Editor's Note

Lost Highway

"A road trip is a way to get to know someone–for good or ill."

By Catherine Matusow January 5, 2016 Published in the January 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock

It was 2008, and I’d spent the weekend in New Orleans with my boyfriend, M. The two of us were driving down I-10 in his used Nissan, back home to Houston, with me at the wheel, when I hit… Something. A piece of scrap metal, maybe. The tire instantly blew out, and I pulled the clunking car onto the shoulder.

Out came the jack; up went the car; down we squatted. As we set about to wrench the lug nuts off to free the tire, we saw that the car’s previous owner had substituted some sleek-looking metal fixtures for regular old nuts, and they were impossible to get off. We worked on them for half an hour before giving up.

Plan B. Back inside the car, feeling its frame shudder every time someone whizzed past us, I looked at my phone. Dead. M’s phone had one bar. One bar! Of course, we had no charger. Worse, I realized that as I’d driven mindlessly along, I hadn’t paid attention to passing towns. M had been sleeping. Where on I-10 were we, exactly?

There was nothing around: no signs, no markers, no gas stations or fast-food restaurants, no homes, just road and trees in both directions, as far as the eye could see. It was a Sunday in Louisiana—we were pretty sure of that, anyway—with only a couple of daylight hours left.

M’s phone held out through a call to AAA and a vague description of our whereabouts. The rep assured us that someone would be along to assist us. Then, it was time to wait. And wait. This was a moment of truth: would we make the best of things, playing Twenty Questions and trying to amuse each other, or would we sit in awkward silence, our spirits sagging?

Let’s just say, M didn’t want to play Twenty Questions. As hours passed and the sky darkened, there was nothing to do besides takes stock of the relationship. Why had M insisted we stay at a Super 8 instead of a cool hotel in the French Quarter? Why had he been silent at dinner? Why had we taken this trip again?

I thought back to the time my best friend and I took a road trip from NYC to Houston. We’d broken down 15 minutes into the journey, causing a hideous traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge and losing an entire day. But we never once succumbed to the incident. Instead, while the car was at the mechanic, we had surprisingly good Brooklyn-made margaritas and laughed it all off.

I was wishing I could text her when, finally, a Louisianan pulled up in a tow truck straight out of Duck Dynasty and saved the day, having trolled the highway until he finally found us. M and I would get home to Houston well past midnight and break up shortly thereafter.

All these years later, why am I sharing this story in an issue of Houstonia whose cover touts a great road trip for every weekend of the year? Because travel’s a great way to get to know someone, for good or ill; because a trip to NOLA calls for—nay, demands—splurging on a luxurious hotel room; and because we all need the occasional reminder to pack a spare, keep a charger handy, and dump the stiff.

We only get so many weekends per year. Let’s make them count!

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