As I begin to finalise my plans for the ultimate US road trip this Summer I’ve been thinking about all of the different possibilities. I constantly ponder what I might see, who I might meet, what I might learn and of course what might go wrong. There are so many variables; you’ve got potential mechanical problems, breakdowns (mechanical and mental), finding places to sleep, staying warm/cool, abiding by the road rules and most importantly staying awake. It’s the latter that I am most concerned with, what if I fall asleep on the road?
This past summer I became the designated driver for all of the trips I took with my friends. I drove on all sorts of different roads in a number of different states. For the most part I was a great choice of driver; I’m cautious on the roads, don’t drink so never drunk or hungover and I have a fire playlist at all times which is backed up by my near professional level vocals. There was one particular drive however that made me doubt my abilities as a safe road tripper.
We all decided partway through the summer that it would be a great idea to go and see Niagara Falls. For anyone considering this trip from the US, make sure you go over to the Canadian side because it is 100x better. Niagara was only about a 5 hour drive for us, but we figured we would break it up a bit as we had to leave quite late at night. We organised to take two cars and stay overnight in a ski resort turned summer Airbnb in Swain, New York.
We were originally supposed to get on the road right around 10PM for a 1AM arrival into Swain. The plan began to fall apart as I waited in the carpark well past 11PM for everybody to be ready. From memory it was pushing midnight once we had the cars loaded and seats assigned. I’d be driving the truck with Theresa, Kloei and Steph – a crew that is very hard to beat might I add. Myself and the other driver Austin sorted out directions on our phones and set out into the night.
I’d driven this particular stretch of the New York highway several times already, but for some reason all of the signs and exits seemed a little further apart. The headlights coming in the opposite direction streaked a little more than usual and all of my favourite songs didn’t sound as good as I remembered them. As per usual, me and Theresa belted out all of our favourite Ed Sheeran tunes while the girls in the back rolled their eyes as they tried to get into semi-comfortable sleeping positions. It was during this first hour that Theresa told me that her mother always got mad at her for falling asleep on car rides. She then proceeded to assure me that it wouldn’t happen on this one, I stupidly took her word for it.
We made a pitstop at a diner off the highway just after 1AM, the food was terrible but also I hadn’t really brought enough cash for a decent tip so I would like to apologise to that waitress. In hindsight, I should’ve got a coffee at the diner despite American coffee being trash. However, Austin assured me that we weren’t too much further and I was dreaming of the perfect night’s sleep in the king size bed that Theresa and I had already claimed. I decided to forego the coffee and stick out the rest of the drive without a caffeine boost, hopefully my terrible omelette would get me through.
As we pulled back onto the highway, my eyelids were heavier than the workload Lebron James has had to shoulder since returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I persevered, wearily following Austin’s taillights into the night, passing signs for vacant motels that were becoming ever more tempting. A standard period of road trip silence had set in but I knew I needed to break it; I needed to break it like the promise Theresa made me about not falling asleep, because as I turned to ask about her deepest and darkest secrets I couldn’t help but notice she was lights out. It was at this moment that I knew I had some serious decisions to make. Do I pull into a motel and admit defeat? Do I wake Theresa up and deal with the wrath of a young woman awoken from her slumber? Do I fall asleep at the wheel and let fate decide? (Please note that I only considered that last option very briefly)
I knew that there was only person who could save me in this situation, Lorde. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am quite a big (huge) Lorde fan. I figured what better way to get me through this last little bit of the journey than to vibe out to my favourite artist of all time. It didn’t take me long to realise that part of the reason I like Lorde’s music is because it’s quite mellow and relaxing; the exact opposite of what I needed in this situation. I pulled over and reassessed the music situation, coming upon a playlist I made in 2012 during my obsession with rap. It had everything from Eminem to Horrorshow in it and I knew that keeping up with some of the great MC’s would keep me alert enough to make it to our destination.
These memories aren’t exactly super clear due to my state of tiredness at the time, but I can guarantee you that I ran through all of those lyrics without skipping a beat. I was going line for line with Eminem, harmonising with Drake and I swear I was blowing Busta Rhymes out of the water on ‘Look At Me Now’. I’m not actually sure how the girls didn’t wake up during ‘Not Afraid”, maybe they did and just wanted to sit in silence and witness one of my greatest ever live performances. Whatever the case, we made it to our accomodation around 3AM, where the bed Theresa and I had expressed our desire for was immediately snatched by Cam and Alysha who we have still not forgiven.
I haven’t ever really told the girls how close we came to being in a very bad situation that night. I’d like to think that I never would’ve really let it get to dangerous levels, but looking back I think by the end we were well past that. There was a time where I thought rap music might be my career, but I never thought it could potentially have saved my life.
As I prepare to get back on the road I use memories like this to ensure I have adequate supplies, rest and of course passengers. Hopefully having a bed in the back of my van will make it significantly easier to get some sleep if I find myself getting tired whilst driving. But if not, I’ve always got my 2012 rap playlist to save the day!