This is the second time I've made this drive across America. However, I was not alone the first time, nor did I take the southern route. Initially, I had planned on taking the northern route again–to visit family and such but my new job requested a soon arrival. Therefore, I kept my visits short but was fortunate to visit some very important people on my way down, as well as reflect on my life and contemplate the environments from all ten states that I drove through.
Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
My family was worried all summer about me traveling alone, they called me every other day asking if I had found someone to ride with me and eventually tried to switch their work schedules around to help me. The more I tried to reassure them that I was ok, the more they insisted on helping me drive. I have never seen my family more supportive of me and my goals–that's another journal post to follow. Their paranoia didn't hit me until I actually left Reno. When the mountains started to change into unfamiliar territory they began to look beautifully threatening as the road twisted and curved around its edges. I was scared that I was alone but empowered at the same time. Honestly, what has kept me sane for quite some time is the opening line from Jhené Aiko's Eternal Sunshine. "Is it strange for me to say that if I were to die today, there's not a thing that I would change. I've lived well..." All the accomplishments, awards, self-assured goals and experiences I've had thus far at 26, have given me a great life. I'm not afraid of dying, nor do I wish it upon myself, but I often contemplate that death would be a freeing encounter when compared to the harsh realities of being Black and gay–yet another journal post to follow soon.
I for sure didn't want to drive at night, it felt too risky for me so I stayed in Vegas for the first night with Mark and Lance. They are two beautiful souls that have given me a home in Vegas for the past few years. It was nice to see them one more time and actually relaxed me for the journey ahead. The next day as I made my way through Arizona to New Mexico, I started to take the time to breathe and appreciate the scenery around me. I loved the color and textures of the landscapes mixed with their cerulean overhead roads. It was pleasantly appealing to drive through a colorful environment while listening to nostalgic cd mixes. Reminded me a lot of the road trips with my mom. While starting the car she'd pop in a Mary J. Blige record, look over to me as she's putting on her little shades, "Let's ride, Clyde!" Roll down the windows and hit the interstate doing 80. I took those moments for granted, I would mostly sleep on those trips when I should have been talking to her. I should have been getting to know my mom and her goals and dreams. I'm so sorry mama. If I learned anything from those trips it was how to be a speed demon, that's for sure. All the way to Miami, I was pushing 90-95mph on cruise control with my damn bike on top (shoutout to Jared for that rack, love you). What I would do is wait for a car going faster than me then follow them as they weaved through traffic. It was nice when a train of us stayed with each other for about 150 miles. Time flew by and I finally made it to my hotel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.
The next day was a bit much, going through Texas heightened my paranoia again. I was in parts of the South that felt terrifying. It's sad to think that a rest area claiming to be inspirational was actually intimidating to me. I thought about that a lot when I made it to Oklahoma, how religious places have become a black hole for me. I don't go to church anymore, and when I do, it's to please my mom–it's more of an assumption that if I'm home on a Sunday that church attendance is expected. But as I drove passed that monumental cross in Texas, I felt a strong sense of judgment that if I were to have been pulled over or if that town knew someone as myself were there, would my experience really be as loving as religion claims to be?
When I made it to Oklahoma I met up with my Puddin'. I was so elated to see her smiling and enjoying her life, it made me feel so fortunate to have her in my life. As she showed me around town, we reminisced about our time in Reno while being obnoxiously loud in the local record shop–I had to restock on CDs at every stop I made, it was protocol! This stop was the most active for sure, I met her new beau, as well as his wife, I got to see her mom and dad again, but missed out on her brother...but most importantly was spending time with her cat! JK. But she definitely was a highlight, she's the most talkative cat I've ever met, her little bird chirps are to die for–it melts my heart. Oklahoma wasn't as bad as I was expecting, because when she told me she was moving there a year ago, there was much apprehension from the both of us. As queer folks, I didn't want her moving to a red state, nor did I want her to simply follow her parents but at the time, the pros outweighed the cons and it obviously has paid off since the move. Her growth with self-acceptance and the expansion of understanding herself and what she stands for is far more grounded than anything Reno could have given her. That alone makes me so damn happy that we are alive together–to encourage and grow with one another (especially since we both live in red states now).
As the trip was winding down and I finally made it to Florida, time became slower. I started each trip at 6 in the morning, even as I crossed different time zones, but the last leg from Jacksonville to Miami took the longest. I woke up that morning expecting a nice four-hour drive, but it turned into six. What held me up? There were so many crash delays! There was one when I first got on the interstate at 6:30am, another around 9:00am, and one at 11:00am. Then the tolls, I ended up paying for three instead of two because when I got off an exit after paying for one toll, I had to drive back to the first toll to get back on the interstate. It was a mess. I was furious, what held me together was my country mix. I love that CD! But by the end of the drive, I felt like I was losing my mind because the clouds in the sky seemed really low to the road as if I was driving in the air. I'm actually going to create a collage about it, I felt as if my hand could touch the clouds as I flew down the interstate. It was very freeing and made the conclusion of my trip even more worth it. I haven't made a collage in a couple months and this was the little spark of inspiration I needed to get back in the groove. So stay tuned for that.