Cross-Country Road Trip: Finding Freedom at the Wheel

October 11, 2017
road trip usa

For weeks I felt compelled to throw my rags in a duffel bag and go on the road. Like Thelma and Louise but without the guns or violence. I wanted to follow the setting sun; head west and leave all of my mistakes, my student loans, my unstable, underpaid job, and the intractable humidity of Florida behind me.

I had been working as an ESL instructor and abusing hungover Eurotrash was starting to lose its sparkle. So, I found myself driving West through the desert in awe and fascination of the vast emptiness of it. I felt like I was in a movie, but happily I wasn’t being driven to my death in a Cadillac full of Vegas gangsters. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder where the bodies were buried. With that much unpopulated space, anything could happen and no one would ever know.

I felt like I was in a movie, but happily I wasn’t being driven to my death in a Cadillac full of Vegas gangsters.

I was driving across the country from the East to West Coast, and you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Texas or Alabama, or that state with the highest obesity rate. I think it’s called Mississippi? To be honest, I tried to remain unconscious through that part because there isn’t much to see. I did enter another dimension when I visited relatives in Texas. I could only feign interest over my uncle’s extensive gun collection and framed photos of the Bush family for a few hours and then it was back on the road. Sometimes it feels good to keep going.

Cross-Country Road Trip: Finding Freedom at the Wheel vastness of usa I drove from East to West
I drove from East to West

But being in a car for ten days is rough and although I was happy to be in the desert and mountains and out of the swamps of Florida and Louisiana, my back was in such agony that it revolted, and I tried to crawl out of my spinal fluid. I felt triumphant that I was halfway across the country but I think I lost my spleen back in Albuquerque. Oh, how I envied the octogenarians glamping in their souped up RVs as I looked for my assaulted spleen, cursing the misanthropic Korean engineering of my economy car.

I wanted to follow the setting sun; head west and leave all of my mistakes, my student loans, my unstable, underpaid job, and the intractable humidity of Florida behind me.

Then there was the Grand Canyon, which is an odd place because the hotels and restaurants aren’t very good but are expensive and scarce. As I was trying to eat my 15 dollar fish tacos made with frozen fish sticks and generously seasoned with spite, I was starting to wonder if there was a correlation between recent immigration laws in Arizona and the bad Mexican food.

I drove from East to West

grand canyon
Grand Canyon

Cross-Country Road Trip: Finding Freedom at the Wheel

Besides the over-priced hotels and bad food, the canyon was definitely worth it. When I walked on it for the first time I had an ‘oh Jesus’ moment, and that’s saying a lot since I was raised by atheists. It’s so big, it’s like it’s from another planet. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Then there was a point when the hills became covered in mansions and the roads turned into Calcutta pavement and I knew I had finally reached Los Angeles, the final destination. LA is a crazy place, especially the Hollywood Hills and Malibu. There’s something both fascinating and terrifying about a place that encourages unrestrained hedonism and extravagance. With the winding roads overlooking precarious cliffs, I’m actually relieved there is so much cocaine in Hollywood. At least that will sober them up after drinking booze all day. Otherwise, how can anyone survive in this wild place?

Why? Because you can, and that’s freedom.

Traveling west is a rite of passage. It’s the promise of a better life, of hope and progress. Maybe it’s all an illusion, but without it people wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. It keeps our dysfunctional world turning, for good or ill. The pioneers, the Oakies, the 49ers, they risked life and limb for a glimpse of the opportunities that lay over the unknown hills and terrain of the American frontier.

Some of them prospered, some were cannibalized, but they ventured forth hand in hand, leaping from the hamster wheel for a brief moment. And so should you, just so you can feel the wind on your face and the bad coffee coming out of your pores. Why? Because you can, and that’s freedom.

 

Cross-Country Road Trip: Finding Freedom at the Wheel  photo credits by Jesse Whitman

About Jesse Whitman

Jesse WhitmanJesse Whitman is a native of West Virginia. Her humor essays have been featured in Blitz Weekly, Funny Times, and Curve Magazine. She is working on her next volume of Prude and Prejudice.

11 thoughts on “Cross-Country Road Trip: Finding Freedom at the Wheel

  1. Avatar
    February 1, 2015
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    I’d love to visit the grand canyon one day, it looks amazing!

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