Smoky Mountain Dawn

In October of 1987, at the age of 26, I loaded a small U-Haul trailor with my boxes of books and comics, hitched it to the back of my ten-year-old VW Rabbit, and left Los Angeles for my new home in Brooklyn, New York.

For a week or two before my departure, Southern California had experienced a number of substantial earthquakes. A sign on the back of my trailer read:

I’m tired of waking with a shake.
I’m going where the land don’t quake.
L.A. to N.Y. or bust!

Today, in August of 2009, I am having flashbacks to that trip as I travel over much of the same ground in reverse (not actually in reverse gear, you understand) as I leave my east coast home and drive to California to visit friends and family.

There are several notable differences, of course, between 1987 and now. On this trip, I am driving a 2009 Prius (getting about 500 miles a tank), listening to my iPod, getting directions from my GPS, and blogging my journey by typing into my iPhone.

In 1987, I drove 700 miles a day (except for the days I lost when my car broke down, but that is a story for another time), pulled into rest stops when I got tired, and slept in the back of my car.

Part of the reason I chose to do the trip this way now, I will confess, is to prove to myself that I still can. So yesterday, after a week at the Outer Banks with the family (and in-laws; but that, too, is a story for another time), I bade everyone goodbye and steered west. Last night around midnight, after covering just over 500 miles, I pulled over into a rest stop high up in the Smoky Mountains National Park and climbed into the back of my car to grab some much-needed sleep.

I awoke this morning before dawn. As the sun rose, I snaked my way down a foggy mountain and watched the morning mist slowly rise from it’s own slumber and pepper the sky.

Another difference from 1987: I’m no longer 26 years old! It’s not yet 10:00 AM, and I’m already bloody exhausted. Tonight, I check into a hotel, catch some TV, and sleep on a mattress!