It’s Saturday morning, February 22, 2014 and I’m finally ready to go. Honestly, I didn’t even think I was going to be able to leave. That Thursday night, I had taken my daughters to their mother’s house after spending an incredible week with them. I had them for nearly a full week after making a deal with my ex-wife to trade some days so I could take this trip and we had the best time. We played and watched movies at the house. I had taken them to Monkey Joe’s that week and took them to dance class right before I dropped them off, which truly broke my heart. I knew I needed this trip, but knowing that I wouldn’t see them for a whole week was tearing me up. I thought maybe this was a selfish adventure, that I was only thinking about myself. But the more I thought about it, I knew this trip could help them as well as myself. I stayed as long as I could, getting as many hugs and kisses as I could before leaving them. Admittedly, I teared up the entire drive home. But, I knew I needed to get ready to go. However, when I arrived home, I went to grab my laundry so I could begin packing and I walked into a flood in my basement, at least an inch or two of water all the way around both sides of my basement. I knew right then that I wasn’t going anywhere. I spent the next few hours trying to suck up as much water as I could to no avail. Finally, at around 2 a.m. it was time to stop. That entire Friday was spent watching the professionals put in new equipment and extract all the water from the basement, which seemed to last forever, not a good thing when I’m paying them $125 per hour. But at long last, all the water was gone. Equipment was left to help dry the carpet and the walls and all that was left to do was wait. I still didn’t feel right about leaving, but with some heavy persuasion, I set out to leave on Saturday morning.
On a dreary Saturday morning at exactly 8:30, I finally pulled out of the driveway. The mileage on my car read 122677 and I’m heading to Denver. My original plan was to go to Kansas City that Friday night, and then to Denver, but with the basement fiasco, I decided to just drive to Denver in a day. Now, I knew this first part of my journey wouldn’t be overly exciting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting what the day would bring. It started just as I thought it would. It’s February in the Midwest, so it’s obviously cold and windy. There’s still a ton of snow on the ground as I hit I-74 going west. I’ve traveled these roads so many times before that I’m quite certain I could do it with my eyes closed, but I decide not to try. Soon enough, I find myself on I-80 West and I soon entered Iowa. I’ve driven through Iowa before, and if you’ve ever done it, then you know just how awful that is. A few miles into the state, I see a sign for “The World’s Largest Truckstop”. That’s how boring Iowa is. The only saving grace of that state was exactly 200 miles into my adventure, where I stopped in Brooklyn (one of my daughter’s names) just to have some sense of closeness with my girls, who I missed so much already. I passed through Des Moines around 12:45 that afternoon, the only decent-sized town I would go through in Iowa. Riveting, I know. But at least the sun had come out, so that made the drive a little more bearable. Now, the great thing about road trips sometimes is that you get a little reward when you leave a state to enter a new one. After hours of trekking through Iowa, what is the reward I receive? Nebraska.
For those who haven’t been through there, let me tell you that Nebraska is the worst. I’d spent a few days in Omaha back in 2001 and that trip didn’t end well. Omaha is right on the Nebraska-Iowa border and doesn’t even look pleasant driving in. Here’s how exciting Nebraska is. When you first enter the state, they have a sign that says “Nebraska….The Good Life. Home of Arbor Day.” That’s what they’re selling. The worst part is that to get to Denver, there is no short way to get through Nebraska. You basically have to go ALL the way across the state to get there. I knew I was going to be there for a while, so I just turned up the music and pretended to be somewhere else. The one positive thing was that on the interstate, they did have a 75 mph speed limit. Obviously, even the government wants you to get through Nebraska as quickly as possible. So I mosey along, actually making really good time, until around 7:00 p.m. I’m somewhere near North Platte, Nebraska and I know I’m only a few hours out of Denver, so I’m starting to get pretty excited. I have plans to meet up with an old friend and I should be able to check in by about 9 p.m. and meet up for drinks. Then, a few flakes. Then, a few more flakes. Then, a ton of flakes. It’s now to the point that I can’t see five feet in front of me, forcing me to take the next exit. Without getting into the details of all the yelling and fist pounding, this goes on for the next FIVE HOURS! At this point, I was really starting to question my decision to leave home at all. What I wanted out of this trip was to find some peace and some clarity and I was just pissed off. All I kept thinking to myself was that I had just gone looking for more trouble. All this from one snowstorm. And that was the problem right there. I took a snowstorm and turned it into the worst thing in the world. As aggravating, exhausting and frightening (seriously, people nearly ran me off the road on multiple occasions) as it was, it was only snow. And all of a sudden, it was clear.
I finally reached Denver a little after 1 a.m. and promptly got lost. If you’re not familiar with the downtown area, it can be a little tricky. The good part of it was that I saw a lot more of Denver that night than I had bargained for as I ended up making a loop around the heart of the city and saw quite a few of the landmarks and all of the stadiums. Finally, I checked into my hotel around 2 and was ready for some sleep. I knew I’d have to adjust my schedule a bit as I didn’t want to just go to sleep and leave in the morning, so I decided that I would stay there an extra day. So I made the necessary arrangements that needed to be made and readied myself for bed, ready to weather any storm that could come my way and eager to wake up and start again.
Lessons learned from day one: Just stay calm and stop overanalyzing everything. And stay away from Nebraska for the rest of eternity. No, seriously. It’s awful.