My friend Alba and I decided to go on a road trip through California, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. This was right after we graduated college, so we were definitely ready to unwind. We started off our trip with some gambling and partying in Vegas, living the high life. Fast forward a week and we are homeless, haven’t showered and are shaving our legs in the car. I’m getting a little ahead of myself though.
Part I: From Vegas, we drove to the Grand Canyon. Alba wanted to sleep so I drove. I didn’t know where to go. She told me to just put “Grand Canyon” into the GPS, but considering how large the canyon is, I thought this was a little too vague. We argued, and I ended up just listening to her.
Eight hours later she woke up bewildered and upset that we had driven way out of the way and ended up at the North Rim of the canyon and not the South. I was exhausted. I’d be driving non-stop until it was night. We were inside the park, but had no where to go and no where to sleep. Alba and I are usually always laughing together; this time we were arguing.
We finally agreed to check out the campgrounds. It was late at night, everyone was asleep and the grounds were pitch black. In the distance we could see one flickering light. We walked towards the light and found a family eating a late dinner by a small fire. We approached them, looking haggard, and asked them where we could go for the night. If you’re familiar with camping in the Grand Canyon, then you know that campground spots are sold out many months in advance. People often book where they’re going to stay a year in advance.
Showing up in the middle of the night when everything was closed and asking for a place to stay that night meant we had zero options. This was the desert, and it was deserted. I think the family knew how exhausted and desperate we were. By divine intervention, they told us to camp on their grounds and that they would make us dinner. It turns out they were planning this trip a long time ago, and when they went to book the campgrounds, only “group” spots were available. This means they had extra room for a tent just like ours. It was our lucky night.
Part II: Homelessness continued to be a theme of our trip when we drove back to California. As you can imagine, downtown LA is not an ideal place to be to set up camp, so we were left at the final hour wondering where we would sleep again. We didn’t have the finances to stay at a hotel and all the hostels were booked for the night. Ignoring our problems, we decided to hit the beach and then eat at a nice Italian restaurant. We were driving along the highway on our way to go eat, when I had a sudden epiphany or moment of intuitive insight. What if we just asked the car behind us if we could stay with them that night?
The traffic was at a slow point, and it was worth a try right? At that moment the car behind us moved next to us, and I took that as a sign to greenlight my plan. I rolled down the window and screamed over, “Hey can we stay at your place tonight? We have nowhere to go.”. He looked shocked. Well to be honest, my sight wasn’t good enough to see what the person looked like. I was hoping for the best. He seemed to hesitate. Traffic started moving again, but we just sat in the road, pissing people off. The guy shouted back his number and a “sure”, then we both drove off.
It took a moment for this all to sink in. Were we really going to stay with some stranger from the highway? We didn’t know if he was older or younger, married or single, a murderer or a churchgoer (not that those are mutually exclusive, but you know what I mean). We were elated from the rush of the idea. The idea of saving money and having another new adventure was too enticing. Deep down, I knew that I could trust my intuition. It had never led me astray before. And we had time before we had to make the decision. So we texted him for his address and a confirmation that we could in fact stay there, then drove off to the nice Italian restaurant.
We needed so spruce up before eating there to avoid looking as homeless as we actually were. Since we had nowhere to shower, we parked in a lot nearby and decided to do a quick French bath with every perfume we owned. We used some old water bottles and haphazardly shaved our legs. We stepped out of the car with fresh makeup and dresses, but our sticky bodies, beach dreds and bleeding legs were not fooling anyone.
As the evening drew on and we enjoyed our wine and pasta, we found ourselves in such a good mood. How could anything go wrong? The universe was clearly acting in our favor. Besides it was getting late now and the only other option was an expensive hotel room. Our wallets begged us not to go there. So we drove off to the address the guy had given us. It wasn’t until we were 5 minutes out that Alba brought up the very real idea that this was actually dangerous. I had felt fine up until that point, but the words “murder”, “rape” and “captive” made me nervous. I started to doubt the plan. We were 2 minutes out now, but we decided to pull over and really think. Was this a smart idea?
Of course it wasn’t. But if there is anything that happens when Alba and I get together it’s: 1. dumb ideas 2. lots of luck. We decided to ignore our instincts for self-preservation and march forward. Our only safety plan was that we would say the word “watermelon” if things got weird and we wanted out. I think maybe next time the only thing I would do differently is choose a safety word that would actually fit into a normal conversation.
We timidly knocked on the door. From the outside the house seemed nice, but it was night and everything seems scarier at night. The door swung open, with a guy our age standing behind it. We talked for a bit, both realizing that this was very weird. He told us that he wasn’t sure if he should have actually texted us back. He was nervous, thinking we could be crazies trying to rob him and his friends. We reassured him that we were also terrified- and not crazy of course.
As he let us in, we realized we had hit the jackpot. The house was beautiful, and it turns out, less than a minute walk to the beach. The guy took us into the garage, where beer pong tables were set up and people were partying. They told us a bunch of old high school friends (girls and boys) had a reunion every year before they went back to their ivy league universities, separating ways. They were all our age and very, very normal. It was a bit awkward explaining ourselves and our homelessness, but in the end we partied with them all night and made friends with everyone there. At the close of the night, they gave Alba and I a room to share and we giggled till we fell asleep. We never found the need to say watermelon.