Week five of being on the road with
Matt Herzog, Jack Singer, David Fort Jr, and Bobby Decker
Four weeks from one side of the country to the other, now we only have to do it in one. The return trip, we knew, would always be brutal.
Still, the first day of the return trip was spent on seeing more of California. Matt, Bobby and Jake took their chance to sightsee in San Fran, while Dave and Erica visited the amusement park and beaches of Santa Cruz. It was nice for everyone, until we experienced how bad California traffic really was. It should’ve taken us only an hour, but now, at noon, traffic turned it into 2 ½ hours.
We arrived in Santa Cruz, picked up Dave and Erica and finally started the return trip. We had 12 more hours of driving until Flagstaff, AZ, and it was already three in the afternoon. We had an honor system of driving: you drive as much as you could. It helped that Erica, David’s girlfriend who recently joined us in San Francisco, was another driver. We arrived at the campground in Flagstaff at almost 4 AM. Of course it looked the same, but it felt like months since we’ve last been here. Then, Jake mentioned it's only been a week. The realization messed with our heads a bit.
We had a measly five hours of sleep, before we started on another 12 ½ hour drive. At least, we left in the morning this time, so we’d arrive in Wichita Falls, TX at a more reasonable time.
Only dry, barren fields and distant hills make up much of the landscape in Texas. It's actually a common sight in much of the Southwest and throughout a lot of America. Occasionally on the drive, there’s dozens of giant windmills dotting the horizon. However in Texas, the windmills are replaced by hundreds of oil rigs along its lonely desert highways.
Sometime around midnight, we arrived at the campground in Wichita Falls. We only had six more hours until El Dorado, AR. We decided that Dave and Erica would stay in Arkansas and the rest of us would continue forward to see Bobby’s sister in Wilmington, North Carolina. Paris, Texas was on the way to Arkansas, so we stopped to see its funniest attraction, an Eiffel Tower with a cowboy hat.
We got to El Dorado later that day and took it easy. David’s family was gone on vacation, so this time it was only us. We slowly moved our stuff from the van into Dave’s car, ordered pizza, watched Netflix and Youtube and got some much needed rest. Bobby and Jake returned to their kittens that they picked out from weeks earlier: Casper and Eldo, an adventurous big brother and a nervous little sister.
The next morning, we got a carrier and some food and supplies for the kittens. Then, Matt, Jake and Bobby said their goodbyes to Dave and Erica and began the most brutal drive of the trip. A hellish fourteen hour drive through mundane landscapes in the South. At least, we had two kittens to keep us company.
When you're on the road that long, you discover the escalating layers of boredom. Songs are skipped more frequently, Mad Libs is less funny and podcasts are starting to feel stale. We journal, look at the passing scenery, mindlessly scroll through our phones and play with Eldo and Casper. We nap and hope that when we wake we’re already there, only to discover that there’s still nine more hours of driving. We listen to more music, go back to Mad Libs, play with the cats again and nap some more, repeating the pattern for hours. Sometime in the middle of your complete and total boredom, there’s 45 minutes left and you count them all down painfully.
After all that, we arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina as the faint pink light of dawn flickered on. The next day was reserved for relaxing at the beach with Bobby’s sister, Britt, and her two daughters, Piper, the oldest, and Decker, the newborn.
We left and headed back to Philly for a much simpler, 8 hour drive. We arrived in Center City later in the afternoon. It was surreal. We’ve been gone for so long and seen so much. Seeing the Art Museum, City Hall, Broad and Market felt weird. The thought was unspoken but understood by all of us: here we are back where we started and it’s all over.