The Slightest Sound

Neither Nigel nor the burrito deserved that.

Still getting used to the new car, as you can see, even though it’s already been two months.

There have been times where I’m like “NO NO NO NOT AGAIN – oh, wait, it’s just my knee knocking against the paneling.”  Or I tune into a certain sound and turn off my music to find out what it is, only to found out it was just a part of the song.

Clearly, still a bit traumatized from the Incorrigible Bastard.

Drew’s Steps to Road Trips: The Trip Home

The two things you do on the way home: sleeping and anticipating being at home.
The two things you do on the way home: sleeping and anticipating being home.

It’s been a few days now since you’ve arrived in Colorado.  You’ve partied it up, bonded with your relatives’ dogs, and basically been having a grand old time on vacation.  But now, as with all things, it must come to an end.  And so begins the final part of your road trip: the journey home.

Once again, you’ll need to get up pretty dang early to beat traffic.  So throw yourself out of bed, have some breakfast, freshen up a bit and finish packing.  Just like that first day, which will feel like ages ago, at this point.  Help pack up the car once again, this time with some extra boxes that your grandmother handed to you guys.  Try to remember how the hell you packed your car the first time, and see where you can shove this new cargo in.  You might have to get creative at this point.

Once that’s all settled, it’s time for hit the road.  Give some final goodbye hugs to your aunt and uncle – and the dogs, don’t forget the dogs – and thank them for letting you stay at their house*.  Then park yourself in the backseat wherever there’s room, snuggle under your Ouija Board blanket, and head out towards home.

For the most part, this journey is very similar to going to your destination.  Stopping at rest stops, trying to find food, keeping yourself busy in the back seat, so do refer those posts in case you need a quick refresher – only now, the situation is reversed.  And destination is now home sweet home.

You’ll be super excited to go home, that’s for sure.  You’re fairly certain that you’re allergic to something out in the Midwest at this point, and that wasp sting behind your ear is giving you some trouble.  But patience is key here.  You’ll have to get through a few more states before you’re back home.  Besides, the thought that you have to go back to regular life – work, laundry, trying not to worry about the future – will be rearing its ugly head, and you’d rather not think about it, to be perfectly honest.  So just sit back, relax, and and try to finish up that last book as you roll into Kansas.

Surprisingly, Kansas will be a bit more hilly that you’d might expect.  Still be prepared for lots of corn and cows, though.  This is the Midwest, after all.  You will have some weird moments of deja vu driving through – it’s been a long time since you’ve been here, and yet there’ll be that little tickle at the back of your mind, reminding you of how weirdly familiar it all is.

You’ll stop a couple of times – first at Eisenhower’s birth place, then to meet some friends for dinner – before you come to your final stop for the day: Ft. Leavenworth, where you spent 3 years and have most of your earliest memories.  This is where the deja vu will really start kicking in hardcore.  And you will NOT be ready for it.  There’ll be the library where your mother used to work at and you spent a great deal of time yourself.  Over there will be where that Chinese restaurant you went to all the time used to be.  It’ll be crazy – and will only get crazier as you go on post.

You’ll spend the night at the hotel/lodge dealie on post (please refer to the post on Hotels for further information on how to stay at a hotel properly), ready to take a walk down memory lane tomorrow.  You’ll be surprised what you can remember.  For example, you’ll remember that Burger King, for some reason – it’s the first place you stopped at when your family first got there way back in the day.  You’ll know that where you stayed the night before was where you saw the fireworks just before you left for Germany.  Those old red houses are still there, as is your old elementary school and the gazebo where you got your picture taken for the newspaper during Christmas, which was on the front page.  Gone, though, are your old quarters, replaced with new, sleek quarters for its residents.  This’ll damper your spirits a bit, even as you walk through the old park with the Buffalo Soldier monument, which you can remember clear as day.  Plus, that stupid sting will be aching even more.  It’s time to head out again.

You’ll go through Missouri, stopping off at the Grant House outside of St. Louis, even catching a glimpse of the Arch.  But don’t stay too long.  You need to motor to your next stop in Indiana, where there’s a house opened up for you by those very gracious friends mentioned in the Visiting Friends post to stay for the next couple of days.  A perfect place to get some more relaxation in, as well as to see your aunt and her family who are in the area**.  Again, this trip is all about taking opportunities when they are handed to you, such as being able to visit family because you’ll be there.  Don’t miss it.  You’ll enjoy walking through IU, where your Aunt and two of your cousins work, as well as attend or had previously attended.  Make sure to stop off and see the Art gallery that they have on campus, while trying to shake off that feeling of “Oh God, I’m on a college campus WHY IS THIS WEIRD.”  Relax.  It’s just a school.  Enjoy yourself.

You’ll have a lovely dinner that night, chatting and reminiscing.  It’ll be a great time.  But alas, as before, it’ll have to come to a end, as you find yourself in that same pattern of having to wake up early to pack the car once more.  You won’t miss this.  Trust me.  You’ll be stoked when you’ll be able to unpack the car and leave it unpacked.  Anyways, say some more goodbyes and go forth into the Indiana wilderness.

As the day goes on, things will start become familiar.  You’ve driven here before, haven’t you?  Why, yes you have.  West Virginia.  Pennsylvania.  Maryland.  All of this means that you are on your way home.  Try to contain your excitement.  You’re almost there.

Cross over the Potomac and – ta-dah! – you’re in Virginia.  Make sure you don’t push the driver to go too fast, but, I mean, home is around the corner.  Just keep going, keep going, a little further now…

Boom.  You’re back in the neighborhood.  You’re turning down your street.  And there it is.  Still standing***.

Home.

Your road trip is over.

Time to unpack the car, turn on the air conditioning because the house feels like a bazillion degrees, and be thrilled that you had such a wonderful vacation.

*Seriously, thank you guys so much.  I know I’ve already said that, but it needs to be said again.  It was lovely.

**Great seeing you guys!

***Come on, you know you’ll have thoughts that something terrible happened to the house while you’re gone.  A tree branch falling or a burglary occuring.  But it’ll be fine.

The best sound to describe my state of mind right now is "HNNNNGGGGHHHH."
The best sound to describe my state of mind right now is “HNNNNGGGGHHHH.”

…yeah.

I don’t know, you guys.

It’s been a very, very surreal past couple of days.  And I’m sure it’s only going to stranger this weekend, since I’m probably not going to be able to leave the house due to inclement weather.

First off, Wednesday evening, I get called downstairs by my mother who has found a lump (always unsettling) just underneath her jaw.  She wants to go to the ER to get it checked out, and for me to go along with her.  I say sure.  So we head out, only to discover that it has, in fact, been snowing for the past who knows how long.  No problem, only an inch of snow, right?

Turns out, there are no sign of any salt trucks or plows on the road, because apparently they were all getting ready for the big one that’s supposed to be incoming this evening.  So we have to go slipping and sliding to the ER, trying not to freak out and get slammed by another car.  It takes us THREE tries to get to the hospital.  First way – there’s an accident of some kind.  Second way – the hill is WAY too slick, and there are cars all over the place.  Finally, the third way has a bit of traffic, but ultimately, we got there.  Takes us an hour and a half, but we manage!

Mom gets checked out rather quickly – only a few other people there.  Turns out to be a blocked salivary gland, which are surprisingly common.  The way back, though, is nothing short of hell.

Takes us TWO HOURS to make what is usually a 15-20 minute ride home.  We get stuck in some God awful traffic, trying not to slide out of control on yet another hill whilst seeing a bus fallen into a ditch, all the while trying to not lose our cool as the minutes tick down.  We get home at about 1:00 in the morning.

The whole thing was bananas.  The highways had turned into a parking lot, people were stuck places for hours, the people on the radio were of no help at all as it turned from Wednesday night to Thursday morning – just nuts.

And this is all happening while my dad is halfway across the country for work!  He was supposed to come in today, but with whatever crazy weather we’re supposed to get, he’s gonna hold off until Tuesday.  Amazing how quiet it gets without the guy.  Trust me when I say I really, REALLY wanted him to be home Wednesday night.  I mean, GAH.

And don’t get me started on work.  For the past few days, it has been a ZOO.  Just people everywhere, getting books and DVDs to pass the time whilst this blizzard hits us.  Parents, trying to get their kids out of the house while they’re out of school.  And the kids themselves are running around, throwing the stuffed animals, grabbing books, screaming, crying – hoo boy.  Today, we had to close at noon, so we were only open for a couple of hours.

It may have only been a couple of hours, but holy mother of BALLS.

The new books are completely picked over.  The fiction section, which is usually quite calm, was filled with people.  The Children’s section was a mess and a half.  We’re completely out of Geronimo Stilton books, when we usually have a whole shelf full, the Magic Tree House books have pulled a vanishing act, people were walking out with stacks and stacks of books – I tell you, complete and utter chaos.  Books and bodies everywhere.  And the shelf ways aren’t very big, so I found myself constantly having to squeeze around and over people just to shelve a few Rainbow Magic books or some such.  I know I’m not a small guy, but even for someone about half my size, it would’ve been hard.

Ahem.

So.  Here I am, safe and sound at home.  Mom’s getting pizzas and I’m ready to just…not, move.  So, SO tired.  There’s a steady stream of snow falling, so let’s see what happens this weekend.

Let us see…

BLARGH.

 

Click Click Click Click

Just a little jumpy, as you can see.
Just a little jumpy, as you can see.

 

Yes, folks, it’s true.  It appears (HOPEFULLY) that my car is finally, finally working the way that it’s supposed to.

*cue Hallelujah chorus*

And it seems as if all of the troubles can be blamed on one, small but in the scheme of things rather important, element: the key.

Let me explain.  For the past few months now, my car – which I started to call the Incorrigible Bastard – has been giving me a raging headache.  One minute, it’d be working fine – like, I’d drive to work and nothing would happen.  The next moment, say when I needed to get home, it’d decide that, nope, it just didn’t want to work.  At all.  And I’d be stuck there, sweating bullets and swearing my head off, praying that it’d frickin’ start up already so that I could just go home.

Everything was going wrong with my car.  The CD player, for example, liked to work sporadically.  Push play, and it’d give me “NO CD.”  Even though I know full well that I’d put AWOLNATION in there the day before and now it was stuck until the CD player decided to click on again.  And even then, it’d start skipping.  Plus, the radio/clock decided that it’d be fun to keep resetting itself every other time I turned on the car.  AND all the lights kept flickering, including the headlights, which was humiliating when driving home in the dark (“No, sir, I’m not flashing my lights on purpose, my car’s just a piece of crap.  Please don’t judge me”).  Not to mention the fact that the Incorrigible Bastard enjoyed stuttering – halting, then going, then halting again.  It was only a matter of time before I’d end up getting into an accident.

But by far the worst part was the stupid clicking noise.

It acted sort of as the signal that I was in for a rough time.  Driving along when “Click…click…clickclickclickclickclick…click.”   The high beams light would start flashing on my dashboard (ACCURSED BLUE LIGHT OF DOOM), the car would stutter, and everything would go straight to Hell, including my mood.  I just wanted to get to work and back home in one piece, but that noise – the clicking would just drill itself into my ears and just drag on as I chugged home.  It was getting to the point where every time I turned on my car, I’d drive for about a minute or two when “clickclickclick” and I’d start wanting to scream.

By October, things were getting worse.  My car started to not lock whenever I pressed the button, and it actually would not start up.  I’d have to try at least 5 times before it’d actually start up again.  And it was becoming a regular occurence.  Instead of letting me have a few days of peace, it’d let me have, like, ten minutes, then act up again.

Of course, I’d bring it into the garage.  And I would get the same thing every time:  sorry, your car’s working fine.  Not the battery, not the electrical system – NOTHING.  I’d pick it up, apologize profusely, then stutter on home.  I thought I was losing my mind for a minute, since I’m the only one who drives the Incorrigible Bastard and I was the only one noticing these things.

Then it all changed.

I’d brought my car in one weekend, prayed to the sweet car gods that they’d find something, and waited.  They didn’t.  Big surprise.

The day I was supposed to pick it up, I got a call from Cameron, the owner of the garage.  He’d done some research – probably because he was just as baffled as I was – and came to the conclusion that it might be the key itself.  I always gave them the spare key whenever they worked on the car, and it’d work fine.  Whenever I used the regular key, though…

I made a deal to use the spare key and see how the car drove.  Drove home using it – everything was fine.  Beautiful even.  Best drive I’d had in a while.  When I got home, I checked the spare key with the regular key…and it all clicked into place.

The regular key is bent – like, actually leaning to one side.  Possibly, this could have affected how the car ran, interrupting the electrical system and causing things to go haywire.  So, all this time, it might’ve been the key’s fault!  Who knew?

It’s been about a week and my car’s been driving great.  Like it’s supposed to.  Only problem – me.  Every time I hear something that even remotely sounds like a click, I jump.  I check everything – I see if the blue light of doom is flashing, I turn off the radio, I lean in to see if the clicking has started.  So far, nothing.  Just regular car noises.  Too bad cars make A LOT of noise.  So, I need to calm down a bit and just drive so that I don’t drive myself crazier than I already am.

And yes, it is mostly just a song.  Or the turn signal.  Or the steering wheel as I’m turning (why does everything have to click?  WHY????).

Sorry for the long post.  But I’m so relieved that my car – which shall go back to its regular nickname of Selena until further notice – is working.  I’m also secretly praying that we have indeed found the problem, because it has been months of frustration and terror and lots of money being thrown at it.  Having a car is one of those true freedom things – and when it’s not working, you feel kind of stuck.  There was no way I could pay for a new one, so it was just get this car to work.  And now it is.  So yay.

Adulting: Money

Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.

 

Money comes, money goes.  And sometimes money has to pay for the fact that you didn’t take a turn sharp enough and ended up running into a curb which resulted in a flat tire and your car needing to be realigned.

This pretty much ate up most of my paycheck that I just got this past Friday.  Always a fun way to start out a new pay period.  And yeah, I’ve pretty much been kicking myself, thinking, “You idiot!  You stupid, stupid man!  Why?  WHY?!”

The upside of all this, though, is that I’ve learned a couple things about Adulting.  One is that in terms of things happening to your car, there are much bigger/dumber things that could happen, like locking your keys inside the car (according to my dad).  The other is that there is no such thing as extra money – something is always, always going to need to be paid for.  Student loans, car repairs, doctor visits – there’s always something that’ll pop up.  Which I think is a very key lesson to learn in terms of saving money and not dicking around with it.  That being said, it’s still annoying.

Also annoying is trying to draw this comic.  I still can’t draw cars, as you can see, and had to start over multiple times before I said “Screw it” and drew what you see here.  All in all, a very frustrating moment in the life of Drew.

Adulting: Pumping Gas

As you can see, it's a bit cold outside.
As you can see, it’s a bit cold outside.

I thought pumping gas would be harder than it actually is, which is kind of why I put it off until I started up my car yesterday and thought, “Uh oh,” followed by the thought of me sobbing on the side of the road with an empty gas tank.  Never a good thought, trust me.

Turns out, it’s super easy.  You swipe a card, press a few buttons, open up the gas tank thing, shove in the nozzle, and wait for that sweet, sweet fuel to fill up your car.  The hardest part of this whole experience was simply the fact that it was FREEZING outside.  Like, single digit temperatures with arctic winds blasting me in the face as I scramble to open up the gas tank with gloves on.  Truly, that was the part that made me feel like a grown up – not wanting to go outside, but realizing that you have to or else.  Besides, I needed to make sure that my car would actually run in this cold weather and not just sit there until I need to use it again (oh, God, I do sound like a grown up.  Holy crap).

Also, again, cars are stupidly hard to draw.  I tried to include my own Selena (name of my car) here, but no.  Not happening.

Driving = ARGH

I just wanted pens.  PENS.
I just wanted pens. PENS.

As someone who only got his driver’s license 5, 6 months ago, my feelings about driving have vacillated between “Look at me!  I’m an adult!  I can drive myself places! Vroom vroom!” to “HOLY CRAP I’M GOING TO DIE I’M GOING TO DIE I’M GOING TO DIE WHERE DID THAT TRUCK COME FROM AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!”

Usually all on the same trip.  Like this one.

Also, cars are really hard to draw.