Two weekends ago, Kaylen and I jumped into a rented crimson Nissan Altima, packed it with apples, turkey jerky, chocolate and beer, and headed east to the Grand Canyon. We drove through the night, stopping only to get in our daily quota of squats. (Our strict regimen of at least 60 squats per day ensures that our quads will have transformed handsomely into effeminately toned thunderthighs by the next swimsuit season.)
By the time we arrived at our hostel in Flagstaff, AZ, it was 3:30am and I was buzzing on Diet Dr. Pepper and Mike and Ike’s. My quads were burning and Pandora’s 90’s pop station was running out of hits… once you’ve listened to “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks a second time through you just know they’re grasping at straws.
Outside, it was freezing. Four straight months of obscenely beautiful, warm beach weather had not prepared me (shocker!) for ice puddles and neck-coldness. As instructed, I opened the door to the unlocked red passenger van parked out front of the hostel only to find, lying limp on the driver’s seat… a severed human hand.
Just kidding, it was only an envelope with my name scrawled on the front. Inside were two keys and a note with further instructions and the warmest of welcoming wishes from a certain Josh. Once we had dragged ourselves and our things upstairs into our private room – hostel luxury at its finest, let me tell you –
I turned the space heater on full blast and sank into the Aztec quilted queen as I watched Kaylen fuss around on the floor. She dumped the contents of her (always well-stocked) personal pharmacy out of her weary rucksack and began… well, I’ll be honest, I can’t say exactly what she was doing. I zoned out quickly to the soothing rattle of pills.
Approximately six hours later I awoke to the same sound, and, if it weren’t for the mug of half-drunk coffee sitting by Kaylen’s knee between the Xanax and the Melatonin, I might have assumed she had been crouching on the floor all night. I sat up and squinted at her, then at my phone: 9:36am. “How long have you been up?”
“Oh, hey. A couple hours, there’s breakfast downstairs. The coffee’s awful. I met this guy, Jake, who wants to hang out later. Also, I paid for the room and organized the car.”
“Jeez.” I began to feel guilty for having indulged in six hours of highly unproductive slumber, relatively speaking, but then remembered that I had driven eight hours straight the night before while she been snacking on seaweed and catching up on her Googling. “Well, okay!”
Jake, as I discovered over buttered toast and stale coffee, was a young, red-headed Canadian with a cane and an impish grin. He got busted smuggling some illegal substance or other into or out of some European country, got booted back home, and is now on said country’s official blacklist for temporary non-entry. I’m afraid I can’t say, in order to appease your assuredly bubbling curiosity, loyal reader, whether or not it was this particular incident that resulted in Jake’s current reliance on a cane… but I like to think it was.
A few other hostel guests soon joined us by the basket of Wonder Bread and bucket of Country Crock. By the appearance of the braless, thumb-ringed girls and the dredded, lost-looking guys, I could tell within seconds what kind of conversation was about to take shape… the kind that includes incessant name dropping of obscure, preferably impoverished countries, and phrases such as: “I don’t want to be tied down” or “I lived on a beach for two months and ate only raw kelp and braided the hair of mermaids.” I excused myself before the compulsory sharing of the impressive-yoga-pose-in-front-of-breathtaking-scenery photos and took my coffee upstairs.
Before heading to the Grand Canyon in order to take pictures of ourselves and to immediately post them with cleverly hashtagged captions on both Facebook and Instagram, Kaylen and I braved the cold and wandered around Flagstaff in search of ponchos.
Why ponchos? I guess you’ll have to wait for the second installment of our undeniably life-changing journey to find out. And to peak your curiosity further, I’ll add that the second installment will also contain at least two of these three things: 1.) A ten dollar denim, fur-lined jacket taken straight off of Heath Ledger’s burly, sexually repressed back, 2.) The getting of a multitude of kicks on historical Route 66, or 3.) more tales of horror and dismemberment from the red passenger van.