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our first cross-country road trip pt. 2

June 10th was a Monday. If I remember correctly, that had a little something to do with why we chose that date. A day that typically marks the beginning of the work week would instead be the day we leave on this wonderful adventure. It was sort of symbolic, in a way, I guess.

We had just finished building out the studio. We were on a total high from that, and so it was the perfect time to throw ourselves into the world and see what it had to offer us.

We took this trip almost four years ago and I still find it hard to put into words. So much went into this trip and we took so much out of it, and so it can be hard to condense and convey all of those feelings and emotions.

There are really two parts to this trip, the logistics and the experience. I guess we can start with the logistics.

One of the biggest questions surrounding this trip was where would we sleep? We definitely did not have the money to stay in hotels every night. That would take the adventure out of it anyway. We took to the internet and learned that most Walmarts allow overnight parking. This was huge, we basically had a free place to stay every night and so from that point on we knew, we’d be sleeping in the Nissan.

Now came the question of how would we sleep? Brandon is 6’ tall and we were planning on packing a cooler, which would act as our fridge, a duffel bag of clothes each, some pretty basic camping and cooking supplies, a couple cases of water and packs of ramen, some toiletries, and our camera gear, really just the bare necessities. Even so, it was a lot to fit in such a small car.

Our solution, to pop the back seats out, so now the back of the car was open to the trunk, add some pillows and a mattress pad and, just like that, we had a bed. We would keep all of our clothes and more valuable belongings in the backseat while we drive. Then, when it came time to sleep, we’d move all of that stuff to the front, roll out the mattress pad and we were good to go.

We bought a bubble to put on the roof. That would hold our larger, non-valuables, a couple cases of water, ramen, sleeping blanket, outdoor chairs, you get the idea. The only tricky part about this bubble was that the Nissan didn’t have roof racks and so our only real way of securing it to the roof was with these straps that had clips on the ends that hooked onto the inside of the door and then, when you would close the door, that’s what kept the clips in place. Just a little sketchy.

I remember stopping, almost every time after we’d been driving on a highway, and the bubble was so much farther back than where it started and so each time, we’d have to unclip and adjust it. I think my favorite story about this bubble though was the very first day, we were driving from New Jersey to Virginia and we stopped in Washington D.C. where it was raining. The straps got so wet and just soaked through that

they started dripping into the car and onto our stuff. We wrapped some beach towels around the straps to soak up as much of the water as we could. It was honestly pretty hilarious.

One thing we completely forgot about was that this car had windows and that we’d be sleeping in this car and so the windows had to be covered. This became an obvious problem on our first night. Our solution was to drape a blanket over the headrests of the two front seats to block us from the windshield which, in addition to the two front windows was left completely uncovered, then to open the two backdoors and use the beach towels we brought with us to cover up those windows. We bought one of those sun shades for the windshield and we used that to cover the back window and we were good to go.

It wasn’t the best set up and I’m sure we looked a little ridiculous from the outside, especially since our two beach towels consisted of a Rasta Lion and a giant Elvis Presley, but it got the job done and, despite the minor lack of space and privacy, I had some of the best and coziest night sleeps I’ve ever had in the back of that car.

We would shower at Planet Fitnesses, we would brush our teeth on the side of the road, we would cook on a single burner little propane stove. It’s so funny, I remember this one morning, standing by the trunk of the car in a Walmart parking lot. It was early, we had just woken up, but people were already out doing their morning shopping and so I’m standing there boiling a pot of water to fill our Thermos for the day, Brandon’s got the side door open draining the cooler and there are just people walking by with wagons full of groceries looking at us. It was such a ‘how did I get here’ kind of moment, but all I could do was laugh. We were having the time of our lives.

We went from New Jersey, down through Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Mountains to Atlanta, all the way to New Orleans and across Texas. Our most memorable stop was completely unplanned, which is always how it seems to go. As we were driving through Texas, Brandon was looking at the map and spotted a white dot in the middle of New Mexico. It couldn’t be snow.

Turns out it was White Sands National Monument, massive glistening white sand dunes and a breathtaking view of the San Andreas Mountains. We got there just in time for sunset and there was a part of me that really felt like I might’ve died that day and gone to Heaven because it was so peaceful and quiet and vast, unlike anything either of us had ever seen before.

We kept west, all the way to L.A., drove up the PCH through Oregon and Washington and into Canada. We made it to Banff and then dipped back into the states in Montana. After a quick stop at Yellowstone, we were running low on gas money and started to high tail it home.

One of the things I find remarkable about that trip is how much of it we remember. It, without a doubt, validated all of those ideas that were planted in my head from that short film. We were just exploring, trying to cover as much ground as possible and so we wouldn’t spend more than a day in any given place. Everyday, we were somewhere new doing things that pushed us outside of our comfort zones. We were alive and awake.

This first trip really opened our eyes to just how much there is to see and how often people talk about seeing these things but never actually do. It showed us that no matter where you are, everyone is sort of doing the same thing. They’re waking up in the morning, going to work, having dinner, it’s just their surroundings that are different. We’re all just people. We’re all just trying to figure it out, whatever it is.

I think we both felt like different people by the end of that trip. We traveled far from home. I still remember sitting in a diner in Washington and looking at the map with Brandon, thinking to ourselves, ‘we’re the farthest from home we’ve ever been.’ We relied entirely on ourselves and had complete control over our decisions, where we went and when we went there. There was this newfound independence and confidence that came out of this trip that would really benefit us moving forward.

We saw places we dreamt of seeing and discovered lots of new ones along the way. This trip taught us that, more often than not, it’s not the places you see on the postcards that are the most magical. The most special places are the ones you find along the way, the unexpected, unplanned roads you go down. The memories you create in those spontaneous moments in those far off places are the ones that really mean something. They’re the ones you remember the most vividly.

Getting back was strange, but we were excited to start this new chapter that we left completely open a month before. And now, with this entirely new perspective, we felt more prepared than ever to dedicate everything to putting our ideas into practice and making them work. And that’s exactly what we did.


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