Pale yellow grass lined the west side of the road and on the east were rows of trees that hadn’t yet blossomed the peaches or apricots they will offer at harvest.
We passed farms with goats and cows searching for shade and more than a few acres of scorched black soil as we left miles of California behind us. The sun seemed to defy its natural inclination to set, beating down on us through the windshield even into the early evening hours. Our hours in the car ate into the distance that we had to cover, but we still had a long way left to go.
I’d started this trip with a six hour flight, which took me from the east coast to the west to meet Blake, whom I’d known for years but had never met face to face before. The hours in the air gave me plenty of time to think about the journey that lay ahead and what I was trying to leave behind me. This was an adventure that I needed, both in the company I’d be keeping and in the places we’d see.
Meeting Blake was long overdue; we work in the same industry, have a lot of the same friends and there is a good deal of overlap in our lives. While I was in the air traveling to get there, she was on the ground shooting a blowbang.
I landed in Los Angeles late in the day and gathered my luggage, stopping to ask for direction to the pickup area before realizing that the person shrugging back at me was Sarah Silverman. When I was able to find my ride, the driver took me through the winding roads up into the mountains. We passed an old fashioned general store and peacocks which wandered into the street In front of the car; I felt like like I was on an entirely different planet even though I was only an hour outside of la.
It wasn’t until I was almost there that the gravity of meeting her in person started to settle on me; it’s one thing to text and call, but another thing to spend more than twenty hours in a car together. Would we agree on music or the other things to listen to? Would we run out of things to talk about? Would one of us talk too much? These are questions that we probably should have asked before committing to a cross country trip together, but of course they didn’t pop into my head until I was knocking on her door.
After a few minutes together though, it felt perfectly normal to be in each other’s company. I spent the night at her house and when I arrived we each had a bit of work of work to do; I scheduled the content updates that are inappropriate to manage on a plane and she edited the scenes she’d spent the day shooting. After we wrapped up work we sat and talked for a while, before lounging on the couch together to watch a show she’d been wanting to share with me. We slept for a few hours and in the morning after a little bit of a fiasco getting the rental car, we hit the road with her dog Bixby in tow. As it turns out that delay diverted us from a stop that could have been tragic, but that’s a story for another time.
In less than 24 hours we’d gone from never having seen each other face to face to setting off on 20 hours of driving together. It’s the kind of adventure that can make or break a friendship and we’d had a few rocky moments in the past; there was cause enough to be both cautious and optimistic before the trip and I went in accepting that it could go either way.
Blake’s company was easier than I expected and I was happy that I’d taken up her offer to come along on this journey. At the end of the first day on the road, we pulled into a strange little lodge at the halfway point and got the last room at the only pet friendly place in town. We quietly did our own thing before saying goodnight and I listened to the chirping of crickets outside of our window as I fell asleep.
I woke up early in the morning and went for a walk alone in the first sunlight, staring at the mountains and the trees that lined the little motel that we were in. I thought about how different this road trip was from the last few that I’d taken and how my life isn’t the same as it was then either, but I didn’t want to linger on the past or fixate on the future; I just wanted to be in the moment.
If you’d have asked me a few weeks ago if I’d be thousands of miles away from home on a road trip with Blake, I would have gotten it wrong. That’s not the only thing that I didn’t see coming, but in the weeks between then and now I’ve done enough thinking to know I wasn’t on the right track. This trip has done a lot to pull me out of my routine and I can already feel the restorative effect of it on my life. This isn’t the life I imagined for myself, but it’s the one I’ve got and I’m hellbent on making the most of it.