Kyle wanted to continue the trip north on the Pacific Coast Highway, where gas prices started at $5.15 a gallon—in 2001. We eventually got off the road that caused me constant panic attacks, and then rolled into John Steinbeck’s home town. Nothing was open and the town was pretty deserted. We finally hit San Francisco, California, parking the van under the Days Inn in the Tenderloin. I checked into the hotel—Kyle rented a room in a hostel. Kyle and I would never share a hotel room together again.
My anxiety culminated in constant black-outs and panic attacks as Kyle continued north on the edge of America. When the van’s fuel ran low, we had to get off. Neither of us were paying more than $2.00 for a gallon of gas.
We stopped in Salinas, California, a mecca for me of sorts. John Steinbeck had grown up here, and his novels can still be read everywhere in the architecture, in the land, and the people. His writing inspired me to write. His political and social views shaped me into the man I am today. Sadly, the area around the John Steinbeck Center was crumbling, but a visit six years later revealed a bit of a preservation effort to the town. Still, in 2001 it was rainy, cold, and void of other life save the roar of busses stopping at the Greyhound Bus Station downtown to pick people up—never dropping them off.
Kyle and I drove around a few sleepy back-roads and then returned to the highway, arriving in San Francisco an hour-and-a-half later. We were both eager to dock for the night, but I’m not sure we had the same reason. I just wanted off CA Route 1 to clear myself of the anxiety the road had instilled in me. I’m pretty sure Kyle was looking forward to a night without me anchoring him inside.
We said our good-byes and agreed to meet up tomorrow, the last day we would see each other for an entire year.