Roadtrip to Nowhere

by Jane Moneypenny

Ah, July 4th. The holiday of fireworks, patriotism and good BBQ. For me, it’s another chance for a random adventure. This time, somehow convincing 2 high school friends who were driving back to Houston, to accompany me on a spontaneous road trip to Austin (a city I’m considering for the future). We had a nice chill holiday together, coasting around town with 80s music playing and the windows down, so what better way to spend the rest of the weekend, but on a roadtrip?

So off we went. We packed up B’s (who happens to be a best friend’s HS ex-bf) little silver Camara and shoved me in the back in the tiny spot next to the boxes and clothes and luggage. B’s best friend, Mr. Former Crush, joined us since he had to be at work on Monday in Houston. With the wind blowing our hair and chatting about old times, I felt like I was 18 again: back in the days of single-sex schools and weekend double dates and driving around town looking for something to do. About an hour away from Houston, where we had planned to unload the car at their apartment and switch cars, we heard a loud bang. The air-condition went out, the power steering stopped functioning and we were suddenly pulling off the nearest exit into Beaumont, TX.

We looked everywhere for a gas station, but there was nothing. No gas station, no hotel, no motel, nothing. As in, the entire “downtown” was shut down like it had been deserted. After mangaging to get the car into a random parking lot and calling insurance for a tow truck, we had an hour to wait around, so we attempted to explore the town. Except there was nothing to explore. It felt like the beginning of a horror movie. Good thing it was still daylight or we all would have been packed in the car with no air, freaked out and afraid to leave.

It was pretty much a ghost town. We joked who would get killed first (since I was the only girl and the minority, I was voted in), what would happen if we had to stay for the weekend and how long it would take to walk to Houston. We circled the same blocks over and over again in the summer heat, passing what we thought was the only lodging in town with a few people creepily sitting frozen outside, only to discover it was a nursing home. So we walked and walked and found nothing but deserted streets and closed buildings, including Subway (“What?! 6pm on a Saturday and Subway is closed?”). By the time the tow truck shows up, we’ve thought of every scenario possible. With nothing open until Monday, we would most likely be stuck for the weekend with no car, sleeping at a Motel 6 and getting drunk if we could find a liquor store.

Our friendly tow trucker, Roundtree (that’s the actual name he gave us), confirmed our fears. Nothing was open. Motel 6, iHop and Taco Bell would be our only companions this weekend, but he would happily bring us to a liquor store to stock up. We had long figured out the fan belt had snapped so theoretically, it was an easy fix. As we pondered over our next move, Roundtree put some phone calls in and said he could bring us to his friend’s to look at the car, but we would first make a stop at AutoZone to buy a belt. The next thing we knew, we were sitting in the tow truck (thank God for air condition) with a $40 fan belt and pulling into the ghettos of Beaumont, TX. A crowd of men drinking beer and surrounded by cars came up and 20 minutes later, after much joking and talking, the fan belt was fixed. Total cost for service: $10 (we tipped $5 for the incredibly friendly help). Yes, that’s right. We got stranded and Nowhere, TX and go out, having spent only $55. Lesson learned: Always have an extra fan belt with you (according to the team of men that fixed the car, this is one of the most common problems).

And despite the fact it was dark when we reached Houston, we went to Austin anyway. Got in at midnight, found a hotel and ran around Sixth Street taking shots (I rarely, if ever drink, but given the occasion, I honored the guys for their patience) and crashed at the hotel.

Of course, the trip is not without a little bit of angst. Despite that I’m over the feelings, it’s impossible not to feel that tug of attraction to Mr. Former Crush, especially since it’s been a little lonely with no job to distract me. I’ve been resigned to the fact he sees me as a best friend/sister (his words to his new girlfriend who I have yet to meet), but it doesn’t make it easier when he’s sleeping in only his boxers in the next bed and we’re whispering in the dark and listening to B snore.

When we got back to Houston, B’s ex-gf (my best friend who is in Houston also now) popped up for pizza and a movie (we’ve remained good friends through the years) and we by chance, found a pre-Katrina New Orleans documentary on Discovery. It felt like we had gone back in time 10 years and I wanted to laugh at how much had changed, but how some things always remained the same: B and Mr. Former Crush arguing like a married couple, my best friend and I commenting about our unknown futures and mentioning funny ancedotes from the past. But then she leaves and B goes to sleep in his bedroom and the other goes to his and I lay on the couch wondering if I’m destined to always be the best friend/sister to all guys in my life.