Hog Back Mountain: The summer day we (temporarily) ran away

Two Augusts ago, my boyfriend Colin and I had a nervous hum in the pits of our stomachs about college. Would we stay together through the long distance? Would we even stay friends? What would it be like?

We avoided asking these questions best we could. We watched The Lord of the Rings and Wilfred. We savored every moment without talking about our nerves. We drove in circles around our town, like a bug stuck inside a jar, until one day we escaped.

We woke up early (for two jobless teenagers in the summer): eight A.M. We filled up his car with gas and good CDs. We bought Sour Patch Kids, beef jerky, Pringles, and skittles. We took off.

West.

Spending hours in a car together was nothing new, but usually we stuck to backroads. That day, we hit the highway with a mission to get as far west as possible by 3 p.m., for no other reason than us wanting to.

We ran through two CDs twice before trying the radio and realizing that all of the stations were different. The further west we went, the less people crowded the road, the greener the trees became, the easier we could breathe. We had a vague goal to reach New York, though we weren’t going in the exact right direction.

I had to go home for some reason…my mom called me and reminded me that I had a family dinner or something that night. Well, we decided to keep going for awhile before turning around. We were approaching Vermont, if we turned right, so we turned right. We made it to a Vermont visitor center. We took a picture with a cardboard cow, breathed in the overcast sky, and hopped back in his little car to drive home.

It wasn’t New York, but it was still good, we decided. We joked and laughed and sang to the radio, hiding the irony that we had just driven to Vermont a week before Colin moved there.

We found a small hidden road that followed some power lines. It was gorgeous, the unpaved dirt road curving through the trees. I took a picture, bumpy and fuzzed.

You can see this picture on this site, as the cover photo behind the blog’s title. It’s also the featured image for this post, in which you can see the car’s dashboard.

Driving along that small dirt road over the border of Vermont was a pure, untouchable moment laced with romance and nostalgia of the summer we had just finished living…but then it got better.

I didn’t have my glasses on, and when the street sign came up I tried to read it so we could come back one day.

“Does…” I blinked, squinted. “Does that say ‘Ho Bag Mountain?’”

Colin burst out laughing.

“Hog Back Mountain!” he exclaimed.

We had just stifled our laughter when we passed a gorgeous sign surrounded by decorative stones and pretty flowers, proudly declaring “Hog Back Mountain.” We lost it again.

We were about two hours from home when the rain began, and god, it was torrential. It was so bad that we actually had to pull over because he couldn’t see well enough to drive. The windshield wipers were all but useless. As we sat in the breakdown lane, waiting for it to pass, I got a weather alert on my phone of an extreme storm condition. I left the alert in my notifications for weeks after, and would look at it when I missed summer.

“Extreme storm condit…46 days ago.” The little notification was like a keepsake. It disappeared after ninety days.

We eventually got home, but not in time to my dinner. Of course, I had no excuse as to why I was late. We were driving, from Vermont. Why were we in Vermont? Literally no reason.

I began thinking of this story today and wondered if I’m already too old for these little rebellions. Have I changed so much in just two years that I wouldn’t do this again? Has driving into Boston traffic every day ruined my love for an empty highway and open windows?

The truth is, no. I would definitely do this trip again—in fact, Colin and I likely will do something like this very soon, maybe actually making it to New York this time. I think the difference, besides both of us having far less free time, is that back then we were both fighting hard to make memories with each other, out of fear that college would tear us apart.

We drove to Vermont with excitement tinged with fear, we staged our day-long runaway like a trial run. There were times all summer, but especially on that trip when we wanted to run away for good, to not turn back halfway through the day and go back  to the scripted life of approaching college, but instead to keep driving west until we hit the Pacific and start…something.

But we didn’t.

I don’t know if a repeat day long road trip would be better or worse. I think it would still be a lot of fun, but would it miss something without the underlying desire to keep going? Was our fear of losing each other and our desperate attempts to make memories what made that summer so memorable?

Did my desire to run spring purely from teenage hormones or would it still pull me on, make me misty-eyed when we turn back home?

Or, alternately, would a fearless adventure without the nervous twitches, without the stress of making it memorable or the desire to run away, actually be much better?

A few things haven’t changed, naturally. Of course, Colin and I still close, even closer. And we’re still trying to break free of our hometown’s web, trying to avoid being sucked down a drain of parental dependency and resume gaps. We still drive in circles around the backroads, we still watch epic sagas on his television, we still do projects together, we still reference Breaking Bad when cooking dinner and sing loudly to the two CDs we play on repeat in his same car.

And, we still both harbor a nervous excitement for whatever the future may hold. Perhaps though, since our Ho Bag Mountain days, we have a bit more confidence, a bit more stability.

Then again, perhaps not.

5 best quotes for introverts who feel bad that they just had to escape

Hey, every introvert has been there. An overwhelming party, parents asking too many questions, stressful assignments piling up…sometimes, an introvert just needs to escape and be alone. I tend to find a locked room and just sit in silence awhile, enjoying the quiet darkness. Others like plugging into music or getting sucked into a book or movie. Some knit, or play an instrument, or ride a bike for awhile. Whatever your escape, here are five quotes to assure you that escaping now and then is totally okay.

  1. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation-when you’re in the darkest of darkness- that’s when your priorities are reordered. ~Phoebe Snow

There are some positives to stress. Many people work better with a looming deadline. However, when it becomes overwhelming, we reorder our priorities by escaping; by taking a few minutes to recharge, we are putting ourselves and our sanity at the top of our priorities list. Sometimes remembering to put ourselves first helps us handle everything else on our plate.

  1. I don’t think we realize just how fast we go until you stop for a minute and realize just how loud and how hectic your life is, and how easily distracted you can get. ~Meg Ryan

Extroverts and introverts alike can benefit from taking a few minutes to breathe. It’s helpful to remember that everyone, not just you, has a limit.

  1. The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude. ~Aldous Huxley

There are lots of very smart, very successful introverts. Our love of solitude helps us stay focused on personal projects and achieve more when alone than extroverts, who work best in groups. While I would hesitate to say that either introverts or extroverts are better than the other, it is nice to remember than introversion is not a fault, and can be a trait of a powerful and original mind.

  1. I can only really and truly fully relax on my own. Give me a sun lounger, a pool and a sea view, and I’m happy. ~Miranda Hart

Again, you’re not alone. It’s hard to keep up appearances, to be “on” for long periods of time. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be happiest and most relaxed when alone.

  1. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it ~Michael J. Fox

Most of all, fellow introverts, I want you to accept yourself for who you are. Needing to leave a party for a few minutes (or not going at all) is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not antisocial: you’re an introvert, and you’re not alone for wanting to be alone.

A to E: Escape

James McClane was unaware he had an accent until the admissions lady guessed his home state over the phone. This new information surprised him, but he was able to regain focus quickly when she started talking about financial aid.

“That’s perfect,” he said, dividing the numbers into months. He would be able to make up the difference somehow. He was proud of himself now too, not just his son. “Michael will be ecstatic. He’ll be the first in the family, you know.”

As his father spoke on the phone Michael McClane was laying on the top of his pickup about a mile down the road, chewing on a twig he plucked off a stalk of barley. He breathed clear air at the sky and imagined smoke pooling from his lips to form the only cloud in the sky.

“Can’t we sneak one?” he asked the sky.

“No,” was the answer, not from the sky but from the young girl hunting around the glove compartment for her sunglasses. “It’s a nasty habit.”

“Since when?”

“Since I got caught,” she replied, slipping on her sunglasses. She had hair the color of charcoal that barely hit the tops of her ears. She hoisted herself up on the hood of the car, using the front tire as a step stool. “And I’m not letting your smoky kisses get me in trouble.”

Michael kissed her once then looked back up at the sky. She tasted like sweat. She watched him from behind her mirrored glasses for awhile, but then looked at the sky too.

“I’m gonna smoke in college,” he told her. He closed his lips, and his eyes.

“As long as you don’t when I visit you, that’s fine. If I can visit you,” she added.

Michael turned to face her. Her glasses reflected his eyes, his amber beard, his lips that twitched but didn’t open.

The sound of a truck. Clunk, hiss, clunk. His dad’s truck, they both recognized it. Michael crushed the end of the barley twig into the car before remembering it didn’t have to be snuffed.

“Wanna get the lunch?” he asked, and she slid off the hood to get their sandwiches safe in paper bags. His father didn’t understand doing things for no reason. Lunch was at least a reason. They were unwrapping the sandwiches when Michael’s father pulled in behind their truck.

“Hey, Michael. Susie Q., how’s your dad doing?” James asked from his window.

“He’s well,” she said, hooking her elbows around her knees. “Been better.”

James pulled his head back into the truck and cut the engine.

“Even asking about my dad, he calls me Susie Q.,” she muttered.

Michael shrugged. He liked the nickname. He only stopped calling her Susie Q. when she shaved her head and demanded Sue Anne. He missed Susie Q.

“Michael,” James said, running to him on the dirt road dusted in barley. “Listen, I called the New York university.”

“What did they say?” Michael asked.

James paused, memorizing the picture of his blue-jeans son sitting on a rusted truck in a field of barley with his rock-a-billy girlfriend, wondering how Michael would look in a suit.

“You can go. We can afford to send you.”

Michael leapt to the ground and embraced his father so neither had to see the other cry. Sue Anne smiled, glad that her sunglasses hid her eyes, and cursed her injured, expensive father.

Michael hugged her next, which was a surprise. It had been awhile since he’d hugged her.

“You got your escape,” she whispered.