Monthly Archives: March 2012
Tires make an interesting noise when rolling along the open road. You can’t really hear it at first, not between the music, the conversation, and the pure excitement of the trip. Each little rivet hits the macadam and creates it’s own noise. When this combines with all of the other little rivets and leading technology traction keeping devices there is a light humming sound attained. I pondered this with window open traveling along I-20 out of South Carolina. I heard each car pass, even with the wind in my ears, and slight background music blaring. Those tires each making their own call for attention.
There really isn’t much to do when on the road with a destination and timeline indicated. If I had only given myself time for a full week or week and a half maybe we could have done more. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed those tires, or checked my in-car thermometer fifteen times to brag to everyone back home. I felt bad. I was texting a lot, not really sparking any sort of conversation with my sister who was quietly smoking a cigarette and enjoying the view on her end. It was better now though. At least she didn’t have her bags on top of her. We managed to smash that into the back without damaging anything. Instead a pizza box with a half eaten veggie pizza was on the floor along with six more tacos from taco bell. I did think about food borne illness but let the daring mindset, achieved on this trip, take over. We would be fine, and if not; oh well.
My mind flirted with interesting outcomes and possibilities that lay ahead, or that could have been. I smiled, then pondered another direction it could have gone with that young man. Then I smiled and pondered what great people I will meet in San Diego. Then I laughed at a text message I received that was overly flirty. Either way I was smiling. There were times too that I wondered what my sister was thinking about. Every once in a while she would crack a smile. I’m sure she was visiting happy memories, or maybe even just had the thought “wow, I’m really driving across the country with my brother!”
I will admit it; when I thought about the reality that I was in, it felt funny, odd, and fantastic. Before long we were approaching Atlanta Georgia. Watching the signs on the side of the road, and occasionally asking Mary, “how long on this road, and then what?” always led me to figuring out where we were. I finally saw a sign for Atlanta, but then there was a billboard for New Orleans. Hmm, my mind began turning, being as I didn’t pay very close attention in geography I had to ask Mary, “How far is New Orleans?”
“I was thinking the same thing!” She said, quickly regaining interest in the trip.
“Why hadn’t I even thought of it?” I asked aloud, yet more to myself.
“It’s another ten hours, or two hundred and seventy miles.” She looked over at me. I wanted to go, she wanted to go, but that damned time frame! I only had five days to get out to San Diego so that I could get to my interview that Monday.
“So essentially we’re adding another ten hours to get to San Diego.”
“Yeah,” she replied. I took a second with it. I played with the idea. I would love to go to New Orleans, stop out at the Emeril’s restaurants, go to bourbon street, party hardy for a night. Then I looked at the time. We would get there at about one o’clock in the morning, and have to start driving by eleven that same morning.I explained this all to Mary with my concluding thoughts.
“So ultimately it’d be stupid to do that. We wouldn’t even get to do anything.” Call it poor planning. “We’re going to need a hotel for tonight though, you want to check out a motel first? It needs to be cheap.”
Discouraged, but still happy to be going to Memphis (though she did bring up Nashville), she began to research. We went back and forth about the pricing for the night. I knew it had to be cheap especially since I had not anticipated Mary running out of money after day one. After a few minutes she began looking at reviews for the cheapest. She started laughing!
“Oh my god! Listen to this review!” She said in between laughing. “Okay, here goes from nikosfrijoles’I was only visiting for a night, but it was horrible! The noise was ridiculous, the thugs numerous, and can someone tell me why the maids use walmart carts?'”
It was all she could read without breaking out into laughter.
“I wanna stay there!” She held up the phone for me to see the review. “I just wanna see that shit!”
“Looks like we won’t be staying there.” I laughed with her.
“Ghetto! HAHA Walmart carts! That’s some crazy shit!”
Little did we know that when we arrived even the one we had settled on by Dreamland and the airport was a no-go. The whole place was ghetto. It was gross to drive through. We finally found a hotel that had a gated lot. It made sense with the amount of cops running after someone running past. Then a swarm of cops at a corner motel (probably the one we first researched). The Clariton was way more than I wanted to spend but it was a place to stay, had a security team roaming the grounds, camera’s, and a gated parking area. We checked in and I pulled my bike from the back of my car. I was not about to take the chances.
It was a nice trip all in all. By the time we hit Mississippi it was dark, so we didn’t really see too much of that countryside. We grabbed a few beers and passed out shortly to wake the next morning, make sure my car wasn’t set on fire in a riot, and begin our next journey.
Three thirty in the morning I woke, after a 30 minute nap. It was pertinent that we be on the road by four in order to avoid some of the heaviest traffic in and around the cities at the busiest time of day. Watching the weather, it also looked like we would be driving through a snow storm just south of Philadelphia. It was said to be capable of 3-6 inches, and 8-10 near D.C. This could easily slow the progress, not to mention heighten the risk of driving making it quite dangerous. Behind that storm, and brewing just over Texas was a huge rain storm that easily took up five southern states. Nothing like driving through snow and rain for five days. I looked around my dark room and saw the results of my packing. Love seat gone, now boxes piled upon Rubbermaid containers.
I jumped out of the comfort of my bed to make sufficient coffee to get me over the first part of the mornings drive. My heart was already racing in anticipation of the travel ahead. I filled the machine and pressed start before the noises above me signaled that the family knew I was awake. They would soon join me around the kitchen table to say their farewells. But I had to get moving with putting everything into the car. First I took the larger items, stopped to pour myself some coffee, then began taking out the odds and ends. For the most part everything was fitting together well. Mary, my sister who was going to be joining me on my journey, still wasn’t around. I hurried my already tired legs to the attic to see what she was doing.
Of course she was still sleeping! I finished loading the car with continuous vocalized prompts to “hurry up” towards my sister. Finally by 4:45 we were ready to rock. I said my farewells to an amazing man, and to my family before we started up the car in the brisk thirty-two degree weather. Once we began driving we both realized the comfort of a stuffed car. Seats were pushed almost all the way forward, there was no elbow space, and poor Mary had a bag under her legs, her computer bag, and her packed bag on her lap. I blasted some techno music from my CD’s the first hour, then encouraged Mary to grab the CD titled ‘I’m Somewhat Gangsta’ and put that in. It was more her style of music. I wanted to make her a bit more comfortable considering how much stuff she had weighing down on her.
Almost a full two hours passed before we had to make our first pit stop. Opening the doors reminded us of the freezing temperatures we were in. It was of no help to us that the wind was blowing harshly, beating against our faces. We went through Gettysburg, then Virginia, then Maryland, North Carolina, and then South Carolina. Following the route Google instructed us to go, it got questionable. We took an exit and found ourselves on some back roads. For miles there were abandoned houses. Randomly we’d see someone sitting on a chair out front of one of these houses, don’t worry, it still looked abandoned. Swamps lined the road with oak trees dripping Spanish moss. The sixty two degree weather encouraged us to roll down the roadways with our windows down. Only once to quickly roll them up when two dogs came running out to the car, next to yet another abandoned house.
Soon we had found a small Exxon. It was at the only developed corner we had run into the whole time in South Carolina. Walking inside, I wanted to be happy hearing the funny way they talked. It was tough due to their physical appearance. Just you know, not used to going out on the town. I smiled ear to ear anyway, which is when they all looked at me like I was the crazy one. I also didn’t have a full story to go along with my purchase, which alerted them that I was a foreigner to these parts. “Marlboro menthol lights,” I informed the lady I needed. She started talkin ta me. I rightly could hardlee unerstan wha she wa sayun. I smiled politely and gave her money. I think she gave up on me then, because she didn’t really have much else to say with her southern accent to a degree further than anyone could ever imagine.
We finally made it to our destination only an hour after my run in with the locals at the Exxon. Palm trees were more exuberant, red roads intersected and ran parallel, and the buildings were suddenly inhabited. Turning onto Ocean Boulevard was a treat, as it was lined with beautiful hotels, and entertaining shops. It was easy to identify this as a tourist or vacation spot. Palm trees lined the streets, and people walked lazily by the shops. The sky was a beautiful blue and the ocean happily reflected it. We got to the hotel and checked into the rooms. Mary, was on the sixth floor with an ocean view and small balcony. I was on the sixteenth floor in a corner suite. I was honestly hoping for more on my first suite visit, but it was still pretty neat. Hey I had a living room!
After the exploration of our rooms, I couldn’t stand the want for a nap and a beer. We went down to the closest gas station and picked up a case of beer. I had an exciting night ahead of me, and absolutely had to get my nap and a shower before I would face the town.
By the end of day one, I had excitedly navigated through the ninety five and seen some wonderful sights. I had a burning desire in my heart. It was there, pulsating, and making me shake. I couldn’t have been happier to be there; homeless and living without a care.
I stood, music blaring in my ear, staring out of the kitchen window. The grass was green yet, but was dying due to the constant and confusing fluctuations in temperature. A mild winter ranging from 20 to 50 within only a days time caused this conflicted grass. I was on cigarette number three and cup of coffee number four. Able to justify my apparent laziness, as I had only woken up forty five minutes earlier, the thought of the move loomed in my thoughts. There was plenty to do. I had hardly begun packing, laundry wasn’t done, and the enchanting evening prior played on repeat in my minds eye.
The smoke from my cigarettes played in the sun’s light. Curling and twisting to make a scene that added to my sense of dreaming. A smile had planted itself upon my face and I had no intention on changing that. Theses moments that I considered “waking up” was a time when I would plan things out. I would decide the most important things to do within the day, which goals to set and achieve, and my course of action. Once upon a time I would have a pen and paper near by so I could jot down my thoughts, even if to re-organize them later. Today, and many days prior, I felt it best to just “go with the flow.” Yet another fantastic way of minimizing the laziness which had crept so horribly into my life.
As of now there was no way to alter what had been decided. The prestigious job that I held was now in the hands of someone else. Insurance cuts off the last day worked as well. That has and continues to be deemed an issue. Last day worked I had to go to the doctor due to a nasty and quick flare up of strep throat. In addition my mornings coffee seemed to be taking a short cut out of my body. My boss, and the team, had already begun realizing how great life was without the loud singing and obnoxious noise making. The plan was set into motion, time bidding to take every moment hostage, and my yearning to do anything diminishing; by the second time held in it’s possession. Weeks prior I had fooled myself into believing that there was so much time. Now as I stood on the last morning that I would wake in Pennsylvania I knew I had been a fool. I may have planned too close, too close to a perfect time, that the money might not be there.
The last few weeks had been an amazing time. Thanksgiving I had found a wonderful new group of friends. Happy, beautiful, and responsible gay men. Time spent with them reminded me of how wonderful life was. How people were good. How a good time wasn’t just me laughing at mundane things while under the snare of beer. They didn’t say a word when they saw me drink. Not that they approved, but they watched with a careful eye. As a nervous mother watching her child with the neighborhood bully, afraid of the influence, while worried of his protection.
Thrashing the old cigarette around in the ash tray to diminish the ashes; left me pondering the other events I had planned for the remainder of the day. My grandmother came up a lot. I had missed seeing her this past Christmas. The one I blamed work for the reason why I couldn’t see anyone. While I closed up and hurled myself into gloom knowing the other half of my dream relationship and life was sitting in front of the fireplace by the tree he decorated, with his boyfriend of three months (you do the math). I had also managed to dodge every one of my father’s calls as well. I had to see them. I would see them.
San Diego was so close and yet I was so far behind. So excited to go, yet there was a very clear unconscious effort that screamed, “I don’t wanna go!” Damn unconscious, it always focuses on what I have, and what is comfortable. He didn’t want to focus on the excitement that lay ahead in the new chapter of my life. The acting, the surfing, the writing, the living, the singing, the dancing, the friends. A whole new life that beckoned me to join. A whole new life, I couldn’t wait to discover.
Thank you for reading,
Caleb A. Mertz
What was meant to be an fun and interactive event for my readers has gone terribly awry. Each day as I traveled along the continent I wanted to enable time constraints to indulge readers with the experiences, thoughts, and transitions made along the way. I wanted it to read as if a book was unfolding in real time. Without any possibilities of foreshadowing, or hinting, because the future was still yet to be determined. This would certainly prove to be a book (okay, well blog… in book format) with no boundaries or end because there was no end.
This proved impossible with days where we were driving for 22 hours straight. Days where we had to sleep in the car at a truck stop along the way. Days where simply having the car out of sight with every single one of my belongings inside was enough to cause the type of stress that leads to a restless night of sleep. Even now, I sit in a hotel room (still waiting to hear back from all of my applications for apartments), my personal belongings tucked away into storage, and the inability to find the appropriate cords to connect my camera or phone to the computer in order to upload the pictures I want to accompany my stories.
I have found a job, so don’t worry too much about that, but the living situation could definitely improve. Keep an eye posted as I will be posting several stories relating to different sections of my travels leading right up to my current day. I’m not sure if the story will end there, but I’ll make sure it contains a happy ending, no matter the true outcome.
Never before in my life have I contemplated the possibility of being homeless. The funds are quickly dwindling, and so is my patience. Having a roof over head now is great, but where in the world am I with these rental applications?