Thirty three hours ago, I drove Steely (my Pontiac Sunfire that I hate to love) down Ponce de Leon Blvd for the last time, passing all the sights that I walked past every day for four years. The palm tree lined entrance into the University of Miami, the dorms that I lived in my freshman and sophomore years, the Bank United Center that I graduated out of 8 days ago, and the dirty, broken-down, but somehow still charming house that I shared with the roommates for the last two years. My sunglasses may be big enough to hide most of my face, but my mom admitted a few hours into the drive she could see the glistening streaks down my face from the passenger seat. It was a rough morning, as I anticipated it would be. I thought the entire ride would be miserable. But after a two day journey up the East Coast with minimal air conditioning and a stop in North Carolina for Taco Bell and a few hours sleep, my Mom and I arrived home in Queens.
But what a ride it was. I’ve made the drive from New York to Miami and back a grand total of 7 times. The first was with my whole family – my dad, my mom, my brother Kyle, my sister and I – and ALL my luggage, to move me into the dorms my freshman year. My family is really close and we get along most of the time. But 21 hours packed together in a van… we emerged a bit more stressed than we left to say the least. As much as I love them, I think we should stick to taking airplanes from now on.
The next 6 trips were just me and the co-pilot, my mom. It became a tradition for us. We’d stop in the Carolinas after about 13 hours, grab some quick dinner, a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, watch a movie in a hotel, and crash for the night. The next morning we’d find the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts and finish the drive. Most people would probably hate a drive like ours, but Mom and I enjoyed it. It made for some good last-minute mother-daughter time before I went back to school for the semester, and lots of time for me to tell her all about the year when we drove home in the spring.
The drive down to Miami is always easier than the drive back up. When you hit a new state headed South, the exit numbers start at the highest number, and get lower until you hit Exit 1. To me, it feels like it goes faster; you know how many miles are left, and can countdown to the next state. But on the drive north, it’s like you’re driving into an abyss. You start at Exit 1 and continue on with no clue how far you have left to drive. The state of Florida is the worst. It is ENDLESS.
What it actually is: 1 state. 12 counties. 380 exits. 382 miles.
What is feels like: 1,432,502 miles, 6 days, DEATH.
The rest of the drive is beautiful. The Carolinas have beautiful scenery, and the speed limit is 70 mph, which makes for some nice cruising. The people at rest areas along the way are generally very cordial; must the southern hospitality. Radio stations play a variety of music – not just the twangy country tunes you’d expect in the south. That part of the drive is definitely my favorite. (This excludes the South of the Border tourist attraction, which I’m convinced is run by aliens. It’s always strangely deserted, except the lights are always blazing, tricking unsuspecting travelers to fill up their gas tanks at the Mexican-themed campground and rest area. Then the aliens abduct them and use their cars to make it seem less suspicious. Call me crazy – visit it, and tell me you don’t agree.)
The rest of the drive is usually smooth sailing until you hit the armpit of America – New Jersey. There is traffic in Jersey every single time we drive through it. At that traffic continues through Staten Island, Brooklyn, and into Queens. It’s quite possibly the worst few hours of the trip.
But finally we made it. My dog was definitely more excited to see me than anyone else in the family, with my dad as a close second. I miss my roommates and the Miami sun, but I have to admit, it’s nice to be home. Right now, my dad is barbecuing on the deck (veggie burgers for me of course), we’re sharing some cold beers, and I’m content. I’ve got lots to do in the next few weeks. Gotta clean out the basement, make it feel a little homier, and move into the new bedroom. I’ll need to join a gym, work on getting my air conditioning fixed, and meet up with old friends. Eventually I’ll be back at work, attempting to salvage what’s left of my checking account.
But for now, I think I’ll just relax, and enjoy being home sweet home.