Vibing with Cat White
Road (and Time) Trippin’ in 2023
My nephew, Nathan, kicked off 2023 with his first solo road trip. He left Austin, TX January 15, driving to Aurora, Co. to visit his mom, who’s doing a stint as a travel nurse there.
I’m sad to say that, rather than being a cheerleader of Nay’s momentous rite of passage, I was a basket of nerves as he headed off into the early morning darkness for a 13+-hour drive. My mind was riddled with thoughts of Nay stranded on the side of the road with only a deranged, perverted killer willing to stop to “help”. Thanks, ID TV! I When I wasn't worrying about serial killers, I envisioned him swerving off of snow-covered mountain roads into a snowbank ... and being rescued by a deranged killer. Thanks, Misery!
I shared my fears on social media after Nay left, and friends far and wide reassured me with reminders of what a huge milestone this is for my nephew. Which brought up memories of MY first solo road trip. It was April 1995, I was 24 and had decided to drive from Elmira to southern California to visit family and explore becoming the Cali beach bunny I’d always envisioned myself.
At the time, I’d been bartending at Chuck Clark’s, a popular sports bar/dance club in downtown Elmira, and working with a local telemarketing group. However, I’d wanted to be a writer my whole life, and I was a pop culture junkie who’s aunt had recently moved to Agoura Hills, Ca., a suburb outside Los Angeles. I accepted her invitation to visit with the plan to get a job somehow related to entertainment and begin my climb to fame. Where better to break into the entertainment industry than Hollywood?, I thought.
Although my parents had been enthusiastic about and supportive of my solo road trip, some of our family’s friends were more apprehensive about a young woman traveling cross-country alone. Their misgivings were slightly appeased when I was able to borrow a car phone with a bag battery from a friend. Remember, it was 1995. Cell phones were just becoming financially accessible to the average American.
Photo from Google. Car cell phones, circa 1990s.
Excited to taste freedom and adventure, the courage and naivety of youth buoyed my confidence. I remember being so eager to get out of dodge, shed my persona somewhere and reinvent myself where nobody knew my name, learn how to be responsible for myself, and make ALL of the road trip decisions (what music to listen to, when to stop, where to eat, spend the night, etc.).
Also, I was a young woman and, upon reflection, I was pretty hot. At the time, I was incredibly (foolishly) confident, having tended bar since age 19 at various Elmira establishments, including Chuck’s, Kingsbury’s and even the biker bar, Gush’s Thirsty Bear. If I’d watched Dateline back then, I may have had second thoughts. But, like most young adults, I thought I knew everything and, really, had no concept of how precious life is and how predatory and vicious humans can be to one another. It’s a jungle out here in the real world; not the sheltered one provided by family and friends.
Despite the unknown dangers, it was an incredible experience! I think I lived on V8 juice on the way out, to ensure I had enough money for hotels and gas. The carefree vibe of a road trip – heading out on the highway for an experience of new adventures is a heady feeling.
When I really thought about it – Why would I want to deprive Nathan of this universal “coming-of-age” moment? I mean, he’s 23 and has driven to other states before, albeit WITH passengers. What was I worried about?
Photo provided. My nephew Nathan , left, survived his first
solo road trip to visit his mom, Liz, and their dog, Sherlock.
While Mother Nature, evil predators and criminals, and the unpredictability of vehicular misfortune, are some of the reasons my heart was palpitating at the idea of Nay’s solo sojourn; in reality, it was the idea of the unimaginable happening.
My "way-back-when" road trip hadn’t all been “happy, happy - joy, joy”. On the way out, I was actually leaving Oklahoma City the day of the bombing. Saw a cavalcade of emergency vehicles speeding towards the city as I drove away, completely oblivious to the domestic terrorist event that had just taken place. I didn’t find out what happened until the batteries in my boom box had died and I had to switch to my car radio, which was, mostly, Texas talk radio. A frightening (and momentous) time to be alone.
Nay’s old enough and as prepared as I was when I traveled cross-country and figured out how to handle any problems that arose. He made it right before a big storm hit Colorado and has been having a blast with his Mom and dog, Sherlock, ever since. In addition to being mother and son, Liz and Nay are great friends who enjoy the same things – TikTok, Marvel movies and Impractical Jokers. They needed this time together. Seeing their happy faces and hearing about all the fun stuff they’re doing, including frolicking in that powder (Brrr!), makes the worry worth it.
Getting older, hopefully, means gaining wisdom. I’m learning that the only control one has is over oneself. A freeing, frightening, and yet, familiar, lesson for both of us.