Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Summer I Broke Down Across America: An Odyssey

As the plane began its ascent, I was reading a book that I bought in Hudson News, purely because it had a rainbow-tiered cake on the cover. I hate take off and the delicious story was serving as a distraction. Unfortunately, as the plane slowed to what felt like a stop and the loud whoosh of the engines turned into a dull hum and the cabin smelled a little like gas, I realized stories about cake and the promise of red beans and rice when I landed at home in New Orleans would not be enough of a distraction.

Suspended in the sky, with an increasingly worrisome air filling the cabin, our captain announced that there was, “nothing to worry about.” He had hit a bird, but we would need to return to the Nashville airport for an inspection. Nashville, where I just had a two-hour layover. In the moment, I didn’t care. I was relieved that we had only hit a bird — poor bird. I felt a little apprehensive to take off again, but that was all. I didn’t know what a long journey, and long summer, I still had ahead.

Exactly one week later, I was visiting family in Louisiana. My parents and I drove from our family home, in a suburb of New Orleans, about three hours west to Lake Charles, Louisiana. We did some visiting and I conducted an oral history interview, and we set off for home. Things were going well for the first hour or so. Then, we rolled onto the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, which spans a little more than 18 miles and is the second longest bridge in the U.S. – according to Wikipedia lol. We were in the home stretch on the bridge when traffic came to a complete and total stop. We would be stopped there for two hours in the Louisiana summer heat because a truck carrying mangoes was on fire a couple of miles ahead, really. On the bridge over the swamp, people walked their dogs, fished and, in true Louisiana fashion, broke out coolers of beer. We were stuck until the accident was cleared. When we passed the burned out truck, with a claw pulling out debris and scorched citrus, we took in the unique smell of singed mangoes and gasoline.

The following Wednesday, I flew back to Pittsburgh, where I had been living for 15-ish months, via Chicago Midway. And on Saturday, one-week post mango truck and two weeks post bird strike, I was travelling again through Chicago O’Hare to Seattle, where my fiancé and I were hoping to move. It was Pride weekend in Seattle, so we had a blast, and my fiancé had a positive job interview.  We left, fingers crossed, and flew home via SFO on a redeye. We bounced across the country through mild turbulence, nodding in and out of sleep.

We landed at 6 a.m. and my fiancé flew out again at 4 a.m. (22 hours later) for a business trip. He returned late Thursday and Friday we set off from Pittsburgh to visit family in DC. We drove home on a Monday. And, exactly a week later, I returned for a convention in DC. I spent the week with my sister and, again on a Monday, I travelled back to Pittsburgh. This time, with complication.  My bus broke down three times, trying desperately to chug along and make it to a rest stop. Three hours into the trip, we were only an hour and a half outside DC. We finally rolled into Pittsburgh. And Robert, finally received word that we were moving to Seattle. He packed the car and drove it cross country. I packed my bag and flew to Seattle by way of Louisiana, where I had my bachelorette party and bridal shower.


If you didn't make it through this epic Odyssey, here's the Spark Notes version. This summer I broke down on every mode of transportation — across this beautiful country. Robert and I are now finally settled in Seattle and enjoying getting to know our new city, and staying put.

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