In the spring of 2002, I graduated from college. Gone were the simple days of class, homework, hang out, repeat. I was off to the real world. I had found an internship working with the middle school program at a church in Austin, TX. My plan was to drive back to Colorado and spend a few weeks at home before heading south to the Greatest State Ever. But first I had to make it home which meant I was on the road again.
Mrs. S and I were roommates during our senior year and foolishly decided to pack up and drive home after graduation weekend. Clearly we were insane. After a weekend of non-stop grad events, parties and celebration with family, the last thing we needed was to be packing and cleaning our apartment and then driving 16 hours to Colorado. But there we were doing just that. Luckily we had some loyal friends who were willing to pitch in or we would never have made it.
I ended up having more stuff than I could fit in my car so Mrs. J offered to help me secure it on the roof. We sort of wrapped the two extra suitcases in a tarp and strapped the whole thing down on the roof with a few bungee cords. Mrs. J assured me she had seen her dad do this a thousand times and it would be fine. Famous last words. On our way out of town, about 20 minutes and 70 mph on the highway, I heard two loud thumps and watched in horror as my two suitcases bounced off the roof of my car and careened down the highway behind me while the blue tarp took flight above the road. In an act of utter mercy I'm sure, a couple behind me stopped to help. The husband retrieved the suitcases, which had miraculously not opened, and the wife assisted in finding space in my packed car. The miracle suitcases rode shotgun the rest of the trip!
Having some foresight into our exhaustion, Mrs. S and I opted to stop overnight in Bozeman, MT during our drive. When we woke up the next mid-May morning, it had snowed and the roads were blanketed with a thick layer of powder. Super conditions for driving on the highway. By the time we had made it to Wyoming, the snow was gone but the wind was sweeping across the open plains at warp speed, making it a challenge to stay in one lane on the highway. As the winds got even worse, we started to pass semi-trucks that had been turned over on the sides of the road. It was a little terrifying but we made it through safely.
While it certainly wasn't the last roadtrip of my life, in my mind it represents the end of college and the start of my real adult life.