“On the run from Johnny Law. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland.” -Dignan, pt.1

The preparations for moving are many and it is this that I always forget. Though I was unemployed for the last week and a half that I was in Chicago I was far from getting everything done/packed/cleaned before my big-hearted friends came over to help me load the behemoth truck. Amber summed it up best with, “What the hell were you doing the last week and a half?” Johnny’s reply of, “I can always count on you for pointing out the elephant in the room, Amber. None of us wanted to say it.” I just stood and shrugged. I really didn’t know.

Nature-loving brutal motherfuckers finally get to be heard.

Nature-loving brutal motherfuckers finally get to be heard.

Where I was supposed to leave Monday, I stayed an extra day to clean and put the last remaining things in the sixteen foot sedan-killer. Tuesday morning I awoke and looked at the vacant room around me, the sleeping bag on the floor that only half warmed my sleep (thank you, Emma, for warming my loins), and my computer where I had tried to fall asleep to Such Hawks Such Hounds but failed due to the excellent nature of the documentary. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It was too reminiscent of a place I had squatted in in Bloomington, Indiana (entered and exited through a window to my blanket and pillow on the floor next to a CD player with only one CD in my library seeing as how I had sold the rest of them to live) and only a future was ahead of me.

The truck was parked two blocks away and was thankfully still there when we turned the corner. The day was sunny and brisk holding steady in the 30s. I have always liked the ice blue color of the sky on a day such as this but would much rather enjoy it from the inside. We hopped in and fired it up. Now you may or may not remember but I only recently acquired my license after a ten-year hiatus from driving. Though I had taken numerous weekend camping trips over the summer I was always blessed with a small car to weave through the Chicago traffic. Now in a true monster (I was surprised I didn’t need a CDL to drive this fucker) I took a deep breath and blasted the latest Converge album, kicked it into ‘D,’ and cursed anyone who dared to cut me off. (I’m not gonna shuffle around my belongings to stop quickly for any prick that is stupid enough to get in front of this death machine.) Luckily I only had two turns to make to get on the interstate and it went by pretty smooth.

I left at 11:00am so as to miss the morning rush. What I forgot is the Dan Ryan in Chicago knows no slow time; lane after lane of asses with cellphones in their talking cracks going every which way is enough to force one to actually put up with the CTA. Shudder. As the skyline shrank in my nonexistent rear view mirror I envisioned Chicago as Springwood, Ohio and therefore

Breathe deep the Jameson breath of Daley.

Breathe deep the Jameson breath of Daley.

impossible to leave. In 30 minutes I was never so happy to see the ‘Welcome to Indiana’ sign woosh overhead.

I understand why people in Chicago always think of Indiana as a horribly ugly place. The northern half of the state is just that. Flat, dumb, and incredibly bland. The whipped cream on this hideous place is Indianapolis, home to the greatest football team, the most boring downtown, and some of the dearest people that I know. Three breaths and I was through the Crossroads of America and into the promised land, at least as far as Indiana is concerened.

Southern Indiana is truly beautiful. Maybe not from interstate 65, but I know, from growing up there, that it holds pockets of truly breathtaking scenes. (Brown County, Lawrence County [where I was reared], and Monroe County…truly a trifecta, er, triFUCKYEAH of nature.) Rolling through and over and under I reflect on my life in the midwest. 21 years in Indiana and roughly 10 in Chicago. The excitement of the approach of each of the four seasons. Christmases young and old. Child birthdays morphed into drunk birthdays. Forays by road and air to countless places. Good loves and bad loves. This is where I have attempted to figure everything out only to figure out that it can’t be figured out. Everything just moves all the time. With the Ohio River just ahead I waved goodbye to Indiana for what may be the last time. You big boot, you Hoosier, I hate to love you but it is impossible not to.

Pulling into the first filling station I had thought, “Huh…this gets pretty good gas mileage. I made it this far without a fill up!” Then I stood and watched the amount of gas blasting into the tank. The pump automatically stopped at $75.00, possibly because no one ever buys this much gas so surely it must be spilling all over the pavement. I just stopped there not really wanting to know how much it would REALLY hold and pulled out.

They wouldnt let me even TRY to swing it. Whatever.

They wouldn't let me even TRY to swing it. Whatever.

Louisville. City traffic pt. 3. My death monster annoys other drivers as much as they annoy me. No one lets you merge. No one understands when you accidentally veer into another lane and consciously inch back over. With change comes sacrifice and with this I am sacrificing peace of mind, comfort, and a steady heartbeat. With every exit and merge and jerk move I gasp and curse and point to the sky with the tallest finger. The absence of buildings comforts the mind and unwhitens my knuckles to again relax and lose my mind in the music.

Resisting the urge to pull off at the countless bourbon distilleries on the way I venture onto Tennessee. The expanse of the mountains is belittling. As the truck barreled down the sides, the momentum carrying us halfway up the next climb, it was impossible not to couple it with life’s breaths. Heaves. Failings and accomplishments. The wonder of what is over the next crest. Death and life are equal at this point and it is only with steps forward that one finds which is waiting for them.

The destination for the first night is the Natchez Parkway, a 400+ mile foray into the woods of the south. There are a few backpacking places that I read about and was determined to find. Unfortunately it was 9:00pm by this point and Tennessee will now forever be remembered by me as ‘The State With Shitty Road Markings That More Often Than Not Remain Dark Even With Headlights Directly On Them.’ Coolest bumper sticker ever.

I found myself in a small, small, small town looking for an entrance to the Parkway. As I passed countless bars and sideroads I decided to go with my guts and start down a one lane country road. In the death monster. My gut can be a fucker sometimes. Luckily I only encountered one other auto, a truck that repeatedly flashed its lights at me. “Is he saying stop? Don’t go further? What the hell?” I continued and realized that this was going nowhere fast. I managed to turn the beast around and head back from whence I came and find another way to get lost. One that hopefully would not involve being anally raped and left for dead while Emma would have to feast on my body for nourishment until she finally succumbed to the death grip.

I stayed on the main road thinking that surely there would be a sign somewhere for this goddamn parkway. GIVE ME FUCKING BEAUTY AND NATURE ALREADY. Ten miles and there was a sign! Good job, Tennessee! And it is here that I left civilization…

Two lanes and a 50mph speed limit did not afford good travel time but with the beauty all cares went out the window. In most places the woods was set off

The presence of man never looked so beautiful.

The presence of man never looked so beautiful.

about ten feet from the road which is something the parks department does for the sake of the animals. You see, if the woods is set off like that you have more time to see an approaching animal and therefore have time to brake to let the scared-shitless beast time to cross and have a dirty, happy life. (This is something I learned from Adam in Alaska…except they do it up there for the moose because those will kill you and your car in the middle of nowhere.) Around nearly every bend was a small gathering of deer munching on the mown grass (a neighbor explained to my father and me as a kid that mown grass is like candy to horses so I assume it is the same for deer…that man was later incarcerated for manslaughter) and more often than not running alongside the truck but, luckily, never coming any closer. I reduced my speed to 30mph to both take in the scenery and protect any wildlife that I may not see.

I finally noticed the mile markers on the sides of the road. It read 440. The trailhead I was looking for was at 218. At 30mph I knew there was no way I was gonna make it. Any other person would’ve probably sped up so as to reach their destination sooner but I chose to remain at my constant 30mph. After all the reason for taking this road was for the beauty and not the efficiency. I had no job or place to live waiting for me in Texas so I might as well enjoy it, right? Indeed. My new plan was to drive until I got sleepy and then pull off to one of the many stops and just sleep in the truck. Can’t be all that bad, right? I mean sure there was my 65lb. pack, an 85lb. dog, and bucket seats…when one is tired they can sleep anywhere. At least I can.

I passed a sign that read Devil’s Backbone. Wow. I’ve only heard of it and never had the opportunity to hike it. Why not at midnight? Fortunately, for my own safety, my hiking boots were packed away and I only had my beat up Chucks therefore dissuading me from any attempts at night hiking. I did, however, stop and just take in the woody air and stretch out a little bit. I looked at the physical map and measured the distance to the trailhead. Nope. Not gonna make the trailhead.

I traveled another 20 or 30 miles like this until finally I had no choice but to pull over. The night air crept in and moistened the interior and quieted my entire body. Time for sleep. But how?

I tried to fill the gap between the seats with the pack and my other bag but it just wasn’t cutting it. On top of that, Emma’s size pretty much ensconced the other seat so I had no place to lay my head. I guess it’ll just have to be upright in the seat.

Try to stretch out…

Use the jacket as the pillow against the door…

Ow, my back…

My neck…

Here, like this…

This…will…have…to…do…

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  1. […] is the bane of my driving existence. Shit. Sure enough I found my way in the same exchange that confused me so last time and, as you may have surmised in the last few seconds, it did it again. Round and round I drove […]



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