Being in a car for hours and traveling hundreds of miles in one go can be harrowing and tedious. That’s why, when I felt an overwhelming urge to get away for a bit, I decided to enlist my two best friends, Bette and Sarah, as travel companions. My family had a little house in Asheville, North Carolina that seemed like the perfect quiet place for a week away, but getting there from New Jersey would take at least a full day of driving. We decided we might as well stop at a couple of interesting spots of the way, so we mapped it out and started to prepare.
The most important part of our road trip preparation was to make sure the car we were taking, my SUV, was in tip top shape and wouldn’t leave us stranded on the highway thirty miles from the nearest town. My father taught me the basics of automobile maintenance so luckily I was able to do a lot myself. I made sure that I wasn’t due for an oil change, cleaned out my air filter, checked the belts and hoses under the hood, made sure I had a spare tire and all the required tools to change it just in case, and checked my tire air pressure and tread. Once all of the mechanical stuff was in order, I turned my attention to equipping the interior for all road tripping needs.
Bette was the cute one of our friends. She scared easily but always retained a positive outlook. Sarah was stubborn but fiercely loyal. Together we made a well-rounded group. I knew each one of my friends well, so I knew exactly what we would need to have on hand. I rolled up a couple of blankets and inflatable neck pillows and stored them in the seatback pouch. I thought about entertainment and thought it would be safe to have not only a really long auxiliary cord to reach anyone who wanted to play music, but also a few CD’s just in case and a sufficient number of phone chargers.
Once we were packed and ready to go, we only had one more thing to do. It was blazing hot outside when we made our first stop, only ten minutes from where we had started. We poured out of the car and into the heat, our faces covered in oversized sunglasses and tinted sunscreen. Our trio made a beeline straight for the snack aisle, where we scooped up bags of chips, candy, and a few healthier options to tide us over between gas breaks. We got back in the car triumphantly and fully prepared for our trip. We got onto the highway, full of energy and belting out ‘Living On a Prayer’ as if it was the anthem of our upcoming week together.
It was dark by the time we got to our hotel, all of our road trip playlists had been exhausted and so had the snacks. Our throats were sore from singing along to pop songs and chatting and we couldn’t wait to get to our room and just crash. We were able to get some sleep and were headed out to our first destination by the late morning. We stopped to eat and fuel up and reached Beech Mountain, North Carolina within a couple of hours. We parked and made our way to a place like we’d never seen before. There, on a patch of quiet Appalachian land, was a yellow brick road just like the infamous path in The Wizard of Oz. This spot had piqued all of our interest when researching places to see along the trip.
The Land of Oz is a theme park, but not one with rides and massive attractions. It’s more of a re-creation made to make you feel like you’ve stepped right into another world, and to that end, it was very successful. We stretched our muscles through a long walk down the yellow brick road, through Kansas, the Emerald City, and Munchkin Land. Bette had been the driving force behind this stop and she was mesmerized by the sheer wonder of it all. Even Sarah, who had initially been reluctant to make the detour, seemed genuinely excited to be there. By the time we reached our car we had forgotten that we were three friends who had been driving down the same highway for hours.
The sun was setting when we left Beech Mountain, and as twilight crept into the sky we anticipated our arrival to the house. We listened to podcasts and Bette and Sarah took turns reading scary stories to me and each other. But before we could reach our destination, something unexpected occurred. As we weaved through winding country roads something jumped out from the curtain of trees that lined each side. I swerved to avoid a collision but instead scraped the metal barrier to the side of the road. We all got out of the car to check for damage, and luckily the car wasn’t seriously damaged. The only mark left was four-inch scrape in the paint on the passenger side. Because no one was injured and there wasn’t any damage to the car’s body we continued the last few miles to the house.
The next day we decided to look into what could be done within the coming days to repair the paint on the car. We knew rain was in the forecast and didn’t want to risk any rust or further damage so we found a body shop that took care of the scratch while we spent the day wandering around the downtown area of the city. When the car was ready to be picked up, it looked like new. We added some finishing touches before we left; we scraped the bugs off of the windshield and went through a local carwash. We even had fun doing so and knew that a little snafu like scratched paint wasn’t going to derail this weekend.
For the following days, we indulged in movie marathons at night and activity-filled mornings and afternoons. We sampled local bars, tourist traps, and shops. When it came time to head back up north we felt closer than we ever had before. The drive home was peppered with laughter and repetition of inside jokes that had come about in the last week. It felt to go by more quickly than the first leg. We arrived back in our hometown by the first hours of the next day and parted groggily as Bette and Sarah made their ways back to their respective homes. The journey was long and at times frustrating, but we all came back as better friends, more alert travelers, and more relaxed people.