After bouncing back and forth about six times between whether I will be able to leave tonight or not, I finally hit the road after we appropriate the last necessary car part from under the hood of an identical vehicle at the mechanic. At 9:30PM the rain is just starting to come down, and as I head down I-70 I know the weather is only going to deteriorate. It’s cold and wet and miserable outside when I finally arrive in Pittsburgh four hours later, guided in by the directions Allie sends me. She pulls me into her house at two in the morning, and we laugh for twenty minutes before she hands me a blanket and retires to her room and I pass out on the couch. Our shared Semester at Sea bond makes this act of generosity unsurprising.
I wake up to the first snowfall of the winter. My breath fogs the window as I look out over white Pittsburgh, and I brush an inch of snow off the windshield of my car before continuing on. Flurries come and go as I pass through the northern reaches of West Virginia and into Ohio. In Columbus I reunite with Kaeleigh, another face I haven’t seen in over 18 months. We catch up in Northstar Café, sipping hot apple cider as pedestrians in overcoats shiver through the snow swirling down onto the street. Outside her house, we sit in my car exchanging parting words. Suddenly the orange glow of the sun radiates through the thick gray cloud cover, and we sit transfixed as thick white snowflakes tumble through the color.
Another hour west, traffic grinds to a halt. People U-turn onto the shoulder and drive the wrong direction in order to escape the blockade. Others turn off their engines and climb out onto the highway to stretch their legs. The sun drops just as we begin to move again, but the delay forces me to bypass Indianapolis if I want to make it to Chicago tonight.
Gusts of wind whistle across the car as if to announce my passage from Ohio into Indiana. But where was I during those thirty seconds between the “You are now leaving Ohio” sign and the “You are now entering Indiana” one?
The hours fly by and I retreat into my thoughts, letting them transform and mutate and exhaust themselves until finally they sleep and I enter Illinois. Another hour later, I reach Dana’s place just north of Chicago. My car, known for overestimating temperatures by anywhere between 10 to 50 degrees, tells me it’s 27 outside. I step into her house, and within thirty seconds we’re next to a roaring fire laughing and celebrating and exchanging stories of our journeys. I sleep with 800 miles behind me.