Monday, March 8, 2010

Nothing tests a relationship like Richmond, Virginia

My excitement runneth over just a couple of weeks ago…

The Original Plan: Take Friday off from work, load up the car, drive 7+ hours to Richmond, Virginia and surround myself with thousands of handbuilt bikes. The highlights of the weekend would include visiting the Richard Sachs booth (get a picture of the boyfriend and Richard Sachs) and drooling over Independent Fabrication’s latest creations. A nice king size bed, free flowing libations and uninterrupted cable awaited our arrival. The most complex part of the weekend would be driving 7+ hours in the car with the boyfriend. The first road trip can define (or end)  a relationship essentially as two people have to learn to navigate their needs in strange places while maintaining the “coolness” the other was attracted to in the first place.

What really happened? Under no fault of our own (directly), our plan was foiled as we crossed state lines. Looking back, maybe the details we ignored were the VERY details we should have paid attention to and turned the car around to head home. Friday night, with the car fully packed, we were crossing over from quiet suburbia into the mountain region of West Virginia. I have driven through mountains before…I have seen snow…I know how to drive. Well, that was all before an unbelievable snow storm from the bowels of hell sprang forth in front of the dash board leaving only inches of sight visible. Our car became a survival vehicle rolling at 20mph in endless darkened hills. What should have been an hour or so drive turned into a three hour nightmare of snow, blackness, and praying for working brakes. Communication dwindled to single words (right, left, center, over there) with added directional finger visualizations (which were needed) as we both tried to remain composed realizing that at any moment, the car could careen off into a cavern of frozen death. It was not until the last few miles that I found my neck dripping with sweat, my palms slammed shut and my sanity truly tested. There was no option to change drivers. There was NO where to change them. There were no exits to leave the highway, call it a night or simply pull over and cry. Our seven hour car ride turned into twelve. Our blown out selves startled the front desk workers but the weekend was still at hand and we made it intact, car and all.

Once settled and recharged with a full four hours of sleep, I finally found myself surrounded by handbuilt bicycles from all over the country. I would be lying if I said I did not think of them as sexy. Each bike is a single work of art and it is hard to not fawn over them like a child at a Christmas tree. These few moments in the early morning seemed to evaporate the nightmare of “the hills have eyes” driving experience some six or seven hours prior. The weekend, as originally planned, was looking up…and for a moment we found ourselves relaxing.

Then in the brief afternoon hours, our weekend rollercoaster took a nose dive, bounced off track, and landed in a volcanic pit of debt and anger. The Volvo wagon that had completed 556 miles through some of the most rugged terrain I have ever driven had now burned out an alternator. With each turn of the key, we had a mini, self contained fireworks display garnering “oohs” and “ahhs” from the valets. In a panic, our only reliable source for auto repair was a possible crack head mechanic named Kino with a knack for saying, “I got you” who took in my car like an adopted child replaced the alternator and sent us on our way over 24-hours later (only after we had visited an area of town known for drug dealing and consistent nightly murders). To add insult to our disaster weekend, we located the only cabbie in Richmond void of directional sense but filled with the love of New Orleans (his ring tone was “When the Saints Go Marching In”) and coconut interior spray. In a Pavlov response, we now twitch whenever we think of that song and dry heave at the smell of anything tropical.

We paid for our repairs the next dark evening in cash (as he requested) and I am pretty sure not only did we pay for an alternator but we also paid for our lives being spared in an area of town where we DID NOT belong. Only two exits into our lightening drive home in the pitch black of night did we soon discover our nightmare was not quite over. Our power steering pump literally pumped out fluid onto the ground like a geyser leaving us stranded an unexpected night as we waited hourly for a Volvo dealership to open its doors. Our refuge was a quaint Ramada Inn with possible bodily fluid stained walls, hair covered sheets, and odd cheap Diplomat Coffee sat next to the same sink I spit my toothpaste saliva in. We slept with our eyes open, stiff and too tired to even spoon.

The following morning, a AAA driver greeted us hoisting the Volvo yet again onto a flatbed and dragging us to a nearby dealership where the staff took pity on us. Out of clean underwear and possibly having to sell a kidney to pay for the remainder of the repairs, we sat anxiously for four hours hoping to get back on the highway soon. Once on the highway and $1,394 dollars later, we found not only a new appreciation for the little comforts of home like a lack of blood spattered walls or fully functional plumbing but we discovered that we travel well together. In a panicked moment, I found myself tired, stranded, and about to lose it on anyone around me. Thankfully someone was there to put a bit of calm into my day. Having spent the majority of our funds on the car, we ate meals at McDonalds and delighted in the sightseeing of trailer homes high atop a mountain with no obvious path leading to the front door.

 If there were an array of emotions to be had, we spent them all and yet remained on speaking terms with each other. Maybe it was the abundance of transfats and caffeine but we found ourselves laughing spontaneously through the mountains (which looked much different in the daylight hours). We reflected only briefly on the bike show debating if the show actually happened or had we fabricated it all in our heads. According to my checkbook, we did not dream this weekend up. In May there is a road trip planned to Asheville. I would be lying if I said I was not apprehensive but we will be fine and just as there is a Kino in Richmond, I am sure there is one in Asheville too waiting to take cash and repair a Volvo. The one task was accomplished, the picture was taken successfully. Thankfully, my boyfriend and I are still on speaking terms and no stitches were required for wound care. He is the best.  

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