This morning on my way home from the gym, I passed a Chevron station that was all lit up in the pink dawn. It was empty and clean and I could see the aisles of overpriced boxes of Cheez-Its and Lucky Charms from the street. The whole scene, it gave me a quick sense of comfort, and I smiled as I realized I felt comforted by a glance at a gas station.
It reminded me, I think, of being on the road, of making that long drive and knowing that those gas stations offered some sense of relief. Relief from repetitious yellow lines. Bathroom breaks. Something to quench our thirst. Caffeine to keep us going until the gauge moved to empty once more. We’d breathe heavy sighs, knowing that if we’re stopping for gas, we must be at least a few more hundred miles closer than we were the last time we stopped to dump $40 or $50 or $60 into the tank.
I remember most of the gas stations. Some were, as we’d say, “sketch.” I slept through the one in Texas, where we had to wait an hour beside big rigs for it to open at 4 a.m. because we didn’t have enough gas to get to the next city. My sister paid inside, where a woman asked if we wanted some of the eggs and bacon she was cooking up for the truckers. I liked the travel centers, the big ones, where Native American statues and DVDs from the ’90s were stacked beside window wipers and Hostess cupcakes. My least favorite was the small station in Arkansas that declined my card for a medium cup of “extreme caffeine” roast and my sister’s ice cream Snickers. She acted like me and the other customers were awful Americans, and as her machine declined every customer’s card, she insisted it was all our faults.
Mostly, people were friendly. Except for the lady who scowled at me after I walked out of the restroom; I didn’t know my sister had just purchased the last two corn dogs, which, apparently the service woman had been planning to eat for lunch. Then there was the one in Virginia, where the man kept eyeing my sister as she punched her information into the ATM. We got outa there quick. And soon after, got so lost in trees and darkness and even the GPS was confused. But we were beckoned back to civilization by a glowing Shell and we knew we were close to our new highway of a home.
These are some of the photos from our first days on the road. We had a deadline: to get to D.C. in time for my sister’s first day of work (and hopefully have time to move her into an apartment she rented without even seeing). There was little time for detours or stopping. We drove for three days straight, and didn’t get a hotel room until Nashville. Yes, my heart broke a little every time we drove past an exit for things like the Grand Canyon and Cadillacs stuck in the sand in Amarillo. I loved the trip, and dare I say, I can’t wait to do it again — with detours, this time.