It had been something we had been planning for ages and we were finally getting around to it. My boyfriend (now husband), Trevor, purchased a ’95 Chevy G-20 van and with the help of his friend, gutted it and renovated it to be a road tripping machine! We playfully named her “The Blue Bubble”. We took her on a short run the year prior in 2012 to Key West, making a few stops along the way to places like the corny tourist trap “South of the Border” in the Carolinas, charming Savannah, GA, and historic St. Augustine, FL. Now we were ready for the trip of a lifetime! I had just graduated college and we had saved up enough money to take a 6-month road trip across the country (on a strict budget, that is). We had originally planned to be out there for a year, but long story short, we got rather antsy and kept on the move.
At the time, we had only really taken a road trip through the South from our Maryland residence, and had traveled no further north than New York City, and no further west than Austin, TX. I went to California when I was four, but when you don’t remember it, it doesn’t count. I use the same logic for when I’m drinking. Speaking of, during this journey, for the sake of staying in the budget, we cut out alcohol COMPLETELY for one whole year. It makes it even more surprising that we both lived in such tight quarters together and survived to tell the tale under such brutal conditions (I’m quite fond of drinking if you couldn’t guess). So this road trip was kind of a big deal for us! Well, let’s begin, shall we?
Friday, March 1st – Monday, March 4th, 2013
The journey of the “blue bubble” began, but we didn’t travel far on our first day. We stopped in Martinsburg, WV to visit friends and to check out their tattoo shop in town. As we waited for them to get off work, we did some wandering around town. During their “sh*tty” day at work, someone had severely clogged the toilet causing our friends much distress in repairs and also to the senses.
We crashed at their place for a night, but the two of us laid in bed wide awake. We had an older dog at home named Haley, who my parents were watching during our journey, and we were debating heading back home to bring her with us. Taking her with us would mean we might have to leave her in the van unattended at times, since she wasn’t a fan of hiking. We knew it would be unfair to bring her, and that she was quite comfortable with my parents who she’s spent ample amounts of time with, but we missed her terribly, and feared she wouldn’t live long enough to see us return.
The next day, we pushed our worries aside and headed southbound on I-81 through the land of a thousand caverns (aka: Virginia and Tennessee). I drove Trevor crazy throughout the entire trip as I made him stop at every state crossing so I could get a picture. This would be especially unnerving to him when there wasn’t one and I insisted on finding a substitute (you’ll see what I mean later on).
We debated exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, but then our power steering took a crap. At first we felt relieved since we found ourselves surrounded by auto repair shops in the town of Waynesboro, VA. It was almost comical how many there were to choose from. What wasn’t comical was being surrounded by all this potential help, only to realize it’s Saturday afternoon and we’re in the Bible Belt. We couldn’t get a repair, but we got an opinion from a shop owner who said we would likely need a new pump, but they wouldn’t be able to repair it until Monday.
We humped it down the road to Johnson City, TN where we decided to park out front of the Sear’s Auto Center in a shopping mall parking lot. They worked Sundays, so we hoped to score an appointment as soon as they opened.
We woke up to the van covered in snow, but it started to melt as the sun rose. We had a lot of time to kill and we would soon feel like we were going mad. There was a slight bonus in all this moseying. We were given a lot of freebies! The first was at the Mall of Johnson City where we passed the time window shopping. A girl who worked for Jimmy John’s was passing out free sandwiches, which briefly brightened up our day. We would later receive free bananas at a nearby hotel where I had a birthday card mailed from, another freebie would be at the Bonefish Grill since I happened to be carrying a gift card for there from one of my previous employers (Thanks Deb for the apps)! Yet another would be at the Starbucks when one of the baristas messed up an order. We had been hunkering down there sucking up their free WiFi and he tossed the rejected drinks our way. Although we hated being stuck there, Johnson City was full of super friendly locals.
Once Sear’s opened, we checked in with them to see if it was possible to get the van repaired. They said we would have to wait until the next morning. We were bummed. We mentioned that there was an issue with the power steering and if it would be okay to remain parked in the lot right in front of their garage so it would be an easy push in. They said it wouldn’t be a problem.
We woke up to someone beating on our windows at 2 in the morning. A really rude security guard awaited us outside and told us we had to move. We explained our situation and he was a complete boner about it who had no sympathy. He’s apparently really bad at his job too since it was the second night we slept there. Trevor struggled to steer the van across the street to another auto center. We were tired and irritated. As soon as the auto shop opened, we asked if they would help us out. They had two morning appointments before us, but decided they would squeeze us in at 7:30 am. We were thrilled!
At this point in time we practically felt like we lived at the Johnson City Starbucks. While wandering around the day before, I noticed a yoga studio that did free classes to new participants (another freebie)! We got our yoga on, chatted with a few kind seniors who were asking about our journey, and I realized we had a missed call from the auto shop. We expected the worse when there was no answer, and headed back over.
Five-hundred dollars later (Ouch! Thank goodness for all those freebies!), we were able to get back on the road by noon, then booked it for Asheville, NC, the land of hipsters and old hippies turned into yuppies!
Jump Ahead to Part 02: Old Hippies, Liquid Crack & Running with Poo
2 thoughts on “Pt 01 – The Blue Bubble, Freebies & A Rude Awakening”
Johnson City seems like a great destination. What are your highlights from there?
Since we were stranded there, we only really wandered around the shopping mall and the chain restaurants nearby. However, I do know there are a couple breweries there and the Appalachian Trail is nearby if you’re into hiking. Unfortunately, we were dying to get away from there after getting stuck, so we didn’t get to see much of it. 😂