St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel. He’s the guy you pray to to make sure you arrive at location B safe and sound, and that your journey from A to B is full of exactly what you want it to be full of. He’s the one to make sure you don’t get a flat tire or mugged or swept up in a chocolate smuggling ring. So when you’re driving 1900 miles across the country, you tend to have expectations about your trip:
1. The Mid-West will probably be boring.
2. New York will probably be interesting.
6. Gas will cost a fuck of a lot of money.
7. You will perpetually have a wedgie.
8. You will begin to have serious out-loud conversations with yourself because you’re the only human you come in regular contact with.
The silly thing about expectations, though, is that reality almost never matches up. Which, generally speaking, is why I have extremely low expectations about everyone and everything: that way, I’m constantly pleasantly surprised whenever someone exceeds the bare minimum. Yet vacations seldom, if ever, go as planned. And here’s why: because nothing memorable happens when your expectations are met exactly. And St. Christopher knows that.
1. The Midwest will probably be boring: Right, and also terribly wrong. I drove 540 miles the first day to visit Batman in her stomping grounds of Omaha. Omaha + Batman = amazing. There’s no denying that Omaha is itself a solid 6 on the scale of interesting, but anything with Batman suddenly becomes the most badass place around.
However, the 8.5 hours I spent driving before I made it to Batman were excruciating. I-80 through Nebraska is the interstate of pure, unadulterated boredom. It’s what I imagine Purgatory to be: a stretch of road that repeats itself, endlessly, while you try desperately to get past the corn fields to the north and the weird river bend slight-left turn to the south. I think I drove the same stretch of road for approximately 8 hours until God felt kind enough to spit me out at Omaha. That’s how similar the landscape looked.
On the other hand, Iowa is actually not boring at all. Iowa is the bustling center of the boondocks and there are beautiful, strange sights abounding. Instead of continuing to follow the I-80 of Doom, I took the Western Skies Scenic Byway. I drove 142 miles out of the way through rolling hills, amber waves of grain, tractors driving on the road and farmers who wave at you, a Dutch Windmill, towns the size of a nickel, and the first bank that Bonnie and Clyde robbed. That scenic byway was my favorite stretch of the drive: it was like driving towards the Emerald City with a u-haul trailer full of your most important books.
I arrived in Coralville, Iowa, just a short two miles away from Iowa City and the University of Iowa. I would’ve applied to the MFA program there, but since it has the best reputation in the country and mostly because of its super early deadline, I didn’t. What can I say, I’m a lazy bastard.
I decided to take my dog for a run not because I love running. I fucking hate running. But I love not being at altitude, because it makes me feel like a runner. Holy shit! I thought, while Atreyu galumphed in front of me, I could keep running forever! I went for a 2.6 mile jaunt, which is the longest I’ve consecutively run in my life. Again, I’m lazy. Also, back problems.
At the end of my run, I stopped at the Coralville Firefighters Memorial. I saw some benches and some rock walls that I could jump on as part of my workout. I recently discovered I can jump pretty high, so I planned on challenging myself. I did 20 on a lower level of the rock wall. After ten, I’d stop and do push-ups. I’ve kind of become a bro, and I’m okay with that. But then I decided to step my game up, and I went to the part of the wall where it got taller, slowly but surely.
“Okay,” I said to myself. Yes, I spoke out-loud. I was my only company, remember. “You can do this. Just take a deep breath and start shorter and work your way taller.” I did exactly that, and worked up to a height I hadn’t jumped before. “Breathe, you got this,” I took a deep breath, and jumped.
I half psyched myself out and I didn’t really jump, I just kind of hopped an inch and ran into the wall.
“Let’s try that again. Breathe. You can do this. Just tuck your knees up and focus. This isn’t that high. It’s going to be easy.” I nodded my head in agreement with myself, much like Smeagol and Gollum when deep in discussion.
Did my little pep talk work? Did I make the jump?
Fuck no, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this.
My left leg cleared easily. I didn’t tuck my right leg high enough, and it slammed into the rock wall. I felt a sort of dull thud on my shin, and figured I would have a bit of an injury. Eyes gazing down at my shin, I saw, for the first time in my life, what gushing blood looks like.
Little fountains of blood spurted from the wound, like a faulty water fountain in a dirty middle school building. Blood ran into my sock and shoe and onto the ground at the Firefighters Memorial.
My first thought was, Wow, that’s a lot of blood. Followed quickly by, COOL, I CAN SEE BONE!
I tend to react to injuries weirdly. I may faint if I bleed a lot, but before I do, I think it’s fascinating. I was really excited about this wound and instantly thought what a hilarious story it made. I am weird like that.
I pulled off my shirt and tied it around my leg to staunch the bleeding, and I began to limp back to the hotel with Atreyu leading the way. I was a sight to see: black spandex shorts, black sports bra, LOTR tattoo, a big dog, and a red t-shirt tied around my calf. I limped through a cemetery and on the sidewalk past a lot of cars. I tried not to laugh to myself, but mostly, I tried to convince myself that a band-aid would solve my problem.
I was wrong, of course. I had to go get five stitches at an Urgent Care in Iowa City. I nearly fainted when she numbed the spot and asked me if I could feel it as she poked the bone with a needle. It was probably dumb of me to look at her while she did that, but since I couldn’t feel whatever she was asking about, I had to see it. Curiosity kills, and all that.
Needles to say (see what I did there?), the rest of the trip was nearly tainted into obscurity by my awesome injury. Nothing could overshadow the hilarity of a serious injury in a random small town that will leave me with a serious scar. The sights I wanted to see followed, hunched over, in the shadow of my wound. My expectations were for Iowa to be boring, and St. Christopher said Fuck That Shit and decided to make Iowa the most interesting place I stopped.
St. Christopher seems like my kind of guy.