Helloooo from the road! (to be specific- the middle of Montana)
Last year, around this exact same time, Delaney and I were on first cross country road trip, traversing the vast (barren) landscapes between Arizona and Maine. We sampled what the states in that area had to offer, and ended our 3 week excursion by attending Electric Forest Music Festival. A year later, we’ve seem to have forgotten the exhaustion, lengthy planning and preparing, and hard work that goes into a cross country road trip because here we are, doing it again!!! This time, joined by the other third of our trio, Meredith.
When the three of us started planning the road trip this spring, Delaney and I knew that we wanted to attend not one, but two, music festivals, and promptly added Bonnaroo to our itinerary before returning to the Forest in Rothbury, Michigan.
Delaney and I left with Marcy, the ‘96 Chevy conversion van, who had recently undergone a paint job by yours truly(s), and hit the road three days before the start of Bonnaroo. Fresh faced and ready to take on two and a half months on the road, we spent our first night in the van on the streets of South Philly. The look on both of our faces as we said goodnight was that of “this will be a funny story to tell our kids years from now, right?” We woke up drenched in sweat, and Marcy’s AC became the first item on the laundry list of repairs that she’d have to undergo in the next month. As the early morning work goers marveled at the tooth paste being spit out of the windows of our van the next morning, we couldn’t help but laugh at our ridiculous demeanors as we stumbled out of the van for a much needed cafe breakfast in up and coming neighborhood of South Philly. Needless to say, I think our Philadelphia experience set the tone for our entire road trip to follow.
We made it to Bonnaroo and spent the weekend dancing, exploring the Farm (the name of the Bonnaroo festival grounds), and not sleeping. On Sunday night of festival weekend, we waited an hour in the line to get out of the festival, and pinched each other to stay awake enough to make it safely to Nashville, where we’d stay with a Couch Surfing host, who somehow did not mind that we were covered in dirt and glitter and hadn’t showered in 5 days.
Our next stop was Jackson, Tennessee, where I got to meet December, the best friend of one of my best friends, who also happens to be a kickass photographer. I may or may not have been drooling over her work for the past four years. Regardless...! Our stay with her was absolutely amazing. Southern hospitality is very much a real and beautiful thing, and December and her partner took us in as one of their own. And, drum roll please, December and I got to shoot together...HERE ARE THE PHOTOS. (All photos of me by December Rain Conceptual Photography)
Chicago was our next stop before Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Delaney and I had the best tour guide. Cedar’s cousin, Conner, lives in Lincoln Park and spent his free time telling and showing us about all of the must sees in the city. Delaney and I spent our one full day in Chicago walking around downtown, catching the city panorama from 95 floors up, and sipping our way through eclectic bars and lounges, only after we met up with Ellie (yay Tucson fam) for lunch. I’d like to say we felt like adults, but the description of “drunk toddlers” would better fit the bill. On our way out of town, we caught the beginning of the Chicago Pride Weekend festivities and made our way to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We were received in Grand Rapids with the open arms of Delaney’s aunt and her family and were able to completely offload the van before making our way to Electric Forest (HAPPY FOREST). After waiting in a four hour line to gain early access into the forest and finding Jonas, our fellow camp mate, the weekend flew by in a whirlwind. The magic of the forest is something that I will never underestimate, and we were blessed with so much good music and so many good people. By Sunday night, Delaney and I found ourselves surrounded by a group of 20+ people from 5 different groups that we had met throughout the weekend, some of whom, we’d see again only days later in Chicago.
After driving through Sunday night in order to drop the van off to be serviced by Monday morning, we greeted the sun as we fell asleep only to wake up at 4pm Monday afternoon. The utter exhaustion that gripped both of our souls (you think I’m being dramatic, and okay yes maybe I am, but we were really freaking tired) still very much lingers with us but we signed ourselves up for a cross country road trip after two back to back festivals, so who are the real silly ones here?
Meredith arrived in Grand Rapids the next day and on Wednesday morning, we were off to seize the day in the name of adventure, etc etc.
Back two paragraphs or so, I mentioned our friend from Forest who lives in Chicago. Yes… his name? Also Delaney. Also named Delaney after Jimmy Buffett’s daughter. If you think that we made “Delaney Squared” or “The Delaneys” jokes all weekend, you are absolutely right. We spent the 4th of July rompin around Chicago beaches and pent houses with Delaney and all of his friends, only to miss the fireworks by 5 minutes because we didn’t sprint across the highway and through tunnels fast enough. But don’t worry, there were firework shows going all. night. long, so we experienced the full firework sound bath experience from inside of Ellie’s apartment.
The morning of the 5th came abruptly and the 13 hour drive ahead of us laughed in our faces. But we were up early, making good time, and we were hopeful that we’d make it to a hotel parking lot in Minot, ND, where the thought of sneaky and free continental breakfast got us through the morning.
We drove through the day, in rain and shine, and had just finished marveling on how well Marcy was handling the trip, when the transmission buckled under itself, and power steering and acceleration became obsolete. We were an hour west of the largest town in North Dakota, still 3 hours away from Minot, and the sun was setting quickly.
Luckily, AAA works quickly ‘round those parts, and were scooped up by Dustin, the tow truck driver, who will later save the day in this same story. We pulled up to the “AmericInn”, tired and defeated, and were lucky enough to find a room because ya know, the big wedding in town that weekend really had most of the hotels in Valley City booked full. Our continental breakfast the next morning still happened, thank goodness, just not in the way we were expecting. We were waiting for news on our car, which never came, which is precisely when Dustin stepped in and offered to take a look at our car. After a 12 hour period of lamenting and stressing over what would become of our road trip if Marcy was irreparable, Dustin broke the news that it only needed a new crank position sensor, an apparently vital piece that allows the acceleration, power steering, and braking to work correctly. We heard the rev of the engine, jumped with excitement, and headed to the mechanic in Fargo before continuing on our very long way. 24 hours later, the mechanic handed us the faulty bolt that attempted to hold the crank position sensor in place, we all laugh-cried, took a deep breath, and got back on the road with only one day lost to stress and mechanical problems. It’s hard to remind ourselves to let shit go when you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, but humans are so funny when it comes to control and minuscule situations that will not make a difference in the long run. Life is just that— make of it what you will. We are headed to the national parks west of North Dakota, and I’m sure there will be a lot to share and tell in a few weeks’ time.