“It’s Okay, I’m an Engineer!”

You know you’re in trouble when you hear those words coming from someone’s mouth, especially your own. It’s as if to say you’ve got it all under control when the complete opposite is true. Those statements are usually followed by comedic disasters.

I don’t know what it was about my winter hat, but everyone went crazy over it. I suppose it is a bit odd to see a young woman from Pennsylvania blasting down the highways in Wyoming and Montana at 80mph, with colorful displays of fabric fastened to her sunroof and furiously blowing in the wild, bitter wind. How they even knew it was a hat at that point, I’ll never know, but I was honked at, pointed at, and pulled over. Everyone that stopped me laughed as they point out the obvious; I had forgotten my hat on the roof of my car. You’d have thought I had forgotten my own child.

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Little did they know that nights before, I had ripped off my sunshade in a fit of panicked rage. I was marooned at a lonely gas station in the middle of a Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. I had little fuel left to get me to Wyoming, and Daddy was no longer financing my aimless manic spree, with the only destination now being North & West, especially since I took off on my trip with nothing but $60 and a full tank of gas.

I panicked as the sun went down and took it out on my car. I swear, I was so angry, I could have ripped the entire steering wheel off my front console. Luckily, I just beat it with my fists until they turned black and blue.

I immediately regretted my decision, as the sunshade was attached to electrical wiring and hung directly in front of my face, blocking the entire view in front of me. Being an engineer’s daughter, I used what I had on hand to fasten the sunshade into position; a beautiful beetle necklace that reflected stars dancing ’round the car in the moonlight. Crisis or not, everything must be executed with artistic precision and must be pleasing to the eyes.

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The whole process of strapping the necklace to the inner workings of my sunroof wasn’t pretty though. For starters, I ripped the chains right off my body in desparation and left deep scratches across my neck. Then I realized that the sunroof wouldn’t close fully on the large links of the chain itself.

I needed string. And I had nothing other than a crazy colorful winter hat with long straps that tied around my chin. Perfect. I strung the sunshade around the latches in the sunroof with the hat. I let most of it hang out of the sunroof, as if it were a flag warning everyone this gal was on fire. Fastened and secured, I was off to scatter myself amongst the rolling hills under the halo of the moon with my new puppy in tow – Maverick, the endearingly nuerotic, howling husky.

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We danced wildly to native drums and howled at the moon. The Native American that witnessed this banshee dance amongst the stars, had followed me around the whole night to make sure I was safe. I found that out as he woke me up from a deep slumber the next morning, with my car doors open wide open. After our philosophical conversation during the sunrise, he warned me not to go to Yellowstone, because it was closed down due to snow. Looking back, I think he just didn’t want me to go because Yellowstone wasn’t ready for me.

I made it to Yellowstone. A week later, after an extremely private and romantic rendezvous with Mother Nature herself, I blasted down the highway toward Billings, MT so I could be flown home the next day. I was flat-out exhausted from my cross-country runaway/getaway, and couldn’t make it back home in my car, alone. For over a month or more, I was sleeping about 3 hours per night, tops.

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I stopped at a dive bar in a small town in Montana and cow-girled up to the bar, like a bonified Saddle Tramp. Went in for 1 drink and came out with fully loaded, as if it weren’t enough that the entirity of the trip was one enormous, piss-poor decision. I stayed because the people were fun, the atmosphere was cozy, the stickers on the side of the liquor cabinets were hilarious, the view was off the hook, and the bartender had interesting stories. His name was one-eyed Willy because he only had one functioning eye, the other covered with a patch. You can’t make this stuff up.

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So, I stayed for one too many, only to burst through the doors outside to greet a cop honking and laughing at me as he drove by, “You have a hat on your car, young lady!” I just smiled and waved, enthusiastically yelling back with pride, “I know! It’s okay, I’m an engineer!”

You’re probably wondering what I was smokin’. I was smoking grass. Literally. I ran out ciggies and the lil’ engineer that could stepped up her game. Desperate times. I gathered the driest grass I could find from fields on the side of the highway and rolled it up in torn pieces of homework, due the next day.

To say I was flying high, is an understatement.

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My Uncle and cousin met me at the airport the next day, after a spontaneously fun-filled night with Tex Mex, the Mexican from Texas.

My Uncle hugged me as I departed through the gates and jokingly poked fun, “Don’t fall in love with the first cowboy you meet.”

Next thing I know, I’m sitting on a plane, dressed to the nine, next to none other than … the first cowboy I’ve ever met.

I arrived in Philadelphia where my Dad met me. I expected wrath, but he lightened up and laughed, “I’m actually proud you made it that far on your own.”

The mania-fueled road trip was parked abruptly at the next stop: Crisis Residential.

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