“So, if you feel like an impromptu road trip this weekend…” began the text message.
Three days later — this past Sunday — I was speeding across Indiana with my friend Hannah, heading toward Ohio and our good friends Sam and Leen, whom neither of us had seen for nearly six years.
I didn’t think it was going to work. My Phoenix friend Alex was in Chicago Saturday, and I’d been looking forward to hanging out with him. Neither Greyhound nor Amtrak had available routes at decent times scheduled between Chicago and…well, and anywhere. I tried Indianapolis, where Hannah had said she could pick me up. I tried Fort Wayne. I tried Muncie, Warsaw, and Cincinnati. Nothing.
And then someone suggested I try Megabus. Lo and behold, one lone route could work. I could leave late Saturday afternoon — thereby getting to spend most of the day with Alex & co. — and return late Sunday evening.
The race was on.
The whole trip is a blur now. I hung out with my Phoenix friends for several hours, and was struck by how quickly I’d “gone native.” The 35-degree day was sunny and brisk in my estimation. My companions spent the afternoon with their scarves around their noses and continually commented on which extremities had frozen off. (Granted, they said it was 70 in Scottsdale when they left…) We walked around Navy Pier and Downtown, I showed them where to get deep-dish pizza, and then I ran to catch the bus back to my apartment. Grabbed my luggage, ran back to the bus stop, and arrived just in time to grab a seat on top level of the double-decker coach to Indy.
We pulled into Indianapolis around 10 p.m. As I got off the bus, I was overwhelmed by the strangeness of the city. I had no bearings, I didn’t know which direction Hannah would come from, and I had no idea what was near me. But a few minutes later, I was in Hannah’s car helping her navigate. Turns out she was almost just as lost as I. We took a left turn to the highway and ended up in a very creepy driveway that we swore could have been home to a maniac with a chainsaw. We kept missing turn offs because we were talking. We got turned around on the side streets near Hannah’s college campus, where I crashed for the evening.
Sleep is for the weak, however, and we were up bright and early to go see Hannah’s boyfriend sing at church. (Good lord, that boy has a voice!) It was a Lutheran church, which I had never been to one of. It was communion Sunday, too, which proved interesting. The congregation of about fifty people invited us to take communion with them. Now, keep in mind that I’ve been a Christian my entire life and have taken communion since I can remember. You pass the plate of crackers, the array of grape juice, drink and eat, done. Not so here. Members of the congregation gathered around the altar, kneeled, and were passed the sacraments — which included actual red wine instead of grape juice. I very nearly gagged (I can’t stand red wine and certainly was not expecting it).
With a blood alcohol level of something like .00000008%, Hannah got behind the wheel and sped us off across Indiana and into Ohio. Along the way, we had some deep conversations and prank-texted another friend (because we are actually twelve-year-olds), discussed religious stereotyping and listened to the Book of Mormon soundtrack (today I have had, stuck in my head, “I aaaam a Mormoooon!” which is not the sort of thing one wants to go around singing out loud even if one is a Mormon), belted out random Weebls songs, tried three times to get into vehicles that were not actually ours, got lost on mile 118 of a 120-mile trip, and finally, finally, pulled up to a little house in Monroe, Ohio.
There were Sam and Leen (and another friend, Amy, whose house it was). There were many hugs and a lot of laughter. Sam and Leen, who are New Hampshire-ites, were there sealing up final loose ends for what will, with any luck, be the adoption of their first child. It’s incredible to think about how long we’ve all been friends, especially considering all of us met each other online. Yes, it sounds creepy. No, it really isn’t. I’ve known these people for nearly half of my life now. They’ve been there for me through high school, college, my first boyfriend and my first breakup. Through moving for the first, second, third times. Sam, who is about eight years older than I, coached me through my first real programming of any kind. Leen shares my obsession with horses. They’ve both been Christian role models, great advice-givers, silly-story tellers, and just generally friends of the best kind. In return, I’ve been lucky enough to share some of their moments, big and small.
For three hours, we talked and made silly jokes and reminisced. There is no way I can recount the conversations in a way that makes sense. That is how fantastic they were.
Then Sam and Leen left to catch their flight, and Hannah and I turned back around to head for Indianapolis. I boarded a bus back to Chicago at 9 p.m., fully intending to work on my lightning talk for an upcoming conference. Instead, I watched Wrath of Khan. I have no regrets.
I finally got home just after midnight. Nearly fifteen hours of travel for a three-hour visit.
It was worth every second. I am so glad to be at a point in my life when I can take a weekend to spend having last-minute adventures with friends — and so grateful to have crazy, wonderful people like that in my life.