Columbus, OH and drove for two days to Denver, CO to party and smoke reefer with our other college friends.
We traveled from Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland to meet in Columbus because our friend Carolyn’s mom (Yvonne, pronounced E Vaughn the entire trip) so generously paid for our rental car, snacks, emergency kits, maps, and pretty much everything to survive a nuclear holocaust. Even though her mother paid for our essentials, including hotel rooms, I still managed to run out of money. I kept my friends, which would technically classify this road trip as a complete success, even though I didn’t make it back to Columbus, OH in the same car I left in. I actually got back to Cleveland via a Greyhound from Chicago.
Have you EVER been to the Greyhound station in either Columbus or Chicago? Don’t go. They’re both terrifying. Even more terrifying than the Cleveland Greyhound station, which is where I saw the first woman outside of my family naked…she was bathing a sink in the bathroom. I was 9.
We left for Denver in June of 2010 in our Chevy Impala and Carolyn’s mother made sure to drill it into our heads that only Carolyn and Jane were on the rental agreement a.k.a I didn’t have to drive at all. Which was great, because we had a ton of weed with us. Our plan was to drive to Topeka, KS the first day then haul ass to Colorado on the second. My plan was to lounge in the back of this spacious Impala smoking and DJ’ing with my friend Laurin – Yvonne’s orders.
We started across the Midwest, tornado kit in tow, amazing mix on the iPod, just ready for the next 11 hours in a car with my gals. Not sure if you’ve ever driven across the country, but there’s like nothing, until you get to Missouri, and even then, it’s just grass, water and weird buildings. I’m kidding; it’s beautiful, but flat. Really really flat.
We were so pumped when we reached the first crossing of the Mississippi River – we crossed it twice on our voyage. For some reason, we thought it was more than just water and took a detour off the highway at the Mississippi River Overlook. First of all, we were so high no one wanted to get out of the car but me. Then we realized, it’s just a lot of water and we can’t touch it soooo….we just did a u-turn in the middle of the road and got back on the highway.
Apparently we saw the St. Louis arch, I was asleep, then we crossed the Mississippi again, and saw where the Kansas City Royals play, all from the highway. We allegedly saw the largest ball of twine and were supposed to see the largest prairie dog in America…upon more research from the back seat team, we found out it was actually just a very large statue of a prairie dog, so we didn’t make it. With that long day gone, we’d finally reached Topeka, KS.
Carolyn and my friend Jane had been driving the entire way while we acted like complete buffoons in the back seat, oblivious to the fact that they were a bit peeved by DJ JDUBZ and LBOOGIE. By the time we got off the highway to find the hotel, the two of them were screaming at each other about directions.
Finally, we made it to our hotel, where there happened to be, you guessed it, a Crime Stoppers convention. No joke. There was a massive banner in the lobby. After making a substantial amount of jokes relating to the convention, we had our first ever experience at Hooters, the only restaurant that is open in Topeka, KS after 11PM. Our waitress was 18 years old and had braces. I wonder what she’s doing right now. I wanted to cut her a check and give her the impala to high tail it out of Topeka because it was obvious she was going no where fast.
The next day we enjoyed a fine continental breakfast buffet where Carolyn chose to eat the untouched biscuits and gravy and ignore the fact that she was riding in the car with three other people with a tendency to get gassy. We went to the Brown vs. Board of Education museum, which was directly across the street from our hotel. We sauntered down the historic halls of the school-turned-museum and took a photo where we were posed strategically under signs that classified race, holding hands, alternating our races. We were integrated, linking hands and standing in a “We shall overcome” pose, which could easily be mistaken for our interpretation of a NWA album cover.
After our educational morning, we planned to make good time to Denver as a bad storm was on our heels. Seriously, we were out running a tornado, lots of Wizard of Oz jokes. We drove fast though so many green fields lined with turbine farms – it was beautiful. Then, finally, I saw them. The Rocky Mountains. Shrouded in the bluest sky I’d ever seen, painted with the softest white clouds, it was breathtaking. I had this moment of euphoria, where I felt like I was finally in the place I was meant to be. That was the moment my love affair with Colorado began.
Hours after crossing into the Colorado boarder, we finally arrived at my buddy Sam’s house, and the plan was to stay at Sam’s parent’s house for two days. Two days quickly became five, which rolled over to eight which lead to Sam’s dad asking, “So, when are you girls hitting the road?” I wasn’t driving because my name “wasn’t on the rental” so I deflected the question to Jane who said, “Uhhh, ask Carolyn” and then Carolyn responded, “We’re leaving tomorrow!” Obvious relief drenched Sam’s father’s face.
On our way out of town, we had to stop and get some weed in Fort Collins. My friend from high school, who was notorious for exaggerating the truth, said she had a medical marijuana card and that she’d “buy us edibles” for our trip back. Once she purchased the edibles for us she said, be careful they are “strong” and you should only eat “an eighth.”
“Whatever” I thought as I devoured half the cookie while pumping gas. What seemed like hours later, I was surprised when the cookie didn’t seem to be kicking in, but I kept getting hungrier and hungrier. The only thing I had to eat was the weed cookie, because we didn’t get any snacks at the gas station.
The last thing I remember was thinking, “I’m hungry. Cookie!” before waking up in Omaha, NE at a Perkin’s Restaurant with a plate of strawberry pancakes in front of me. Apparently, I passed out shortly after we left the gas station and didn’t actually wake up until I was dragged inside of the Perkin’s, where I made a joke about two Jews and a black person walk into a Perkins, murmured I hadn’t had pancakes in forever, and then proceeded to order them.
We stayed in hotel that night. It was a blur. I realized I was going to have to fill up the Impala’s gas tank more than once on the ride home, since we had lost one of our passengers. This meant I was going to run out of money before we got back to Columbus. Fuck. I didn’t want to ask my friends for money, which in hindsight I should of since I would have preferred that instead of what actually happened.
I foolishly called my incredibly strict Jamaican mother who didn’t want me to go on the trip anyway and asked her for money.
“What do you mean you ran out of money?!?! You know Josephine, I told you not to go on this trip. Why did you even need to go to Colorado?! WHAT’S IN COLORADO?! You know what, no, I’m not sending you any money. You’re coming home now.”
Want to know how much money I asked my mom for? $35. Want to know what she did instead of give me that $35? She bought me a fucking bus ticket back to Cleveland.
I looked up those bus tickets…a one way ticket was $40 more than I asked her to put into my bank account. Didn’t matter. Home girl made up her mind and I was coming home.
I went into the next room, where the girls were, and had to break it to them that the adventure was over. The shenanigans, over. Back to real life. It was all rushed, much like this tale, but when I tell you this two week trip was a blur, it was a fucking blur.
It was a haze and a maze of rental cars, western states and ten kinds of broke, so do forgive me if the events of the trip seem insane – they were and so were we.
Josie Woodall is a Cleveland blogger and travel writer. An East Side native, Josie migrated to the West in 2013 and resides in Brooklyn Center. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2011 with a BA in English Literature and a concentration in non-fiction writing. When not conjuring up ideas to write about or slangin’ industrial supplies at her day job, you can find Josie cheering (probably too loud) for the Cavs.