I just got back from my two-week road trip—Asheville, Tampa, Savannah, and back to Annapolis.
In these next few days, I’ll share the events that occurred, the characters I met along the way, and all the lessons learned.
I left on a Friday morning after waking up early to pack and go to the gym. I felt great.
No clouds. Bright sun. Windows down kind of weather.
It’s an eight-hour drive from Maryland to Asheville. My first stop was to visit one of my best friends of 16 years—since 7th grade. Him, his partner (another dear friend), and their dog, Nanny.
I was thrilled to do what we usually do: hike, laugh, drink beer, do mushrooms, romp around.
The drive was seamless. After a few phone calls and one or two Drake albums, I noticed about five hours had flown by. I also hid the clock on my car radio so I wouldn’t be looking at it every three minutes.
It felt like a perfect day. I was elated. I texted my friends my ETA and they sent me their new address.
Then something happened.
I was doing my usual 90 mph in the left lane on highway 81. Out of nowhere, I felt a pop from the hood of my car. My “SERVICE ENGINE SOON” light came on immediately. And despite pressing down harder on the gas pedal, my car started slowing to a halt.
On top of that, white smoke began pouring out from under the hood and through my AC vents. It didn’t smell great. I used my detective skills to deduce that something was in fact wrong.
I pulled over to the side of the busy highway. My car wouldn’t accelerate and my AC stopped working. So I decided to sunbathe while I troubleshot.
I did what any man would do in this situation. I called my mom.
She sent me the number for our Verizon roadside assistance. The service was shotty so each page took about 60 seconds to load. When I made it to the end of the tow request, the app wouldn’t recognize my location.
“You are not in a real location,” it told me.
Fuck, I thought. I’ve never felt so invalidated. I looked around at the surrounding farmland and hilltops to confirm that my location was actually a part of reality.
The app disagreed. So I called.
The dude who answered was super kind. He said his name was Tim but his accent suggested otherwise. I gave him all my information and then he asked exactly where I was.
“Excellent question, Tim,” I replied. “Let me go check this mile marker and let you know.”
I muted myself so Tim didn’t have to listen to the death trap that was 81 South. Then I sprinted to the next mile marker. 90.6. I made it back to my car, dodging traffic along the way.
When I gave him the rest of what he needed, he told me my tow truck would be there within the hour.
“No worries, Tim. I’ll just stay here while I wait.” He didn’t laugh. He just told me for a fifth time how happy he was to serve me and hung up the phone.
I called my friends to share the great news. They offered to come pick me up—two and a half hours out of the way. I felt bad about this but didn’t have any other option. I texted them the address of the repair shop my car would be sent to.
When the service came, I met Jerry, my tow.
Jerry looked under my hood and said my radiator blew out. I took his word for it, knowing absolutely nothing about cars. I was bummed by inconveniencing my friends but pleased to get my car fixed in the next 24 hours.
Little did I know, it would take a lot longer than that to get my car back.
(Here’s part 2.)