Five Ways Something Ruined My Life Five Ways Driving Cross Country is Ruining My Life Erin Mallory Long

So last week I was saying goodbye to NYC and now this week, I’m actually in the midst of the aforementioned road trip to the West Coast. Now, I’ve done a cross country drive twice before with my family, once when I was 9 and once when I was 12 (I’ve actually been to all 48 contiguous states. Darn you, Alaska and Hawaii!). So I sort of knew what to expect, except that this time someone actually wanted me to stay awake the entire time and do some of the driving! (How rude!) And this time we have a car packed to the brim with our belongings and two cats…so the overall experience is a little different. Today we’re heading out to stop at the Grand Canyon and stay in Arizona for the night before doing the last leg of the trip to Los Angeles.

We started the trip from my hometown of Schenectady, NY and got to Chicago the first night. Then to Tulsa the second night, hometown of HelloGiggles editor extraordinaire Rebecca Fernandez, as well as fellow writer Sarah Neal. They left me chocolates at the hotel, which was just about the best thing to arrive to after a 12-hour day of driving!

And the third night we ended in my husband’s hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico!

Because this is who I am (and have always been, really, there are just better social media outlets for this now), I’ve been chronicling the trip obsessively on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram and I’ve had a lot of time in the car to notice the toll (can we say “tolls”?) this drive is having on me (though at least I haven’t had to use any of my non-existent survival skills!).

We’ve had a breather for a couple days in Albuquerque to re-charge (doesn’t that make it sound like I’m a robot?) and I’m sure more things will happen today and tomorrow but for now, here are five ways driving cross country is ruining my life (because it’s still an ongoing process):

1. Cheez-its and Chocolate-Covered Pretzels Seem Like Viable Lunch Options On the Road

Okay, I’m not saying I would ADVISE anyone eating these for lunch normally. And I felt really gross when we did, but the day we drove from Chicago to Tulsa we kind of got a late start and stopped in St. Louis to see The Gateway Arch and just kind of were behind the schedule we wanted to keep. So we got some snacks AROUND lunch time but never intending them to be our lunch and then it was dinnertime and we realized “did we really eat a bag of Cheez-its and some chocolate-covered pretzels for lunch?”

Yes. Yes we did.

It's all your fault!

The point is, it’s pretty hard to stick to a 12-hour drive day AND try to “eat well” or even “eat as normal adult humans eat on a day-to-day basis.” You pretty much can do one or the other (especially while driving through the Texas panhandle where you go miles without a town). So it’s a lot of diet soda and coffee and a burger at Sonic maybe.

Or Cheez-its.

2. I Start to Confuse Myself for a Long-Haul Trucker

I just feel like I probably understand what being a truck driver feels like, you guys. Everything that we do I say “well, you know when you’re on the road…”

When you’re on the road, you eat your food wherever you can.

When you’re on the road, it’s totally appropriate to wear ripped owl tank tops where your bra shows because, comfort.

When you’re on the road, you only stop for bathroom, food, gas or maybe to look at The Gateway Arch.

When you’re on the road, it’s easy to forget what day of the week it is.

Yes, I’m a little like Lutz on 30 Rock right now with this but at least I didn’t say to a group of Teamsters, “I know what driving the long haul is like! After my junior year at Oberlin, we road-tripped to South by Southwest!”

We just spend multiple hours a day inside a very small, enclosed space with two humans, two cats and a whole lot of stuff. We eat while in the car. We only stop at rest areas.

That’s what long haul drivers do, right?

When you’re on the road, you just can’t remember what city life was like.

3. Start Taking Pop Songs Way Too Seriously

So, since there’s only two of us, no one is allowed to sleep so we’re constantly listening to music.

I’m not sure what the music we listen to could be classified as since we primarily listen to mixes that either of us have made over the years since 2004. So we have a Rob Gordon-level collection at this point (assuming he continued making mixes for Laura, of course).

So we’re listening to “Tik Tok” (whatever, man) and it was towards the end of one of the days so we were getting a little punchy and we just responded to the lyrics the entire time.

“Really? You’re going to brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack BECAUSE you’re not coming back? Shouldn’t you then brush your teeth with, I dunno, TOOTHPASTE if you aren’t coming back home? That’s disgusting, Ke$ha.”

Or when we’re listening to “Rocket Man.”

“Do you think astronauts hate Elton John because he basically diminishes their profession?”

“Yeah, like, I saw Apollo 13, you dedicate you LIFE to space, it’s not “just your job five days a week.”

You don’t even want to know about our discussion of “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).”

4. Worried the GPS is Becoming Some Sort of “Hal”-Type Character In Our Lives

My parents got me a very nice Garmin GPS for my birthday for the trip and for future trips we’re planning on taking now that we have a car.

I’ve been in a lot of cars where they use the British man voice, but we chose the Australian man voice instead. So now I spend my time talking to the GPS (who my mom helped us name “Chase” after the character on House) and trying to mimic his Australian accent as much as possible. Which isn’t really useful when you’re trying to listen to directions, but whatever.

When the cats complain and I tell them, “it’s okay, baby.” And then Chase gets mad at us and is “re-calculating” and I tell HIM, “it’s okay, baby.”

But like, Chase definitely has too much power in our relationship and I become Michael Scottt and blindly follow him even when I see detour signs that he’s just not up-to-date on.

Basically, Chase has too much power in this relationship and me calling him “baby” is not going to change that.

5. Moving Away is Really Hard to Do

I’m not even talking about the packing up your life and assessing what to throw away and what to keep and just general logistics of this move.

I’m talking about packing up my life and moving away from New York State which I’ve lived in my entire life and New York City which I’ve lived in for the past 10 years.

It’s the change. It’s the stress. It’s the saying goodbye to the people who you love the most (husband aside, since he came too, of course).

It’s having to figure out video chat or FaceTime dates with your family now or not having favorite restaurants anymore.

It’s saying goodbye to your parents and then having “Wide Open Spaces” come on a playlist, making you cry.

It’s the total terror of moving to a new city and trying to make a new home for yourself.

It’s the change. It’s not being able to hop on a train and be in your childhood bedroom again. And changing the way you plan visiting for Christmas.

It’s everything.

 

It’s a big change and arguably the biggest change I’ve made so far in my life. But it’s also exciting and scary and fun and the drive is an interesting experience that is most certainly ruining my life. And will continue to for at least a couple more days.

(All photos my own, I’m obsessed with PicFrame on this trip)
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  1. I have a Garmin GPS too…I am quite often yelling at it when it says “re-calculating.” But I can’t get mine to talk in any accents. It only has one..very upsetting.

  2. I can completely relate to the whole “Moving Away is Really Hard to Do” thing. Last October, we packed up and left the country to move to Germany (my husband is in the Air Force). This was our first big move (he had just enlisted that April) and it was so difficult to say goodbye to everything we had ever known (we’re both from central Pennsylvania). When you were talking about how you will miss Dunkin’ Donuts a little while ago, I was thinking, “Yes, I miss that, and Starbucks (there are non close to where we live here), and all my favorite cafes and restaurants. And, y’know, English.” We’ll be moving every 3-4 years with my husband’s career and the idea is just… unpleasant, but we’re adapting. Best wishes on your new life in California :-)

  3. So is that a picture of the blue whale near Tulsa, OK?

  4. It is probably not healthy the extent to which I miss having a favorite restaurant. Or that the staff at my tea place almost cried when I came in for my last cup before leaving (or that I miss them SO MUCH.) I mean, you’ll always keep in touch with your close friends and family. But the people you saw like every day just out in the world? Your favorite bookstore, the guy at the laundry place? Not so much. That’s what makes me homesick for the city.

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