Departure Day: And we’re (slowly but surely) off!

By Tommy Sullivan

When I started writing this blog post, it was Mother’s Day, and I was at home in Louisville, KY. My, how things have changed. It’s now five days later, and I’m in Berkeley at a Phi Gamma Delta chapter house. There’s too much to catch you all up on. I’ve actually tried to write and re-write this post about five times to update you all on how we are doing. It seems that a new crisis comes before we have time to fully process the previous one. Our planning and preparation feel almost pointless, because nearly nothing has gone as expected.

Alex replaces his tire at Logan's house before we leave Louisville.

Before we started, I had gone through the phases of terror, worry, even helplessness as this massive project loomed over me and my friends. With those fears also came moments of glee and anticipation, too. By Sunday, I was simply ready to hit the road. Adam Moore, our other driver, said it best: “I’m sick and tired of talking about the ride. I’m ready to do it.” While we were not fully prepared, I am at least happy we are here.

I slept in my own bed on Sunday night for the first time in what felt like years. As comfortable as I was, I still shot out of bed at 5:45 -- before my alarm went off -- to head to Logan’s house. While many miles stood between me and my next sleep in Louisville, I knew even more memories, experiences, and conversations were waiting. Here’s a glimpse at a draft I wrote on Monday morning. You will see the irony soon enough: “We didn’t get to start as early as we wanted to because of some issues with the trailer. This is our first setback during the ride, and I seriously doubt it will be the last. Though we’re leaving 30 hours later than originally planned, we still have plenty of time to get to California.”

We had electrical issues with the trailer and the truck, so we were unable to leave on Sunday afternoon. So, the next step was to leave Monday morning after an early appointment. While the truck was getting fixed, we cleaned up the trailer and loaded it with our food, personal items, and bikes. (Big thanks to David Aroh for all the help with the lockers and racks!) We ran a few other errands and spent the morning preparing. After some bad help originally, we finally (mostly) fixed the trailer and left after dinner. Twenty-four hours of non-stop driving later, I watched the trailer’s hazard lights come on as Conrad pulled it onto the shoulder of I-80. The truck was dead.

The team makes a stop in Nebraska before entering Wyoming.

The team makes a stop in Nebraska before entering Wyoming.

After getting towed to Rock Springs (the nearest town, 50 miles away), we spent the night at a hotel and got up for another early appointment. (Thank you to my parents for the hotel room!) I wrote part of this post in Wyoming Wash and Lube on Wednesday morning, waiting on an oil change for my car with Jonathan. Logan and Conrad were waiting to see what was wrong with our truck, which turned out to be problems with the alternator.

Conrad explores the house of the Delta Xi chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at UC Berkeley.

Conrad explores the house of the Delta Xi chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at UC Berkeley.

From there, we drove for an entire afternoon and night. We were exhausted and less than 10 minutes from our destination at 3:30am Thursday morning when the truck got a flat tire. We had come so close to Berkeley but were then impossibly far away. Most of the team didn’t get to sleep until noon. It feels like crisis has become a way of life for us.

I’m impressed by our group’s optimism and dedication to the cause. No matter how demoralizing and infuriating the car ride got, we continued to smile, laugh, and joke. A few of us have snapped at each other, but understanding and compassion have by far outweighed enmity. Cramped in the car and sleep deprived, I found myself cranky at times, but being in Berkeley now makes it all worth it. The steady flow of donations coming in our website continues to give me strength and encouragement. Plus, had the truck not gotten a flat tire, we would have never known our spare was also flat. Had we not broken down in Wyoming, we would have faced a snow storm in Utah. I’m thankful for these blessings.

We got this quick picture in before fueling up in Utah.

We got this quick picture in before fueling up in Utah.

I plan to type whenever I get the chance to keep you all updated as much as possible. Remember, comment on this post with questions about the trip, keep watching our Facebook page for updates, check our calendar to see where we are, and dedicate a day so we can ride for your loved one.