Alex and I were on the road for nine days before we had our first big meltdown.
We were drunk in an Austin, Texas theatre, waiting for Amy Schumer to take the stage and sitting in the wrong seats.
It was this last fact that somehow led to a loud and probably annoying argument between the two of us, which carried us out into the hot Texas night and the entire walk home to our seedy motel under the freeway.
I don't remember what exactly all the yelling was about, but I knew it was inevitable.
Our road trip to that point had taken us through Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and more, and even down to straddle the Mexican border where there were no other cars for kilometres.
We had driven through mountains and snowstorms, deserts and rolling hills; toured Hollywood on foot and almost baked alive on endless concrete freeways.
We also drove through Idaho.
By the time we rolled into Austin, the car sounded like it had just driven an indirect 50 hours from Saskatchewan to Texas, because it had.
Maybe it was the stress of an impending breakdown or just too much time spent in a car together, but that night we both let it all out — first in the endless bars and delirious drink specials of 6th Street, Austin, then on each other.
I first met Alex when I was an intern at the Prince Albert Daily Herald, and he a reporter. When I went back to school we stayed in contact, eventually planning the insanity that became this road trip over a couple of months.
When it was all over we kept in touch for a while, but eventually I lost his number. When he texted me the other day it was the first time I'd heard from him in months.
He's doing well; about to take on a new job and seemingly hasn't changed one bit.
I was glad to hear from him.
It got me thinking about the two weeks we spent in his Toyota, tracing a big, sloppy circle around the entire continent.
We travelled 8,000 kilometres in 16 days — 90 hours of driving, 19 states visited and more watery American beers downed and cigarettes smoked than even I care to admit.
We had long conversations about work and about life, we argued and challenged each other, and at times things were tense with annoyance and grinding teeth.
But every single day was full of new experiences and the sense that absolutely anything in the entire world was possible.
I learned a lot in those two weeks.
When you truly become an adult and you have to work every day, it's easy to fall into a routine. It's easy to lose track of old friends, to worry and stress, to forget how astoundingly big this life actually is.
But it's important to be reminded every now and again, as I was by a much-needed text from an old friend.
We survived that late-night Austin blowup, and the next day had a mechanic named Mark look at Alex's car.
We found him by Googling "honest mechanic in Austin." His shop was literally called "An Honest Mechanic" and he only worked on Toyotas.
Mark came as advertised. For a minor fee he gave us a full checkup, rotated the tires, replaced all the lights and the air filter, and walked us through the whole process when he was done.
Before we left, Mark's buddy who runs a nearby decal shop asked us if the car had a name, before disappearing for 10 minutes and coming back with one of his own.
He slapped a sticker that said "Ol Reliable" on the back of the car, and I remember thinking that nothing could have been more fitting.
Sometimes you get the sense that everything is going to be all right if you just let it.
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