Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.
My friend Rachel Cupcake (designer of Sweetooth Couture and Cupcake and Cuddlebunny) lives in Cleveland. Since she was in town for the final blow-out weekend at Re/Dress, we negotiated a fatty friendly way of passing off the key and I was able to feed her cats for her.
This is from Rachel’s recent collection, I think of it fondly as a labia coat, but she calls it Candy Ribbons.
To Cleveland from Brooklyn via Interstate 80–through NYC, NJ, PA, and OH
I spent way longer packing than I intended and had breakfast with my friend and revelator Taylor Black. I didn’t get on the road until 5:30 and I met much Holland Tunnel traffic on the way out of town. It was 7 hours to Cleveland once I got through the tunnel, much of which was the desolate wilderness of Pennsylvania along Interstate 80. I love to stop at the Panera bread near Dover, NJ and used that as my first stop, stashing half of my sandwich for later in the journey.
I took this photo of the Alexis Bittar store while in traffic at the Holland Tunnel. Have you seen the Chloe video on Accessories?
I took turns surfing for pop stations looking for the new Rihanna song and listening to Just Kids by Patti Smith
on audio book.
I experimented with gas station rooibus tea (sub par), making a mental note to pick up a box of something good, and had a glorious moment during a dreary wet stretch of 80 around 11 PM.
A flashing road sign told me to tune to an AM station for road warnings and when I did it was playing a staticky version of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” the song I had been spending the first part of my trip surfing pop stations to locate. Suddenly there was a glow from the other side of the mountains―probably from a tiny town’s streetlights, but in the darkened wet road and at the beginning of this epic journey I took it as a sign of hope and joy ahead.
We found love in a hopeless place.
*SAFETY TIP* I needed to pee around 1 AM in Youngstown, Ohio. Everyone keeps telling me to “be safe” and one of those ways is not being on the road that late, but this was an exception. I rely on my instincts for safety and pulled off in what looked like a populated area. I found a new, brightly lit 24 hour dunkin donuts not far off the freeway where I knew I could pee safely. There was a woman working behind the counter and a man using their free wifi super late at night. I bought a decaf coffee and continued on. If I hadn’t found something close to the freeway and well-lit I would have continued until I did.
My directions had me take several small Ohio highways to Cleveland, I drove through a bunch of farmland and woods and popped on the brights scanning for deer. (I hit a deer once in New Jersey on the road home from work and am now super paranoid about it.)
I arrived around 3AM and met Rachel and Michele’s cats. Snacks the Kitten was a highlight, since he is pretty much an internet celebrity. Macy was very Snacks curious, but they didn’t really interact much.
To Chicago from Cleveland via Interstate 80–through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois
Because of my late night I decided to have a mellow morning. I also needed to revamp my ipod and download that Rihanna song from itunes. Rachel and Michele have a gorgeous house with incredible details. I loved that there is a xylophone in the dining room, a sewing machine and a copy of a bell hooks book on the table in the kitchen. I enjoyed a cup of coffee with truvia and almond milk (luxuries not found on the road).
I hit the road and got on the Ohio Turnpike. As a woman who does a lot of road tripping, I have a favorite rest stop system and Ohio’s is the best. They are like airport terminals, huge, clean bathrooms, well-lit all night long, and they usually have a sandwich shop. I got Einstein’s for lunch (turkey sandwich) and they all have good pet areas.
It costs $10 to cross Ohio and the bathroom facilities alone are fairly worth it.
I was delighted by Indiana–their rest stop had a huge selection of fresh fruit in to-go containers and I got some red grapes. Sometimes being on the road for long stretches your highlights involve pre-school snack options.
My Prius turned into a time machine and I turned back the clock an hour. I was heading to the Western side of Chicago to stay with my friends Suzanne and Jen.
They live in a beautiful house with hardwood floors and the entire second floor is their bedroom and private living area. It was super cozy and full of great photos of them from their youth. I know Suzanne and Jen from Michfest and I really enjoy the opportunity to see my worker pals outside of the woods. I think we get a better chance to connect than we do during the Festival when we’re constantly on the path heading someplace else.
We went to dinner at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. It was beyond delicious. We chatted about a lot of things, especially their upcoming trip to Tanzania. They are going over winter break to visit friends who are doing volunteer teaching work. (They’re bringing supplies and collecting donations for supplies if you have the ability to give $5 or $10.)
I was really touched by Jen’s story about how her parents reacted to her coming out. Jen’s folks don’t welcome Suzanne in their lives and their religious fundamentalism sees lesbianism as a choice. It was really sad to hear about that, harsh words from her parents’ pastor, and reminded me very clearly the need for the families we create. There is so much love we have for each other in our communities and it is so important that we hold each other in our hearts and homes. It is really a wonderful feeling to find family in our identities and our communities.
On the steps of the El train. It was mostly like I didn’t visit “Chicago” and just visited Suzanne and Jen–too hard to fit in anything else in a 10 hour stop. I learned that quickly on the pace I needed this road trip to take, that I had to make choices about where I actually lingered.
I have had to work to be queer and visible but it didn’t cause problems in my family or cause employment discrimination, but these are things that happen to queer folks every day. My family situation isn’t particularly easy, and I am actively doing work to heal it, but I am at least accepted for being my whole authentic self and haven’t encountered much homophobia from my extended family.
During the holiday season it can feel especially isolating to be excluded from our families of origin for lots of reasons–geography, family trauma, and belief systems that excommunicate queer kids.
Getting to visit Suzanne and Jen, experience their hospitality and love in their home, was so heartwarming. Not just as a wonderful love oasis on a solo road trip, but also as a reminder of how important family of choice is for queers.
Macy loved the visit and meeting Sylly, their old black and white cat who was very curious about Macy’s dog food. Rocket, the other cat, wanted nothing to do with Macy.
The next installment on the road trip is Longmont, CO! Stay tuned!
I’ve welcomed a new blog benefactor! Elisha Lim’s Sissy Calendar is available NOW and can still ship to you in time for the New Year. It’s really gorgeous and celebratory of femininity. It is also universal, so usable year after year. If you spend $30 in Elisha’s Etsy store (that’s a calendar and a couple of greeting cards, or two calendars) and mention “Bevin” in the notes section you get a free greeting card with your order!