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  • Hannah Grabenstein

The End

My last morning on the road, I gave up on all my grand plans. I was in a La Quinta in Clinton, Oklahoma, and instead of going to the Route 66 Museum, as I’d intended, I lounged around in the king-sized bed watching most of the new Netflix show Russian Doll. I thought about going. I thought: this is it. I’m going back to my regular life, of a 9-5(:30) and grocery shopping and the gym. Of spending all Saturday watching Netflix and all Sunday doing laundry and cleaning my bathroom. Of happy hours and friends in the same city and day trips to nearby, but back home by evening. I thought: Hannah. You’re still on your trip! Go out and do something!


And then I watched the next episode.


I’m not sure why. Probably some of the previously discussed laziness. Maybe it was because when I got up and ate the complimentary breakfast, the fire alarm in the building inexplicably went off and all the guests came out to the lobby, where I was eating, asking the child at the front desk if this was a real fire. I sat there in my sweatpants, eating biscuits and sausage gravy, with exactly as much knowledge as they had and exactly as much knowledge as the poor girl at the front desk who was running around, harried, and kind of chuckled to myself. “The fire alarm is going off, people," I thought. "Evacuate and wait till the fire department comes.”


I did not evacuate of course, because I have lived in big apartment buildings with fickle smoke detectors and I know they’re almost always a lie, and plus the door to the exit was 12 feet away. But those people should have evacuated instead of making the girl at the front desk even more anxious and forcing her to say, over and over again, that the alarm went off because someone opened a door and the “cold air” must have set the alarm off. Ok, sure. Cold air.


All this to say that I couldn’t be bothered. I’d felt like my trip was already over, and when I thought about another $10 museum admission fee and more time devoted to learning and appreciating and synthesizing, not to mention getting dressed for Clinton, OK, I abandoned ship. Russian Doll was excellent.


I’ve gotten ahead of myself though, because I had one day in between which I have truly and promptly forgotten. Let me refer to my notes.


Right! Yes! The most important takeaway from this entire trip and blog is this: if you are driving across the country, DO NOT DRIVE IN THE LEFT LANE. That lane, or the “passing lane,” is for passing, and not for luxuriating. Here is how you drive on a two lane interstate: you drive in the right lane, unless you approach a vehicle which is slower than you. Then you PUT ON YOUR TURN SIGNAL and get into the left lane and pass the slower vehicle who should hold no resentment to you because they are just going a little slower than you are (I have been the slower vehicle and the faster vehicle. Both are fine! Try to maintain speed, but drive however fast you want!). Then you TURN ON YOUR TURN SIGNAL and get BACK INTO THE RIGHT LANE and keep driving.


The exception, of course, is that you should immediately get into the left lane if there is a vehicle pulled over on the shoulder, or if other cars are merging. Pretty much other than that, though, the left lane is not for cruising. Pretend there is a fire alarm in that lane. Pass and evacuate.


OK so beyond that life lesson, which I feel I have done my duty in imparting in ALL CAPS to everyone, there’s not a ton left.


I drove six hours on Sunday, which I have come to discover is about the time I can stand to drive before I get a little tired of it. It was a live music kind of listening day and I really jammed along. There were a couple hours there where I heard some lyrics for real for the first time - a lot of Jackson Browne, for example, which is often about him being on the road and which therefore really resonated with me - and I felt them deeply.


Then I was in Clinton and I went out for Tex Mex for what must have been the 19th time on the trip (and it was still good!). I listened to these two young guys talk about getting drunk and the good times they’d had (not to be elitist, but - in Clinton?), and then a young woman came to pick them up which was good, because the one guy had already gotten a DUI and he was probably four or so beers and four or so shots into the evening. I hope they were safe. Back at the La Quinta I found the last 20 minutes or so of The Princess Bride on some cable channel and I watched that, or rather, I reenacted that along with the actors, and then I slept.


And then my last day. I left Clinton to have lunch with a colleague in Oklahoma City, which was great, and he suggested I see the OKC bombing memorial, which was incredibly moving and beautiful. I had it mostly to myself on a cold Monday in Oklahoma City, and it made me continue to consider the way humans memorialize tragedy. I’ve been considering that since Liz and I spent a day at Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, and saw the dozens of memorials on its sprawling grounds. She pointed out that though they all commemorated roughly the same thing, each memorial was different and beautiful.


The OKC memorial is a series of chairs in nine rows, one chair for each person killed, where each row represented the floor they were on when the bomb went off. Small chairs memorialize the children. On each end of a reflecting pool are two massive stone gates, with 9:01 on one side to remember the innocence of the time before the 9:02 bombing, and 9:03 on the other to immortalize the moment when everything was changed. It was extremely thoughtful and lovely and obviously sad. I’m glad I went.


And then I was on my way back to Little Rock. I pulled in that evening and am staying with the parents of a friend while I get settled. I’ve been productive since I got back which is great. I’m happy and I don’t even miss traveling too much. I also highly anticipate that I’ll be back.


As a final note, I just want to clarify something, which is that this wasn’t an Eat, Pray, Love kind of situation, or an Under the Tuscan Sun or whatever. I wasn’t on some kind of journey to find myself or discover who I am or whatever. I was on a journey to travel, because I like to travel and drive and have fun, and because I was bored and depressed and I had time to kill and people I wanted to see. I’m so, so glad I did it. (I did have a breakthrough while driving silently through the Arkansas mountains but I didn’t MEAN to have that breakthrough. I meant to spend money and dance in New Orleans and see my childhood best friend and her little growing family in Houston and climb a mountain in New Mexico and see some architecture in Charleston and the desert in Texas and spend as much time as I could enjoying the diversity of people and geography in this country and I fucking did.) I’ve done it before and believe me, I damn well will do it again.


Some numbers, before the playlist and the photos.


Total number, give or take, of:

Miles I traveled: 4,542

Days I was on the road: 22

Cities, towns, small clusters of houses I visited: 12

Friends and family I met: 25

Museums/art exhibits/Meow Wolfs I went to: 15

Live music shows I attended: 4

Crickets I ate: 3? 4?

Tires I replaced: 0!

Tex Mex meals I ate: 16,000 Mountains I climbed: .75

Money I spent: I’m not even going to look

Socks I lost: I’ll never know


Sunday’s Playlist, sans links:

Concert in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel

Waiting for Columbus, Little Feat

Live at the Fillmore, Los Lobos

Running on Empty, Jackson Browne (it is important to mention that the first and last two songs on the album, “Running on Empty,” “The Load Out” and “Stay,” were recorded at Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is mere miles from my childhood home)

Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen

A Google Instant Mix starting with “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin but ugh that was way too much of Cream and The Doors so I killed that.


Monday’s Playlist:

The most recent This American Life

A Google Instant Mix starting with “Dead Flowers” by The Rolling Stones (which is very personally meaningful to me thanks to another lovely story starring my father, in which he brought me dead flowers after a play I was in because my parents had forgotten to get me any and the grocery store only had dying ones, and I loved the song at the time. It was Very Cute)

Let It Be, Naked, The Beatles

Katy Lied, Steely Dan

Crossing Muddy Waters, John Hiatt

SILENCE so my brain could process things and have a ~breakthrough~ about how I make decisions (poorly!)

Phone calls to my sister and Liz and Emily

More silence, for laziness

A Google Instant Mix starting with “Mega Bottle Ride” by Joe Strummer which took me all over the Strummer songbook from his first band, The 101ers, to his last, the Mescaleros, through The Clash live and in studio, which honestly was a perfect way to end the trip though I can't explain why.


And finally, the last batch of photos: