It’s a strange feeling, driving across the country with everything you own in the world stuffed into your car.
The first hour on my drive to Austin (check out Part 1 to find out why I’m driving to Austin) consists of tears and paranoia. Tears, because I’ve just said goodbye to my dear roommate and am trying not think about the immense holy shit-ness of what I’m doing, and paranoia because from what I can tell looking through the teeny slit in my back windshield, my bike seems to be hobbling uncontrollably, threatening to fall off at any moment.
I haven’t made it out of I-64, but I pull over, convinced my bike is going to fly off my car and kill someone behind me at any moment. I check the straps, breathe a sigh of relief, get back in my car and tell myself to stop analyzing the movements of my bike and take my eyes off the rearview mirror, you crazy, reckless driver, you.
24 hours earlier, as I stuffed blankets, flip flops, a lamp, trash cans, my dear Bonsai tree, tea, pillows and water bottles into the tiny open spaces that remained in my Nissan versa, the feeling of panic set in. What earlier had seemed like a daring, free-spirited move (I proudly told everyone I didn’t really have “stuff”, and I’d figure it out when I got there) now seemed downright stupid. My car weighed a few tons, I’m sure, and I couldn’t see out of my back windshield. Every time I went back into my apartment, I found something else I needed to stuff, somehow, into my poor, overloaded car. Sigh.
“I’ve been really good about not thinking about the immensity of what I’m doing,” I tell my mom over the phone as I drive through Tennessee, which I had now deemed the never-ending state. I pass the time by listening to Longform, a wonderful podcast that features journalists from every avenue imaginable, which of course, only solidifies and excites me more for the journalism gig I’m starting exactly one week from today (eeek!). One of the podcasts features writer Jeanne Marie Laskas, who wrote “Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work”. I immediately download the audiobook at one of my many rest stops and settle into stories of the lives of coal miners, gun owners, oil rig workers, cheerleaders and truck drivers, learning about and beginning to deeply respect those invisible humans that make America run – for the most part – flawlessly.
At the end of day one, I stop in Jackson, Tenn. – a dusty, dry town about an hour outside of Memphis – wearily choose the least seediest hotel, breathe a sigh of relief at the friendliness of the hotel manager, order $20 of Chinese food and am asleep by 8:30 p.m.
Arkansas goes by amazingly fast on day two, and before I know it, I’m barreling through Texas as Jeanne Marie Laskas tells stories of the different characters she met in the gun shop and on the oil rig.
As I cross into Texas, to my new home, I try not to think about the immensity of the situation, choosing instead to think practically. Step one: Move to Austin. Check.
Stay tuned for part 3, where I battle thunderstorms and realtors and get my first taste of Austin traffic.