September 1, 2010
I met my girlfriend at the beginning of my sophomore year. She sat across from me in sociology and after several weeks of class I was lucky enough to bump into her at a party. I had consumed a couple cans of liquid courage that night and mustered up enough nerve to say something to her. We clicked instantly and spent the rest of the night talking. The next day I asked her if she wanted to go to dinner. She said yes and we had an amazing time. I ended the night by walking her back to her dorm room, kissing her goodnight and walked back to my room feeling like a million bucks. We continued to see each other through our sophomore year. Everything was amazing but as summer approached, a single problem began to rear its ugly head. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio. My girlfriend lived hundreds of miles away on Long Island in New York.
As the spring term ended we decided to try our hand at a long term relationship and agreed that each of us would try to visit the other as often as possible. This was no big deal for her; she had money and was going to fly out to visit me. I, on the other hand, was working as a janitor and dead broke. Without the money to buy a plane ticket the only way I would be able to visit my girl was to drive. The decision to drive was not an easy one for me. I had been on long car trips before but never alone. I had also never met her parents and the thought of spending five days in her house was not helping my nerves.
Although I was nervous I knew I liked this girl and decided to pack up my car and hit the road. The trip was going to take me eight hours. Seven hours of driving through the seemingly uninhabited region of Pennsylvania surround I-80 and an hour trying to navigate freeways crammed shoulder to shoulder on my way through New York City. I woke up bright and began my journey.
The drive through Pennsylvania was extremely uneventful. The roads were so desolate that at times I felt I could have fallen asleep and still made it through in one piece. By noon I was getting hungry and decided to stop for lunch at McDonalds in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. After lunch I got back in my car and expected to jump right back onto I-80 but realized that there was no on-ramp in sight. I panicked and desperately drove around for about a half hour until I finally decided to stop and ask a local for directions. I pulled into a Shell station and sheepishly asked the man behind the counter how I could get back to the freeway. He laughed, explaining that this happens all the time, and gave me directions back to I-80.
I had been in Pennsylvania for hours and was beginning to think of the stretch of I-80 that ran through it as the most boring place on Earth to drive. By the time I stopped for lunch I wondered if it would ever end. After finding my way out of Stroudsburg I realized that Pennsylvania was finally over. After driving 310 mile through it I finally reached the great state of New Jersey. Driving through New Jersey is a dream. It is three lanes all the way to New York and the average speed is around eighty mile per hour. I was so elated about being done with Pennsylvania that the drive through New Jersey seemed to fly and before I knew it I was sitting in traffic waiting to cross the George Washington bridge.
My first impression of the traffic on the bride was that it was a complete mess. It took me at least a half hour to drive about four miles. On my subsequent journeys, however, I would learn that this was really not that bad. Once I crossed the George Washington I had to drive on one of the most congested freeways in the world (The Cross Bronx) to the Throgs Neck Bridge which would take me to Long Island. The traffic going through the Bronx is ridiculous. This was my first time in New York and I was nervous about being aggressive. I had already been lost once and I did not want to get lost here. I sat in the right lane and probably only broke forty miles per hour once. However, my cautious driving paid off as I finally made it across the bridge and onto Long Island. The last leg of my journey was a piece of cake. When I got to my girlfriends house she was waiting for me and gave me big hug and kiss making the whole drive worthwhile.
I’ve been out to New York a lot since this first trip, but out of all of them this one in particular sticks out for me. It was the first time I had ever driven more than three hours by myself. When it was over I felt accomplished. I felt as if making this drive made me more of a “man” or more of an adult. I have been lucky enough to take road trips all over the country with my family and my dad always did all of the driving. I always wondered how he could drive all these long hours without stopping. This trip showed me how. My girlfriend always says that I should just fly out to come see her and I always decline. I honestly love driving the eight hours by myself to visit her. I have really come to appreciate the feeling I get of being alone in a car with the music playing and the windows down. It gives me a feeling of peace and a chance to reflect and think about things and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.