Failure to Launch

We left DC in a rush, hurrying to beat the evening traffic out of the city. It was a businesslike, emotionless departure—the very frantic hustle we hoped we could escape over the next year. Habit. The previous three months preparing for this trip had been increasingly chaotic as we peeled and packed away the layers of our life. We planned for a four-day jaunt visiting our respective families in Pennsylvania. Madge The Van had been meticulously packed and prepared for departure.


Leaving DC, we stopped quickly to drop off a few remaining belongings at our storage unit in Maryland—meaningless things like mops and hangers. Habit, too. Parking the van, the smell of oil was pungent and overwhelming. Angie had previously remarked how uptight and uniquely anxious I was over the final days of packing. She was right. I was anxiously and obsessively choreographing a flawless takeoff.


The smell of oil, however, was not a figment of my anxious imagination. 10W-30 had been sprayed up the back hatch, coating the rear window like butter in a pie pan. While Madge enthusiastically chugged to Reading then to State College, her oil leak was untenable and needed addressing. As I previously feared, the Subaru’s crankshaft was scored and our main seal repairs were unable to hold off the inevitable. It was the very scenario I had hoped to avoid: tangible evidence of the unpredictability of our journey, for all onlookers to see.


I admittedly sulked. For months I had pulled Angie along, coaxing her to endorse this adventure and to take a chance on this opportunity—but also to give up our idyllic life as a young couple in the city. I had asked for her trust in exchange for my leadership down this rabbit hole. Usually—perhaps to a fault—even-keeled and optimistic about uncertainty, I felt stressed and demoralized.


But she never wavered and never flinched. After a half-year of seeking assurances from me that we were doing the right thing, she responded indignantly and confidently to my questioning the same. She played a perfect yang, providing a much-needed reminder that the unknown was at the heart of this adventure. That we’re embarking on this trip to break ourselves of unhealthy habits learned while living in DC. 


We spent a week in State College as Madge received the necessary service. The week was relaxing and peaceful—reminiscent of a high school summer vacation at home. It was also a good buffer between the chaos of our departure from DC and the patience this trip demanded. It was a reminder to breathe.


The team at Andrewtech Automotive in Gaithersburg, Maryland—Subaru experts who had first serviced Madge’s powerplant—stepped up to the plate to quickly and frugally acquire and install a brand new short block Subaru 2.5 in Madge. By the following Saturday (only a week after our planned departure), we were on the road, leaving Central Pennsylvania’s beautiful oscillating mountains and valleys—and, hopefully, the habit of rigidly planning our path—behind.



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