When my younger brother, Braxton, and I were driving to Louisville a few weeks ago, a song came through the stereo that triggered some serious nostalgia. Growing up, one of our favorite movies was Cars, and during Lightning McQueen’s road trip montage, a Rascal Flatts song carries him from one end of the country to the other. Perhaps at no other point in my life have the lyrics been more appropriate: “Life is a highway / I want to ride it all night long.”
This summer, I have been on the go. . .a lot. My dad was relocated from Alaska to Kentucky with work, and my brother and sister’s hockey and school years ended early in Pittsburgh. On top of it all, our house sold amidst all of the chaos, and we had to move in March. In my honors chemistry class a few years ago, we talked about entropy as the increasing degree of disorder and randomness in a system. If there was ever a tangible example of entropy in the world, it was the Whitehead family summer.
Here’s what happened:
Starting at Groton in March, Mom and I began traveling around New England to check out a few colleges. Then—in the midst of our trip—BOOM: coronavirus hit Boston. Universities started to shut down left and right, so we skedaddled—driving all the way to Pittsburgh the next day. We picked up the rest of the family, and then spent two more days in our 2015 Ford Expedition on the interstate to San Antonio. Our beautiful rig already had 160,000 miles to its name, and it ended the trip with quite a few more.
In rural SW Texas, we quarantined on our grandparents’ farm for about four weeks, and then we found out that our house in Alaska had sold. I flew north, went to virtual class at 5AM every morning, and helped pack up our home. Afterwards, we returned to Texas and piled into the Expedition again—this time, headed for Louisville.
We made it there in two days, house-hunted, and then retraced our steps to Pennsylvania. From there, I got on a plane to Boston, retrieved my belongings from campus, and flew back to Pittsburgh. On the last leg of the journey, my brother and I drove by ourselves. While the trip to Louisville was only 400 miles, we were jubilant when we reached our new house.
But, the madness isn’t over yet.
Today, I’m writing this blog post from seat 10A on a Southwest flight to Houston. From Houston, my sister, Berkeley, and I will take a plane to San Antonio—where I will drop her back off at the farm. Four days from now, I will be flying to New York, driving to Connecticut, and quarantining there for two weeks.
By the time school starts, I will have traveled well over fifteen thousand miles. If a fortune teller had prophesized that in January, I would have called them crazy.
2020 has been a trying year. From moving out of our house to escaping the coronavirus pandemic, expecting the unexpected has proven to be nearly impossible for the Whitehead clan, and yet as I reflect on the last few months, I feel lucky. My fifth form year was derailed, but with the flexibility of virtual classes, I was able to be with my family again. I got to assist with the move from my childhood home, and I had the chance to tell my Alaskan friends goodbye in person. Plus, I got to work on a congressional campaign, and because it—like everything else—went virtual, I took my job around the country with me. Most importantly, though, I reprised my role as an older brother, and I hung out with my grandparents a ton!
With every twist and turn, I became a better driver on the road of life, and while my summer did not turn out like I thought it was going to, I wouldn’t have traded my extra time behind the wheel for the world!