Continued from Part One…
A couple days after my adventure in Vancouver, I decided to come back to California, so I could hang out at my condo with a friend who I had made New Year’s Eve plans with months before. I was excited to finally do something cool on New Year’s – sit back, relax, and watch movies with friends. Because before New Year’s 2011, I had never spent New Year’s Eve with friends.
I planned to take 5 down to the Oregon-Washington border, then cross over to the Astoria bridge and take 101 the rest of the way, in order to avoid the snow on 5. I also planned to do this in one trip. I gassed up my car and left around 11am. The drive along the border was beautiful.
I made it a bit past Astoria and found a Costco where I got a hot dog and a churro. And a text from Jeremy warning me of a storm coming in. And their plans for the condo on New Year’s Eve. The latter made me a bit more distraught than the first.
I continued my drive south, to my home state. It began to get curvy. Which did not bother me too much, minus the slowing, stopping, speeding up. Then it hit. Rain. So much rain. More rain than I could conceive of. My cruise control button taunted me: “if you were on I-5, you could use me.” I continued my drive, the curves sleek with heavy rain. At one point, the road dipped to what must have been ocean-level. I’m almost certain that was the first time I almost hydroplaned that night.
My aunt called around 9pm, urging me to stop for the night. I was certain that with just 5 more hours of driving, I could cross the border and be home. She called again at 11pm. I was so close, I was so certain. I thought perhaps I could just make it. That if I stopped, there would be so little point, and I would only drive two or three hours the next day. My eyes rolled, and my head fell back then forward, close to midnight. I turned Ke$ha up louder, and drank some water. A friend once advised me that eating things by ones and counting helped when driving and tired. I pulled out the goldfish.
I pulled off into an Arby’s parking-lot around 11pm, barely close to the California border, and called a friend frustrated in my tears. Look where my pride, where my fearlessness, where my passion and desire and quest for an answer got me. Rain was still torrenting from the sky, and hundreds of miles remained on my GPS. My friend supported me.
“I can tell you to stop, but I know you Nathanial. It would be pointless. Text me in 45 minutes so I know you’re still alive.”
I continue south. I’m following an SUV a bit too closely when it pulls into the passing lane suddenly. Before I know what’s happening, I’ve driven over a tree. I wonder if I should pull over to see if my car is damaged. Ke$ha plays a bit louder.
I make it down to Mendocino. Maybe it’s 3:30am? I don’t even know at this point. Somewhere a few miles back I pulled to the side of the road and took a powernap for 20 minutes.
The roads are still windy in Mendocino. But a little bit straighter. I can’t tell if I’m passing trees or rocks. Literally, everything that’s not illuminated is a blur. Moving past at 50-60 miles an hour, the rain has stopped, but the ground is still wet.
Cloverdale, the northmost tip of Sonoma County. Healdsburg, where a few months before I had been introduced to Bear Republic. Windsor. North Santa Rosa, where my church met. This was bearable. 20 minutes. I can make it 20 minutes. I know I can.
I call my aunt at 6:30am. She’s just getting up for work. I’m just pulling into the garage of my condo. 18 hours of straight driving. I sit in bed, and after hours of being dizzyingly tired, I cannot fall asleep. I watch an episode of Gossip Girl, then pass out. Around 10am I wake up and try to figure out my plans for New Year’s Eve, since my previous plans were no longer going to work.
My friend was going to hang out with her boyfriend, and a party was going to be at the condo. I called a friend in SoCal to talk through my options. She invited me down.
“When would I leave?” I asked.
“You could come down on… tomorrow… and if you stayed to the third, I could just drive back up with you.”
“Oh, okay. Are you sure that’s okay with your family? And that’s not too much?”
“Nathanial. It’s fine.”
And with that, the matter was closed. I got a haircut, rested a bit more, and repacked my car to drive down to the San Diego area.
I cannot believe it was a year ago that I drove almost the entire West Coast – I saw almost all of 5, and definitely all of 101 on that break. I cannot believe that Dev had just come out with “Bass Down Low”, I started working on my autobiography again, and I had just started watching Gossip Girl. It seems like more than a year and less than a year, simultaneously.
In the spectrum of human life, we only have so long. The decisions we make speak to who we are, they create our identity as people. I have made so many mistakes. So very many mistakes. And as much as the pain of these mistakes sucks, I am so proud of my mistakes. Because from my mistakes I have learned. I have learned to not spend New Year’s Eve with an ex-girlfriend. I have learned to not drive down 101 in Oregon while it’s raining. I have learned that life is precious and people are important.