Derek (Prince Charming) mentioned the other day that I needed to get my passport soon because he wants to take a road trip. He said we will head toward Michigan and enter Canada on that side, loop around to Toronto and go through New York back to home sweet home, Tennessee. The last time I traveled cross country, I started in Michigan too, but I was headed to California and it was not to sightsee. It was to be a drug mule.
When you are young, you make terrible decisions. Decisions, that twenty years later, you might quite possibly wonder aloud, “What the fuck was I thinking?” That was the trip I took. I was young. Twenty five to be exact. I had just had my youngest child. He is 14 now and I needed to leave Pennsylvania, but I didn’t have the money. My brother’s friend, however, had money and needed help. He was a semi-big time drug dealer, I guess. I didn’t really know how deep or how big he was. All I knew was that he offered me enough money to move and then some if I would simply drive a car to California, leave it there, pick up another car, and drive it back. No big deal. Well, except for the part where the car that I was picking up was going to be loaded with pounds and pounds of marijuana. Even after weighing the pros and cons of it, I figured it was a pretty safe bet. I’m a woman. I’m travelling alone. I’m mostly a law abiding citizen. I wouldn’t speed. I’d have no reason to get pulled over, etc., etc.
I took a bus to Michigan and was greeted by the friend. Although he was a “professional” drug dealer, he was less than a professional at anything else, but then again, you don’t really need to have references, or training, or brains to be a drug dealer. There really are no pre-requisites. Or at least none that I know of. I was supposed to get there and be on my way. That plan didn’t work out. He was still in the works of finding me a car to drive. He ended up going to a buy here pay here car lot and getting one. So, I’m supposed to drive a car that has not a.) had a tune up and b.) has a drive out tag on it, 2400 miles to California. Whatever. I was already in it and at this point, I could taste the freedom that the money was going to buy me. So I waited around patiently while they got their shit together. Finally, I was ready to hit the road. He gave me the first half of my money and he gave me a few hundred dollars spending money to eat and rest or whatever I needed it for. I immediately sent the first half of the money to Tennessee. I had someone there looking for a place for me and I sent her the money so when she found something suitable, she could just pay for it and I would have somewhere to go when I got back, plus I didn’t want to be traveling with thousands of dollars in cash. That doesn’t seem like it would ever be a good idea.
I hit the road. The car ran fine. I went through state after state. I went through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas all without stopping for anything more than food and gas. I think I drove for 15 hours straight that first day. I don’t know how many times I listened to Jimmy Buffet on cassette. Probably hundreds. I found this cute little hotel in Kansas right off the interstate. It was like a log cabin and from the parking lot all I could see was barren fields and lightning in the sky. So much lightning. I loved it and was so at peace. I slept for about five hours before I started my journey again right before sunrise. Next I drove to Colorado, I stopped there for gas and continued on through Utah, where I started to have car trouble and eventually broke down. I had to call a tow truck and wait for it to come. I happened to be on a stretch of interstate where there is a sign that says something along the lines of “Last exit for gas. Next exit 100 miles.” Yea, so it was between those exits that I broke down. Needless to say, I was waiting for quite a bit before the tow truck got there.
Once he got there, this long haired, bearded, dirty tow truck driver told me that I was lucky he got to me when he did because in this stretch of interstate, people disappear all the time and it was a good thing it was light out. My only thought at that moment was that he knew where every single body was buried and I prayed all the way to the garage that I would, in fact, make it to the garage. And I did.
The guy who owned the garage was super nice. He had a picture hanging up on the wall of an elephant with, I want to say Bill Murray, but maybe it was some other funny guy who made a movie with an elephant. He told me how they filmed the movie there and he offered me a drink (not alcoholic) and snacks while the car was fixed. It was nothing major, thank God, and I was quickly back on the road. I drove to Colorado before I stopped for gas again and met a really nice traveler. He was going the opposite direction of me or I would have definitely given him a lift. But we talked for a while and said our goodbyes. I took a picture of him to remember him by and I went on my way. I may have stopped a time or two to catnap in a parking lot, but I drove pretty much straight through until I got to Santa Monica. The friend was flying in from Michigan and he and his “people” met me on the beach. We left there and went to some sketchy part of LA if I remember correctly. I think I could have crossed the street and been in Mexico so maybe I was somewhere else. At that point I was exhausted and didn’t care any more.
They put me up in a hotel, but I didn’t have my own room. We were waiting for the car that I was going to drive back so I was in a room with two Mexican dudes who were doing some sort of drug called tar. It was this black sticky stuff and they would stick it to the inside of their nostril and every now and again they would drop water up their noses. Weirdest shit ever, but I am a drug virgin so everything is wired to me. Plus all I wanted to do was sleep, but the two guys barely spoke English and they were looking at me funny. I eventually told them that I wanted to go to sleep and if they tried anything, I would use the plastic spoon to my right to pluck out their eyeballs and eat them. I’m quite sure they could have over powered me if they wanted, but as it turned out they were decent guys and just let me sleep for a few hours. When I got up it was time to go get the car and head back home. We went to little Mexico to pick it up. I’m not even lying when I say that one of the dudes was just walking down the street with a duffel bag of weed as if it were his gym clothes. I also ate the best taco of my life while I was there so it wasn’t a complete loss.
We get to the car and it’s the same car I drove to Cali. Now, I’m no professional drug dealer. Hell, I’m not even a professional drug mule at this point, but I do know that if I’m a cop and I see a car with drive out tags on it from three days ago driving back in the direction it came from, I’m going to wonder why someone would make a 2400 mile trip just to turn around and go back and I don’t even have to be a smart cop to figure that one out. So immediately I was irritated. “Where’s the other car?” I wanted to know. “It had issues, you’ll have to drive this one back,” they said. “Well, that’s a stupid fucking idea and you all are the dumbest drug dealers I’ve ever met.” Not a well received notion, but I’ve never been able to hold my tongue. A gift and a curse. Nevertheless, I was so pissed, I got more traveling money from the friend and took off. He was flying back to Michigan and I would meet him there. I wasn’t on the road two hours before the car started shaking. I called the friend and told him I was having trouble and I thought it was an axle. He told me to take it to a garage, but to not let them touch anything but the front….. because there was over a hundred bricks of marijuana hidden in various places in the car, not to mention that brilliant one’s duffel bag was just neatly tucked under the spare tire.
So I stopped at a garage and was having it looked at. It was a rear axle. They must have jarred something loose while they were disassembling and reassembling the car to stuff it with drugs. The mechanic could tell I was stressed. All I could think was that if they found what was in the car, I would be in jail. Maybe for life. Nobody to raise my kids. And for what? A little bit of money. Not even a large amount. Not what they would have had to pay a professional. So this mechanic, an African dude, says that I should stop worrying about it so much because “sometimes disappointments can be a blessing.” When he said that, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I immediately knew what to do. I told him not to fix a thing and I called the friend, told him to keep the remainder of the money he owed me and I got a ride to the greyhound station and rode the bus back to Pennsylvania.
Over the three days I was on the bus, the Mexicans beat the shit out of the friend and I had a hit on my head. Somehow by the grace of God, my brother took care of the whole people trying to kill me situation. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “I owe him my life,” but he was babysitting my kids while I was on my adventure and I’m pretty certain he didn’t want to raise them so he quickly fixed my problems. Either way, I packed up, moved to Knoxville and never looked back.
I haven’t been on a road trip since either so hopefully the next one I go on will be relaxing and uneventful and will not end in death threats.