Local,  Stories

“My Car Smells Like Onions”

Photography by Adam Lorona

Written by Ethan Froelich

I fidgeted in my Sutherland Auditorium, overflow seat, my mind absent. It had snuck out of the Torrey Conference sessions, and was wandering through beaches, mountains and majestic redwood trees. My mind finally re-entered my head, returning back into the last Torrey session of Wednesday, allowing me to quickly text my fellow travelers, “We’re almost done!”

Day 1

8:30 a.m. (Thursday — Downtown LA. Traffic.)

As always, the 5 is being stubborn. With cars stopped between us, and a sulking steel sky above us, we are stuck only a few miles away from our first highway to freedom, the 101 North. Our traffic delay has already spawned an Instagram account (#findthepoint), and inspired a budding playlist

Now is also as good a time as any to introduce you to us — the crew. I, Ethan Froelich, am now sitting at the wheel of the red Honda Fit. A perpetual impersonator of all things, I sit up front with the constantly cleaning and always smiling Adam Lorona, a fellow Biola senior and current deejay of the car. Adam smiles sneakily as Britney, Ke$ha and Katy are playing from his iPhone. In the back seat are Biola juniors Alyssa “#Hashtag” Alvarez, and Cassie “Laughs-when-she-gets-hurt“ Acosta, singing along. Lastly, hawk-eyed, mind-reading senior and Point editor-in-chief Patti Diaz sits scrunched in the middle of the back seats. But enough with the introductions, traffic just started moving.

Our plan seemed daunting. Five Biolans, packed in one car, with three days to traverse 900 miles. Leaving on Thursday at 8 a.m. from the Horton Hall parking lot, we began our trip by skirting the edge of California’s coast via the 1 and 101 freeways. We then camped in Big Sur, six hours north, for the first night in campsite 81 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Day two found us hitting the northern most point of our journey at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, then heading back down to Pfeiffer, camping in campsite 66. In our descent on day three, our car traveled down highway 1, stopping at Morro Bay, then continuing via the 41 North, to the 46 East. The 46 joined the 5, and south we went, back through the Central Valley of California. After the ups and downs of the Grapevine, we arrived back where we started in the LA basin.

9:30 p.m. (Thursday — Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, campsite 81).

We have made it, at least so far. After stopping at exit 90 on the 101 and stumbling onto our own private beach, we then traveled an hour further, stopping to carve “The Point” in the sand of a beach overlooked by some bluffs, ending the day in a great mood. After just having eaten a dinner of beef hot dogs using our ghetto, metal coat hangers, and roasting s’mores over our fire, we are ready for some good, solid sleep (#roughin’it).

Day 2

3:14 a.m. (Friday — Pfeiffer, campsite 81).

Freaking raccoons, freaking neighbors. Lights are in my eyes from the pot-smokers one camp over from Olympia, Wash., who have just gotten the munchies and started cooking. On top of all this, five curious raccoons are in our camp going through our trash. This is the only time I wish there was a ranger close by.

I knew from experience that detours, obstacles and changes were inevitable on our trip and I knew from experience we would face them. I have broken down in the middle of the Vegas strip, lost all my car’s coolant on the Grapevine, gotten stuck in a blizzard for 9 hours, and ridden through the Mojave with a nearly swollen-shut throat from dehydration.

While our group experienced nothing major, there were a few minor issues. Along with the aforementioned 3:14 a.m. disturbances, our group forgot tent poles and drove an hour in the wrong direction (thank you iPhone Maps/me), and I committed the heinous crime of forgetting to keep the marshmallows in the cooler, making them melt together, yet we never fought. Adam and I put our sleeping bags down, sleeping on the outside of the tent. We made s’mores with strangely-shaped marshmallow blobs, and our detour barely fazed us. Problems tried to hitch a ride onto our trip, but they never had a chance; we drove off without them.

3:35 p.m. (Friday — Big Basin Redwoods State Park).

Coasting through redwood trees 100 times our age, listening to Bon Iver, we are in awe. With a hike planned in an hour through old-growth redwoods in the very first California state park ever established, Big Basin was worth the three-and-a-half hour drive north from our campsite in Big Sur. Even if the drive meant getting stuck in traffic with Jason Aldean playing along the way (#ihatecountrymusic).

Day 3

4:15 p.m. (Saturday — Hofbrau restaurant, Morro Bay).

Coffee is warming my hands against the chill of the wind, which sweeps up cool air created by the water that has traveled all the way from Alaska to reach this bay. On the outer, weathered wooden deck of the restaurant sits an older, heavy-set man with a green T-shirt and cargo shorts. With a slow-moving gait he sits back down with his wife of a similar age who is simply, and conservatively dressed with white, old-people shoes, barely dirtied.

A younger couple sits across from them. Having just sat down only minutes ago, it appears that their rationed time has run out. Chairs scrape the concrete sharply, as their North Face jackets swish and designer jeans unfold, cross-trainers starting their motion; they still have places to go. As the young pass the old, the young couple say, “We better get going, huh?” and, “Yeah, we don’t want to waste the day away.” With a slow turn of their heads to the brisk-pacing younger couple, the older couple exclaims, “Have fun, the days go by fast.”

9:30 p.m. (Saturday — Arco gas station, La Mirada, Calif.)

“My car smells like onions,” Adam had exclaimed last night, giving an accurate picture of our olfactory condition. Campfire smoke, sweat, B.O., and smells from the food we made, had all banded together, making a concerted effort to stay with us. “As much as I love you guys and had a great time and all, if I have to stay in this car for one more minute, I am going to go crazy,” Cassie exclaims from the cramped back seat.

Earlier, at the end of the second day of our trip, our neighbor from campsite 65 had said, “It is amazing that after all that traveling, you guys are still smiling at each other.” It was true. For only $61 a person, our road trip has been a huge success, not because we spent so little, notched up 901.3 miles on the odometer, or because we visited incredible landscapes.

We succeeded for the simple reason that after three days of close quarters, we hadn’t killed each other, but instead had become closer to each other. We are exhausted, but still smiling. And with that, I am going to take a much-needed shower.

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