Finding My Own True North in a World of No Direction

I think road trippin’ with girlfriends is underrated. In my experience, it’s the ideal time to laugh, sing, talk, and solve the world's problems with no intrusions. The scenery can be beautiful. I feel qualified to make these statements because I’ve had my share of road trips with my girlfriends!

Circumstances that Lead to My Great Road Trips

I would never consider myself “lost” even though I didn’t have much direction growing up. After high school, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. My mom wasn’t much help. She never graduated from high school herself so she didn’t have much knowledge or experience on how to direct me down a successful path. I knew that I would be the only one who could help me find my own true north. 

The 1986 Road Trip

After high school, I went to a bunch of junior colleges before settling into a “proper” university to earn my Bachelor’s degree. One such junior college was Grossmont, located in San Diego. Going there meant that I had to take a huge leap of faith and move 500 miles from Sacramento to San Diego. This particular road trip was a sight to behold. It was a caravan of about 10 friends, mostly guys. I rented a 17’ U-Haul® to transport all of my belongings and hitched my 1980 Ford Fiesta to it. 19 years old, driving 500 miles to unknown territory, thinking I ruled the world. Yep, that was me then, and now more than 35 years later, doing that type of thing is still me.  

The Road Trip Before the 1986 Road Trip

Let me backup a little bit so you can get the full story. 

It was just a few weeks earlier that I was planning this same move to San Diego with my best friend at the time, Kathy (she actually spells her name with a “C”, but I’ll be bringing another Cathy-with-a-C into the story and I don’t want to confuse you).

Kathy had a sister who lived close to the ocean in Pacific Beach. When Kathy and I visited her sister just a few weeks before we were set to move, she told me she wanted to live in the Pacific Beach area; she wanted to be close to the beach and her sister. 

Well, the difference between Kathy and me was that she had the luxury of financial support from her parents and could afford a place like that. I did not. I was on my own. I worked almost full-time and needed to be very disciplined with my money if I wanted to stay enrolled in school. Sure, it was a fun, cute beach town, but I knew that living close to the ocean in Southern California was too expensive for my budget. 

Kathy and I argued during that visit to her sister. I was furious that she sprung this new living-on-the-beach idea on me at the last minute. She was furious that I wouldn’t move to Pacific Beach. There was no resolution. I was set on what I had to do. She was set on what she wanted to do. So we parted ways. I found a different ride with another friend back to Sacramento, and Kathy and I never spoke again. 

Back to the 1986 Road Trip and My 17’ U-Haul

I knew that a bunch of other people were planning on moving to San Diego. My then boyfriend, Matt, was friends with that group of people which meant I was too. So a few weeks after the Kathy-clash, I inquired and found different roommates. 

Matt and I didn’t go to the same high school, but I knew so many people because I moved around all of the time as a kid. In fact, he went to high school with Kathy, and all of these people that were moving south knew her too. None of them much liked her. They all agreed that I was better off without her. 

Our caravan arrived in San Diego in late August, about a week before school started. A few from our group went to San Diego State University, but most of the group (including me), went to Grossmont. 

Grossmont was a beautiful school. It was in the city of El Cajon, which is east of San Diego and very “desert-y”. The semester before, I attended American River College in Sacramento, and the two didn’t even compare. Grossmont was amazing.

There was a certain scent at Grossmont. I’m not sure if it was the cacti, the desert sand, or just the constant heat, but I liked it. It was new. It was once unknown, and then familiar. And it was mine. I felt so proud going this long distance from home, no financial help, no boundaries, just all me. 

Road Trips Always Lead to More than One “Destination”

That lasted for about a month, and then a weird feeling became my everyday personality. I was young. I was kind of alone (in my own head). I was a bit homesick, but wouldn’t have termed it like that at the time. I just felt unsettled. 

Matt was still in Sacramento and at every turn I was reminded of him. I lived in a two bedroom apartment with three of his friends. One was my former roommate in Sacramento and the other two were just good friends. I had my own bedroom, of course. One guy slept on the hideaway couch, and the other two shared a room. 

Enter: the Other Cathy 

Cathy transferred to my high school, Del Campo, during her junior year. I didn’t know her very well during high school, but her boyfriend Eric was best friends with Matt. 

Cath and my other former roommate, Sonia (geez I had a lot of roommates), just happened to be roommates in the same apartment complex where I was currently living in San Diego, and that’s when I really got to know her. She was wicked smart, in particular with math. I was the worst student ever, so I was impressed with her discipline with academics. Even though we were opposites in school, we were the same in many other ways. We both loved music, which also meant we loved to sing at the top of our lungs. We both loved to smoke cloves. We both loved to drive. And we both loved our boyfriends who were still in Sacramento. The perfect recipe for road trips!  

Our Road Trippin’ Agenda 

Because we both loved to drive so much, the long,10-hour haul to Sacramento to see our boyfriends was a piece of cake. We would leave on a Friday after class, spend the weekend with them, and then drive back to San Diego late Sunday night.

Our trip always started out with traffic, even though we tried to leave after rush hour. 

Los Angeles is always a pain in the butt—it’s always rush hour! Whoever the city planner was long ago had no vision for expansion. 
The silver lining was reaching Mission Viejo just before the heart of LA. Back then, it was the closest city to San Diego that had an In-N-Out Burger®. It was such a treat, and we always splurged. 

Once we got going at a steady pace, we were locked in to Bon Jovi, clove cigarettes, and singing loudly. (To this day when I smell a clove, I think of Cath. She smoked them regularly, but I didn’t. I really only smoked them when I was with her.)

There are two main ways to get to San Diego from Sacramento, Interstate 5 or Highway 99. 99 was a just a bit less desolate, so we always took that route. For those of you who aren’t familiar with CA, Central CA smells of manure for hundreds of miles. The state offers so much: mountains, desert, ocean, big cities, and farms. 43% of the land in California is farmland. Of that portion of the land 16% is for grazing and 27% is for crops. So the cloves weren’t a bad smell when passing all of those cow farms! 

Road Trips Can Create Lasting Bonds

Cath and I made this trip a few times, but I ended up having to leave San Diego after my first semester. I found out that like the Pacific Beach area, I just couldn’t afford this part of the world either. Some of the reason too was that I missed Matt. Going back and forth made it difficult to endure the time away. Still, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because Cath and I had a blast driving all those miles together, and I got to know a side of her that I grew to adore. I loved it. I will never regret that experience,

Cath and I lost touch for many years after San Diego. I moved on, as my traveling self does, and we both eventually got married and started families. I did not marry Matt, but she did marry Eric. They are still together today. I now talk with her on a regular basis and love that we have reconnected. My husband, Pete, and Eric get along better than Eric and Matt ever did. 

The Lesson (There’s Always a Lesson)

Like I said, road trippin’ with your girlfriends is underrated. Cherish that quality time when driving the miles together, because someday you may be miles apart.



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Lisa A.K.A Loopie

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