A Record-Breaking Road Trip
Story and illustrations by Greg Cayea
It had only been a few hours and already we were driving in silence. Everything we owned was in the back of the car. We looked homeless. Well, we were homeless.
“It’ll never fit!”
“Jeez, Greg, we need it all! How am I supposed to cook?”
“You wanna move all those bags every night?”
“Ugh, I’ll move it. You can wait while I do it. I’ll move it all myself, okay?”
I was so mad about how much stuff she brought that I nearly broke up with her in Vegas outside of a Hooters. But then I looked at her, holding that Hooters bag full of all those chicken wings that we never ate, and realized I was acting like a total jerk. “I’m sorry,” I said. But she was crying. Oh man, why did I make such a big deal of it? I gave it another shot: “I love you.”
And after a while she finally said, “I love you too.”
We gambled away six hundred bucks and forgot about the fight. I promised myself I wouldn’t get hung up on dumb stuff anymore, like whether or not it’s our responsibility to get in the right lane to let the faster cars pass us if we’re already doing ten over the speed limit.
What made it even harder at times was her heart of altruism, and my heart of “Let’s get this s**t done.” So, when this biker chick was throwing up in Yuma, Arizona, next to her motorcycle, dehydrated in 124-degree heat, sitting by the melting plastic of the port-a-potties at a one-pump gas station in the desert, I was thinking, “Should we let this chick die?” But my girl took the last of our water over to her and let her drink until her face went from blood red back to a human color. My girl wanted to stay with the biker chick until the two scary biker dudes that were also there took off, just to make sure she was safe, but the biker chick insisted we leave and let her be.
We left for California to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Mexico to Canada and didn’t even bother stopping off at our home turf, Los Angeles—we were done with that city.
When we drove through that big redwood tree in Big Sur, we were still trying to figure out how to use the GPS system to track our mileage and send it off to Guinness—a requirement for this record-breaking road trip. We had to beat those Indians, after all! (These Indians—in India—had the world record for the longest domestic road trip at nineteen thousand miles, and we were going to pummel them outta the record book.) We did get a bit scared when we checked a week later and their record had already been broken by four other Indians in India, and now the new record was twenty-two thousand miles.
“We gotta do like . . . forty-four thousand miles, ya think? To keep it? The record?” I ask.
“Definitely,” she tells me.
“How crappy would it be to only hold the record for a week?”
“Yeah, that would suck. We gotta do a bunch more.”
We were only at a couple thousand miles when we ended up caving in to sleep at a motel in Eugene, Oregon—the second hotel room of the trip, since Vegas a week earlier—to make sure the mileage was tracking correctly. So I called the toll-free number on Garmin’s website:
“Hey, Garmin. Question: If I had to prove that I broke a world record, how would I do that?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“We’re breakin’ a world record for the longest journey by car in a single country.”
“Is there a reason for that, sir?”
“Never mind.” I hang up.
“I think we’re doin’ it right,” I say.
When we walked outta the room the next morning, these two stripper-looking chicks ambushed me and now my recently sated libido was all revved up again. They were checking out of the motel, too, and living out of a pickup truck together. Instead of staring at them for a million hours, I asked if they’d sign our witness logbook that is also required by Guinness. I had to keep my hormones under control, so I promised myself I’d maintain my meditation schedule.
When the hippie chick got up to use the bathroom, my girlfriend ran after her to offer her an apple, because they looked hungry.
One day, I was getting ready to meditate at 6:00 a.m. at a rest area in some Canadian border town when I saw these two dreadlocked hippies asleep on the grass nearby, with a tarp over them and a dog inside their car. It had Missouri license plates. I wasn’t really able to focus on meditating, so I woke my girl up. When the hippie chick got up to use the bathroom, my girlfriend ran after her to offer her an apple, because they looked hungry.
“Oui! Merci!” the hippie replied. Oh . . . They speak French. Right, Canada. But why do they have Missouri license plates? Did she steal the car? “D’yew smoke, uh . . .” And she did sign language for “smoke pot.” I said no, because I’m sober. My girlfriend was a pothead—a bit of a paradox—but she said no out of respect for me, I guess. And so we drove on—gotta beat those Indians!
I came up with a brilliant idea somewhere in Nevada. “We should take our fans on a live-streamed ghost town tour!”
Our sponsor, an app called Stream, had sent us two Samsung phones with unlimited data so we could live-stream the whole road trip. We didn’t, but we did build up a nice audience on their platform.
I found a town on Google called Ravenswood that was supposed to be off Highway 50—the road we were on. We found an arrow-shaped slab of wood a little ways off in the desert that said “Ravenswood this way” and turned on our live stream. Then we lost signal. We followed the dirt road, but our GPS lost track of where we were. All it said was “Follow road.” Follow road where? It was a bit risky, but I still wanted to see the town, so we kept going. Then, the road completely disappeared, and we were without service with only a little bit of water and half a tank of gas. “Are we goin’ the right way, you think?” I asked my nervous girlfriend.
We had been driving for about thirty miles over jagged rocks that might’ve popped the tires at any moment, so we couldn’t just turn around. Then I started thinking, what the hell would we do if our tires popped? My heart started to pound. I opened the door for fresh air, but fifteen crickets landed on my face:
“Oh, look! Crickets! Cute!” (She thought everything was cute, even the cacti.)
“Get back in!”
We got back in the car in a frenzy. I put the Subaru in reverse and slammed the pedal. That’s when I realized there was an alarming scent coming from the muffler and thought, We’re dead.
Then a miracle happened. Our GPS came back to life and took us to a real road. Holy s**t. What a bad idea that nearly was.
Then, the road completely disappeared, and we were without service with only a little bit of water and half a tank of gas. “Are we goin’ the right way, you think?”
We decided to celebrate being alive with a trip to Yellowstone. We had no plan other than waking up, looking at the atlas to see where the hell we currently were, then picking some random location to drive to that day. (We did start out with a route, but uh, we made a wrong turn somewhere.) Anyway, we decided to head to Yellowstone and camp out for a few days on our way up to Montana.
I set up my hammock at our campsite and chopped some wood as my girlfriend blew up the queen-size air mattress for the tent. All was well until the next morning at Old Faithful. At about eleven o’clock, my girl was waiting for the perfect shot of the geyser when all of a sudden . . .
Plop. She dropped the phone twenty feet into a boiling hot geyser river.
It was over. All our thousands of photos—gone. All the required photo evidence we needed to submit to Guinness—destroyed. Everything we had.
I looked at her. I knew how bad she felt, and you know what? I just wanted to hug her. Why make her feel worse? I looked at all the signs surrounding the river practically screaming “Death to those who touch this water,” and I thought, “Screw it. Let’s leave. We lost.” Then I regained faith. “Wait—no way are we leaving.”
I gave her the other camera bag, wary that she might drop that too, and I walked off the bridge and over to the boiling geyser water that our phone was now laying in, and—“Noooo!”
I heard them scream, but I walked straight into the water. It wasn’t even that hot. I dunked myself in and grabbed that damn phone, then walked out of the water and—get this—the phone still worked! And to think we nearly left it there . . . If we’d lost those photos, we would’ve been disqualified and all this would’ve been for nothing.
But from that point on, I was scarred. Whenever she touched the camera, my heart would drop.
“Hold it tight!”
“I know, Greg! I know! I’m sorrryyyy!”
We hit ten thousand miles in Butte, Montana, and celebrated with a hotel, sex, cigarettes, reality TV, and some social media. But most of the celebrating was destroyed, because I still hadn’t figured out how to get the damn GPS working right. I had a million computers open and fifteen hard drives laid out, trying to also organize our video footage—we had to film two minutes every hour on the road with a clock in the frame to send to Guinness as well. By that point, it seemed like we had about a billion terabytes of footage. But we had to beat those Indians!
When we walked outta the room the next morning, these two stripper-looking chicks ambushed me and now my recently sated libido was all revved up again.
We stopped off at some hot springs in Ouray, Colorado, and some dude wouldn’t stop talking to us—or to my girlfriend, at least. “I’m a hobo clown,” he said. I was thinking, Okay, psycho, time to leave. He actually made money blowing up balloons on the side of the road. So then my girlfriend got balloons and tried to make some balloon animals like dogs and giraffes, but they all looked like cats to me. Plus, every time she popped a balloon my stomach dropped and the car tilted.
“Stop makin’ balloon animals!”
“Okay, okay!” She’s laughing. “That was it, I swear, but look! It looks like a bunny, right?”
“Yeah, that’s definitely a bunny, but stop!”
In Texas, my phone kept welcoming me to Mexico as we were riding the border, trying to make our final map look cool. (That was pretty much our overall goal: make sure the map at the end of all this looks awesome.) We weren’t allowed to cross national borders, though, so I kept thinking that maybe we were in Mexico by accident, and that we disqualified ourselves. I freaked out about everything.
We pulled the car over at a truck stop somewhere near San Antonio at about 10:00 p.m. to sleep, and boy was it hot. Then—crunch. I looked down at my feet, and there were a billion monster-size beetles crawling all over the concrete. I couldn’t even take a step without cracking one in half. I jumped up and down, trying to avoid them, but couldn’t, so I hopped onto the back of the Subaru to save myself, but then realized they were crawling all over the back of the car trying to get in, so I screamed, “We gotta close the doors!”
We had no idea what to do, so I sat on the driver’s side and she on the passenger side, trying to figure out life.
“Can we just sleep with the AC on? Like this?”
We Googled it for an hour. Some search results said it’d be fine; others said we might die.
“Let’s just go to a hotel,” I said.
“Can we afford it?”
“Uhh . . . maybe.” I checked my bank account app on my phone.
We pulled into this cracked-out motel ten miles away, opened the car door, and crunch.
More bugs. Beetles, crickets, grasshoppers—thousands and millions, everywhere, all over the motel. I ran into the clerk’s office and shut the door behind me with my girlfriend in the car. The office reeked of moth balls—I thought I might throw up. Then I looked at the floor and realized there were beetles all over the carpet inside the clerk’s office, and the sleepy clerk that came out in his pajamas didn’t even seem to notice! We had to get the hell out of there, so in the morning, I woke up at dawn and announced, “Let’s drive north!” So, we drove to Oklahoma.
We were at a Pilot Flying J truck stop when we both climbed out of the car and—whoosh—the wind shot us from one side of the parking lot to the other.
The next night, I slept through a huge earthquake on the border of Kansas, but I didn’t even realize it till we heard it on NPR.
The weather just kept getting worse. After Mount Rushmore, the whitest place on earth, we went up to Williston, North Dakota, and a ruthless storm ripped into the clouds right as we pulled into town. It was raining so far sideways that I didn’t even think it’d be safe to open the doors, so we had to set up camp in the car from the inside or risk getting swept away by the million-mile-an-hour winds. I opened my eyes in the morning, and we were in the middle of a huge mud field. Luckily, the Subaru didn’t get stuck, and we drove over the dirt and mud and past a few broken-down big rigs to get back to the road.
We hit twenty thousand miles in Fargo and celebrated at some crummy motel. There was a hooker in the hallway yelling at her pimp as we shuffled our duffle bags of dirty laundry into our room.
I turned thirty-two in Bemidji, Minnesota, so we found a rest area by a lake—I love lakes—and hung the handmade curtains that my girlfriend had made after an Indian reservation kicked us off their property for “ruining the ambience” because our wet towels were hanging on the windows to give us some privacy.
Anyway, we stuck our Samsung phone to the magnetic phone mount on the window, made our bed, and cuddled under the stars for my birthday. We put on Netflix and were somewhere on season six of Shameless before we left to hit Chicago the next day.
We got into another argument at some pizza joint by Lake Michigan, but by the time we made it to the Poconos in Pennsylvania, we were back in love. We swerved over, hopped the gate, and broke into this deserted honeymoon resort called Penn Hills. At one point, the place was bustling with erotic shenanigans, but now it was all covered in graffiti and cracked glass, abandoned needles, and stuffing popping out of heart-shaped beds. We took a ton of photos, then ran away before we got arrested.
By the time we made it to Maine, summer was long gone. We ordered some lobster rolls, then skidded through New England, did the last bit of Midwest driving, and finally headed south. We drove to Graceland in Memphis, but they wanted like fifty bucks to see the exhibit, so we drove to a sketchy diner in Mississippi, parked by the Dumpster, and fell asleep at midnight.
I tried to open the back door to meditate the next morning, but the door had locked and there was no way to unlock it from the inside. So I crawled out of my mummy bag and over the suitcases and duffle bags, hitting my girlfriend in the face with my knee by accident:
“What the f—?”
“Sorry, baby, sorry, one sec. Just lookin’ for the—ah ha!”
I opened the front door so I could go around to open the back, but then forgot the alarm was on. I frantically searched for the key while the siren went off.
“Greg!” She got so mad whenever I did this—which was quite often.
“Sorry, baby, sorry! Okay, okay, just one—”
I found the key and shut the alarm off, but by then we were both up, so I didn’t get to meditate. I hated when that happened, because I couldn’t write down my morning ideas in peace, and I always had the best ideas in the morning.
Like when Tony Robbins had asked me through my headphones a few months before if I was satisfied with my life and if I was living up to my potential.
No, Tony, I am not!
So, what you gonna do about it?
Break a world record?!
Then go! Do it!
Anyway, that’s why we were on the trip. That, and to beat the Indians.
Like when Tony Robbins had asked me through my headphones a few months before if I was satisfied with my life and if I was living up to my potential.
A security guard at a rest stop outside of Jackson, Mississippi, asked if I had any weed. “Nah, just cigarettes,” I replied. He asked me to roll him one and he followed me to the car. Something felt off, so we drove out of there like mad and didn’t stop until the white, sandy beaches in Biloxi caught our eye. We decided to book a room at the Rivage. Maybe we’ll move here, we thought as we sat at the Vegas-style pool the next morning after gambling away more of our (my) money. I was wondering how we were going to survive Florida. It was around November, but still mad hot in Florida.
It was our last few thousand miles of the trip, and we were both antsy to get home, but we had no home and no idea what the hell to do when we got to wherever it was we were going. We were pretty aimless. We stayed in a king-size suite built for royalty in Myrtle Beach since it was the off-season, and my girlfriend brought up some of the beer that this truck driver gave to her at some rest area off the New Jersey Turnpike. Or was it the Pennsylvania Turnpike? Whatever, it was a few weeks back, and she drank until she puked, then the election ripped our hearts out of our chests.
It was November 8, and we were depressed as all hell and decided the next day, in a dark cloud of sadness and after thirty-six thousand miles, it had to end.
We booked it to the Bronx, because ending in the Bronx sounded cool. We got lost, though, and ended up in lower Manhattan in Chinatown by accident. There we filmed our final video scene, right after the Holland Tunnel, and turned on the camera one last time to announce to the world that after 122 days and 36,680 miles, we were officially done.
We crossed the finish line stronger than ever—as people, and as a couple. Three months later, we broke up, but that’s not the point. I couldn’t have done this with anyone but her. We were brought together to love each other during this crazy adventure, and we remain dear to each other’s hearts to this day.
If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s this: I wasn’t sure whether the trip would be amazing or terrible, and it was a bit of both. I was certain of one thing—that my life would be forever changed, and a new memory would be born. And boy, was I right on point. So, my advice to anyone seeking to break our record is this: Don’t do it. We’ll kill you. But if you do decide to take a stab at it, don’t plan anything, and let everything go. Any emotion you hold onto will just be dragging behind your Subaru for forty thousand miles.
— V —
Greg Cayea writes offensive short stories about his life adventures, then draw cartoons to illustrate them. Stay tuned at ScrambledGregs.com for his next adventure.