We drove toward the sun. It was making its way down to the horizon and was finally low enough that my visor wasn’t blocking the light. I squinted through the bright, amber sunshine and focused on the road. My friend watched for signs. We weren’t lost, because our destination was west of us. We just didn’t know how far north or south we had to go. A missed turn at a junction more than a hundred miles earlier had us trying to figure out an alternative route to the town and our hotel. Weren’t road trips supposed to be like this?
He made a playlist on his iPod just for the drive. It contained nineties music. We laughed at songs by Annie Lennox, Busta Rhymes, Smash Mouth, the Cranberries and Blackstreet. We may have poked fun at the music, but we secretly loved each of the songs. Detours and bathrooms stops weren’t out of the question, even if the sun was almost down and we were late for our check-in at the hotel, where his sister and a few of our other friends waited for us.
Signs told us how far we were from towns we didn’t know existed, but none mentioned our destination. My buddy had been there before, so we turned and headed north when he thought he recognized an intersection with a narrow, dirt road. We ascended from the valley and open fields into pine trees and curvy roads. Our speed dropped considerably after I almost hit a deer that decided it wanted to frolic across the street when it saw my little orange hatchback coming. A little more than an hour later, we emerged from pine trees to a small town that at least had a gas station.
Jake, you should stop here. I have to pee and you can ask for directions.
Dude, I have to go too. You can ask for directions.
I’ll race you!
I swerved into the parking lot, stomped on the brakes, yanked my key from the ignition, threw my door open and ran toward the glass-door entrance. We approached the set of doors at the same time, so I threw my shoulder into his and attempted to push him out of the way. I pulled on the handle but the door didn’t move. I jerked back harder and realized that I was an idiot when he pushed his way through on the other side, waved to the clerk and meandered back to the bathroom.
The man at the counter smirked as I pushed the door open and began to ask for directions. His amusement grew as he informed me that we were several hours north of our destination. The whole thing made me feel tired, but I knew that I could listen to “Walking on Broken Glass” a few more times that night and still be alright with it. We’d have to roll the windows down and keep the music loud to make sure I didn’t fall asleep and drive off a cliff. We bought candy and bitter, middle-of-nowhere-gas-station-coffee to keep us awake.
We laughed more going back down the mountain than on the way up. His sister called several times but phone reception was non-existent. She screamed at us when we finally showed up at the hotel at two in the morning, but she was relieved enough to finally sleep once she calmed down. It was worth it.
Part of me thinks that the added miles and wasted gas kind of sucked, but at the same time, I had fun after we finally figured out where we were going. It’s okay to be wrong, to travel down wrong roads and make mistakes. Sometimes, these little failures contribute to our lives in ways that we won’t recognize until we’re dead and watch it all over again. We just can’t remain wrong. We turn around. We repent. We change and we’re all the better for it. Hopefully, there’s a story to tell when we’re done, too.