"Your family won't mind you showing up with some interloper from the internet you just met?" I asked.
"My family will be delighted," he assured me.
I thought about my own family. They would not be delighted at all if I pulled such a stunt. Indeed, they weren't delighted about any part of this road trip or at least the scant details I'd chosen to share with them. My mother kept asking me how I knew this person and how I could be sure he wouldn't rape or murder me.
I was reasonably sure this wouldn't happen. While it was possible that he had faked his entire digital footprint right down to the Facebook photo albums, the blog that predates our association by years and a host of mutual Twitter pals who could vouch for having met him in the flesh, it seemed more likely that he was exactly as he billed himself when originally arguing his merits as a worthy co-pilot—"a soft-middled, hairy, neurotic, filthy-minded, funny, cynical romantic who's probably been on vacation once in his adult life."
Which is why I was so relieved to stumble out of the baggage claim area at the Denver airport to see a completely normal-looking guy bearing absolutely no resemblance to Ted Bundy tapping away on his iPhone and occasionally glancing towards the arrivals door. I took a deep breath and marched over to him. Here goes nothing, I thought.
It turns out that I had very little to worry about. In addition to not being a serial killer, my travel partner turned out to be one of the easiest people to talk to I've ever met. You can't help but get along with him, even when he deliberately tries to make that difficult.
"I thought it would be funny if you showed up and you were missing an eye and you'd just never mentioned that before. But you aren't. That's OK, too," he remarked as we made our way to the rental car desk.
"Aren't you also glad that I turned out not to be a man?"
He looked at me thoughtfully. "Well, we haven't conclusively established that fact yet."
And so began five days of driving, into which we crammed 2500 miles, one almost speeding ticket, countless pictures and a running stream of Twitter updates. Soon after departing Denver, we realized that if we didn't find a way to fill the silence in the car, the next week would seem interminable. So, we started talking. And we didn't stop. We didn't make it as far as the Nebraska border before we ran out of superficial topics (there are only so many observations on the variety and quantity of road kill encountered that one can make) and started to get personal.