With the help of Google maps, I roughly estimated how many miles I traveled in the past two and a half months. Not just traveled, but drove.
6,031 miles total.
Not including all of the detours and pit stops- which brings me to my latest adventure. On my 1,163 mile drive from Colorado to Oregon, I heard a loud pop! followed by a heavy, repetitive thud. Pulling over as far as I could, I was still closer to the highway than I felt comfortable, feeling my hair blow back from my face with each passing car. Not wanting to look, I checked my back right tire to see a wide rip in it about the size of my forearm.
Flash back to seven years ago when my dad showed me how to change a tire then stepped back to have me repeat the same process he had just demonstrated. I harnessed my inner Slum Dog Millionare and willed myself to remember what he had shown me. Closing my eyes, I dug for something long forgotten at this key moment when I needed it, already mentally telling my dad, “See? I remembered!” All that came to mind were The Office and other TV show references. I had discarded basic algebra and couldn’t recall how to change a tire but I had retained the entire script to the Interdimensional Cable episode on Rick and Morty.
I shamefully dialed AAA’s number (hey, that’s why I pay for it, right?) and waited. By the end of the phone call, I realized that’s what I was to do for a while. Wait.
It was already late by this point, the sun was setting. My attention moved from my flattened tire and the loud roar from semis whizzing by, to the sunset. It began to snow as the sun filled the horizon and spilled onto the mountains. A space, as vast as the white plains I watched turned orange by the sun, opened up inside of me.
I felt this wide emptiness expand with each breath and my heart raced. I was driving towards that horizon and I would fill that emptiness with what lay ahead. I felt scared and excited. I felt joy and sadness. All at once.
I laughed and felt snow touch my cheeks as I raised my smile to the darkening sky. The only certain thing in my life at that moment was the undeniable fact I needed to change my tire. I could live with that.
Before I left for Oregon, I had a long conversation with my brother. My brother who had gone through a lot of the same troubles as me due to our upbringing. His face was contorted, trying to formulate a way to express his concerns. His beautiful way with words led to him blurting out the question-
He couldn’t understand why I lived the life I did, why I would move away from my family, and why I couldn’t settle in one place. Rightfully so, he was bewildered I was moving to this state without even the guarantee of a job and the only roof over my head belonging to my vehicle. Our inconsistent childhood had brought him to a place where he wanted a strong family unit and a reliable routine with old and new traditions. Our inconsistent childhood had brought me to Kentucky, New England, Europe, Mexico, and so many other places. It brought me out to Oregon, battling the weather and patrolling camp guard hosts to sneak in a shower.
My life decisions, the big ones requiring a lot of time and rational thinking, were like that of diving headfirst into a swimming pool without checking the depth or if there is even water in it. The kind of living that leads to situations like the one I was in now.
I waited over two hours for the tow truck to watch my tire changed in under five minutes. My flat tire had pulled a chair out for me, pushed my shoulders down to sit, and pointed to the sunset in front of me. It gave me time to write, to think, to let the beauty of a sunset wash over me. I had the thought to take a picture when the sun fell over the mountains but I put my phone away. I wanted to remember it exactly as it was and looking back at a picture might ruin that.
I wanted to remember how cold my toes were as I stood, my feet only in socks and a pair of Chacos, stranded on the side of a road. I want to think back on the warm pastor who stopped for me and offered me a snack and, “Maybe a bit of reading material if you’re interested?” But most of all, I wanted to remember that sunset in Wyoming while I waited for a kind mechanic who patiently showed me how to change a tire cause-
“Honey, in your lifestyle, this’ll happen again.”