14 hours of driving today. Ugh. The only thing motivating me through this day is reaching our final destination. We take a detour through Arizona to stop at the Grand Canyon. Sonny is driving Troy’s car in front of us. A squirrel dives across the street and Sonny kills him. First time I ever saw a squirrel die right before my eyes. Fascinating. Five minutes later he hits a squirrel that’s already dead. That’s just gross. The ride is taking forever and I’m pretty sure I’m going to pee myself. One reason I suck at road trips – I have a small bladder and drink tons of fluids. Another reason is if I’m not driving, I’m sleeping.
After I fast walk to the restrooms (since I can’t run), we head up the hill for the view of the Grand Canyon. “Holy shit” is most of our initial reactions. Words can’t really describe the vastness of what lays in front of us. It seems never ending across and below. I’m not afraid of heights, but now I reconsider it. All I think of is falling over the side. I hold tightly onto my phone for fear of dropping it. We walk around for a bit in the dry, cool air. There’s snow on the ground in some places. Mom told me Uncle Bob visited once and took a donkey ride down into the canyons. THAT would be amazing, but we are already eager to get back on the road.
This is it. The last leg to California. 8 hours to go. These long drives allow a lot of time for thinking. Maybe too much time. Sometimes I think about the possibilities and I’m excited. But more often than not waves of nervousness and anxiety overwhelm me. What the hell am I doing? I don’t really have a clue. The picturesque Colorado Rockies are breathtaking, but it’s not until I see my first palm tree that I really smile. Actually I scream and point, “palm tree!” like a little kid.
We have to stop at a vehicle inspection. I pull up nervous like I did something wrong. I don’t know why. A lady stands there waiting for me. “Are you coming from New Jersey?” Yes. “Did you bring any fruits or vegetables with you?” No. “Do you have any plants or animals with you?” No. “OK, have a safe trip.” Well, thank God I didn’t have a banana in my purse because I totally would have confessed.
It’s forever until we reach our place. Finally, we pull into our driveway. Our landlord is meeting us, and he’s not here yet, so we wait for about a half hour. I head across the busy street where there is a gas station, 7-11, and a pizza place. I grab the essentials – shampoo, conditioner, a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red. Next door I snag a take-out menu from the little organic pizza shop.
Back at the townhouse, an older, long gray-haired man in a suit lets us in. While he gets down to business with Mike, I check out the place. The downstairs is not bad: a living area and kitchen, both decent-sized. Sonny will sleep down here. There is a little bathroom under the stairs that immediately reminds me of Harry Potter. I love it. Upstairs it’s pitch black. For some reason, every time I turn on a light I brace myself to see a dead body lying on a bed or stuck in a closet. The first bedroom is Troy’s: decent sized with a bed on the floor. The bathroom is probably the cleanest room in the place, which I appreciate. I head to the back where Mike and I will share our room. Much bigger than our Hoboken apartment, and there’s a balcony. Everything is dusty, reminiscent of an older person’s home that hasn’t been lived in for a while. I feel dirty. First things first – check for bed bugs. This has nothing to do with the place. I check everywhere I go, including all the hotels we stayed in along the way. It was the absolute worst experience of my life senior year of college when my bedroom was infested with them, so now I check. Still have nightmares about those little blood-sucking fuckers.
The place is furnished, but there’s a lot of stuff we still need. I head back to 7-11 for water, trash bags, toilet paper, tissues, and solo cups. This is not New York tap water, so until we get a Brita I’m sticking to bottled water. I come back and start cleaning my bedroom…dusting, mostly. Troy says he needs to get out of the place and take a walk. Mike and I make the bed, taking everything off and putting our sheets and comforter on. There’s a huge piece of wood directly under the mattress. If anyone were to take a run and jump onto the bed and land on his knees, he could possibly injure himself.
More unpacking. Why did I pack so many clothes? I’m an idiot. Mike calls Troy to see where he went. He doesn’t answer. Time goes by. A helicopter flies around outside, flashing its lights all over the place. Mike thinks Troy is being hunted down. I’m sure. He calls again. No answer. Finally, the call from Troy. “Yo dude, I don’t know if my phone’s gonna last even for this conversation, but I’m pretty lost, dude.” Mike says, “Where are you?” Beep beep beep. Phone is dead. What an idiot. Let’s get in the car and try and look for him, even though we have no idea where he went. We drive around for a bit and realize how pointless this is. Just go back to the apartment. He can ask someone for directions. Hopefully he hasn’t been shot.
We walk up to the townhouse, and there he is. There isn’t really an explanation for getting lost. He was using the GPS on his phone when it started to die. Moral of the story: don’t go for a walk at 10pm in a place you’ve never been before and not tell anyone where you’re going. Troy needs a drink. He and Sonny come into our bedroom with four Four Loco’s. Cheers to our first night. Troy’s little escapade lightens the mood and I feel slightly better. I make it through about an eighth of the Four Loco. I’m beat, but I stay up until 2:15 unpacking and then showering. Mike and I lay down on our piece of wood. He drifts off to sleep easily, but I lay awake thinking. The light stays on because I’m afraid of the dark in this new place. I don’t know how long it takes, but eventually I’m dreaming.