21 Hours In A Car

Last week was full of connections with people that I care about, each connection could have served as the topic of a blog post.  However, one event stands out, as that event included a Harley, Dunkin Donuts coffee, and a 21 hour car ride.

Fridays are travel days for me.  I leave the suburbs of Chicago and drive almost 90 miles to Rockford to see a full day of patients.  I then get back into my car and drive 90 miles back to home.  I enjoy going to Rockford, but I’m tired on my return. Friday evenings are reserved for lounging activities.

You may recall me mentioning my friend Tom in previous blog posts.  Tom and I spend a lot of time together, and through the years we have helped each other in many ways.  This week Tom asked me for a favor.  He was selling his Harley Springer Classic motorcycle, and he wanted me to go with him to the sale.

Let me give you some additional information:

  1. The buyer lives in Texas.  
  2. The buyer wanted Tom to drive half-way to make the transaction.  Specifically, the buyer wanted to meet Tom in Springfield, Missouri at 8 AM on Saturday morning.
  3. Springfield, Missouri is between a 7 ½ and 8 ½ hour drive from my home.  

I usually arrive home from Rockford at around 6:30 PM. Tom’s plan was to pick me up at 7:00 PM and we would drive all night to Springfield.  A totally crazy idea on all levels. I said, “Sure.”

The trip…

I dig through my pantry for whatever snack food I can find. Some mixed nuts, Barbecue Sunchips, Ritz crackers, and some Beef Jerky nuggets.  It’s 7:03 PM, Tom pulls up towing his Harley on a UHaul trailer.   He is ready for travel with a Yeti cooler filled with LaCroix, and two cups of hot Dunkin Donuts coffee.  I get into the passenger side and close the door behind me.

The plan is simple, and simply insane.  We drive all night to Missouri, sell his Harley, and immediately turn around and drive home.  Estimated total awake time for me, about 36 hours.

Tom and have no problem filling up hours with idle conversation, but we have never attempted interacting with each other for almost 24 hours straight while being physically separated by only a center console.  It is hard to imagine that any friendship could survive such a stress test.

My somewhat OCD friend insists on driving most of the way, and I insist on making sure that he stays awake.  Tom was raised in Communist Poland, and I have an fascination of life behind the iron curtain.  With that said, even a professional interviewer like myself has limits, my brain starts to short out.  

Time for a new plan.

 (editor’s note: only one person has permission to call me Mikey, that person is Tom. Only one person calls Tom, Tommy, that person is me).

“Tommy I’ll ask you a question, then you will ask me a question!”  Sighs and groans erupt from the other side of the cabin.  “Mikey, I hate doing that.  I have nothing to ask you.  I won’t do it!” “I completely understand,” I reply.

I begin with something simple, “Tell me your favorite Eastern Bloc city and why.”  Tom finishes his answer and I prompt him to ask me a question.  “I told you that I won’t do it!  I don’t have any questions to ask you.  I already know everything I need to know about you.”  … long pause, groans, humfs, another pause, and then Tom asks me a question.  This cycle repeats itself for about 4 hours.

Back and forth questions, bathroom breaks, attempts to see the stars through the car’s windows,  and more random conversation.  

Like two school kids we get excited seeing the sights:  a Route 66 sign here, the St. Louis Arch there, sightings of antique cars, police prowlers with their Mars lights ablaze, small towns with highway signs that beg us to stop and visit.

Around 3:00 AM we find a rest stop and decide to attempt to sleep for a couple of hours.  Tom is shorter than I am and quickly finds a comfortable spot in his chair.  My long body is not as adaptable, and I bend this way and twist the other.  In less than two minutes I start to hear noises that could only be described as an animal in pain.  Gurgling noises, snorts, sputters and goans.  “Don’t focus on his snoring or you will never fall asleep.”  I tell myself.  How can I not focus on it, the entire car is vibrating.

At 5 AM, we are up and getting text messages from Tom’s potential buyer, Jeff.  Jeff is at the Super 8 in Springfield, and he is willing to buy us breakfast.  We accept.  

We meet Jeff and his friend Gary at “Jimmy’s Eggs.”  They have already started eating and Jeff motions over the waitress for our orders.  I go for eggs over easy, Tom tries a some sort of skillet.  

Jeff is clearly very excited about getting the Springer Classic.  However, in a cautionary tone he says to Tom, “I don’t trust very easily. I checked you out on the internet, and took a look at your website.”   I designed and built Tom’s website, and it is hard not to ask Jeff if he liked it. With effort, I keep quiet.

After breakfast Jeff takes a look at the bike and his eyes tell me that he has already bought it.  “I want to test drive it,” he says.  “We can go the the Bass Pro Shop parking lot,” Jeff says.  Apparently, Springfield, Missouri is the original home of Bass Pro, and has therefore been gifted their world’s largest store.  

A quick ride around the parking lot, and it is a done deal.  Tom generously offers Jeff some bonus items: several helmets, an all-weather Harley backpack, and a really cool Harley jacket.  Secretly, I’m wishing that I had dibs on the jacket.  My avarice passes as I see how excited Jeff is to get it.

Time to go home, time for more conversational questions, time for more protests and groans from Tom.  “Mikey, does it always have to be your way!”  I laugh, as does Tom, he knows that we go toe to toe when it comes to who is leading and deciding things.

On our way home we view derelict towns, a completely burnt out van, and the St. Louis skyline in early morning’s light. We decide to stop for food in Springfield, Illinois at the Cozy Dog.  The place is busy, and all of the tables are full.  A couple motions us to share their table, a conversation ensues.  I think to myself, “In less than 24 hours we ate in two different Springfields, and struck up conversations with two different groups of strangers.  What are the chances of that?”

We return the trailer to UHaul, and as we turn up my street Tom says, “Mikey, can you help me pull some carpeting out of a house that I’m working on tomorrow?”   Without hesitation I say, “Sure Tommy,” as I ready myself for this next adventure.

How lucky I’m am to have extraordinary people in my life.

How often do people go to any lengths to save dysfunctional or one-sided relationships?  They rejoice when given an occasional crumb of acknowledgement, a particle of peace, or a shred of acceptance.  

Today my goal is to be thankful of the people in my life who care about me, enjoy my company, and celebrate my odd and eccentric ways.  In return I happily do the same for them. Life is good.

The Harley ready for its final journey.
Jimmy’s Eggs, good eats in Springfield, Missouri.
World’s largest Bass Pro Shop and motorcycle test track.
A sad burnt out van on the side of the road.
The Arch, early morning.
The famous Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.
Getting Gas.