"I am not going on this trip as some sort of half-baked internet blind date and I know you're not going on it to get into my pants."
Thus spoke my road trip companion in a last-minute attempt to calm my nerves over what I was increasingly realizing sounded like a hare-brained plan—spend a week driving across the country with a man I knew only through social media. To be fair, the nay-sayers, head-shakers and tongue-waggers had a point. Two young, single strangers embarking on a road trip across the country? Doesn't that just have Katherine Heigl or a bad slasher-film ending stamped all over it? And really, if we'd been meeting as the culmination of some grand e-passion, that would be easier to understand and explain. The truth was much more benign, at least initially.
Both writers, my travel partner (@jamesforeman) and I (@generationmeh) had been introduced to each other's work through a mutual acquaintance. We read each other's blogs; we started bantering on Twitter. He was in the habit of occasionally posting commentaries about his dating woes. I emailed him in response to one of these to voice my disagreement about his theory on communication differences between the sexes and we struck up a correspondence. He shared his novel in progress with me; despite having no knowledge of sci-fi, I liked the part about trolls. I told him about my plan to temporarily slip the shackles of my high-pressure job by taking a road trip across America.
A road trip had long been a dream of mine and I waxed poetic about standing in the middle of a Kansas wheat field, drinking cups of early morning diner coffee and nodding at camo-clad hunter types, letting Carhenge touch the kitschiest recesses of my soul. Suitably impressed, he told me I should invite him, probably assuming I wouldn't do it. I did, definitely assuming he wouldn't accept. He did. And just like that, the trip went from abstraction to done deal and the point at which either of us could graciously bail out seemed to have passed. It was a matter of pride, and neither he nor I were willing to be the one to admit that spending a week in a car with a complete stranger was, at best, the plot of an achingly tween indie romcom and at worst, a Dateline special in the making. Can A Twitter Romance Lead To Real-Life Love?
We agreed to meet in Denver (a city neither of us had ever visited), drive through Nebraska, visit his brother and sister-in-law in Missouri, see a friend of mine in North Carolina, celebrate Thanksgiving with his family in West Virginia and then end the trip in Pittsburgh.