(Please give a warm welcome to dearest Kyla! Fresh from a road trip to Colorado, she has graced us with a short story chronicling the journey out with her Dad in his convertible Volkswagen Beetle. Be nice and maybe she will join us for good!)
It was around St. Louis that I began to realize my mortality. My wings were no longer covered in silver scales of terrifying beauty and my roar became a deafening cough only capable of wheezing though the never ending plains of corn and wheat. My tail was heavy and the load I carried was starting to take its toll. Fluids were leaking from places they shouldn’t. My fiery breath came only in sputters of smoke. Suddenly, I was just a bug.
My journey began eleven years earlier when I first met the Gallaghers. They (well, Brian specifically) chose me from the other freshly minted mechanical dragons at the dealership and we began to take on the world. We ran a catering business together, moved about a million times to various cities and towns, lakes and states; we fell in love with amazing people and took some of them on adventures with us. Some other dragons say they get locked in cages full of people’s junk at night, but I stayed out all night and got to watch the stars pass overhead. In eleven years I’ve been more places, met more people, and brought more joy than so many other dragons combined.
A few years ago, the Gallaghers started opening up my retractable wings to fit a Christmas tree on my back and I would use all my power to light it up on the way home. You should have seen kids’ faces from other dragons on the road. The joy! The jealousy! It was glorious.
This is all beside the point. We started with my realization of my mortality and that’s where you will find me now. This current adventure started when I got a tail. And this isn’t just any tail, it’s a big and heavy tail that's full of shit. Brian and Kyla’s shit to be precise. Yet again, these two had decided to pack up everything they own (which, realistically speaking, is barely anything) and move out to adventure in the West. I didn’t think twice about it. I was a dragon for god’s sake. Just a little adventure halfway across the country? Give me whatever you got and I’ll get us there.
Well, they gave me everything they've got. Literally. Packed my new tail so full of clothes, tents, pillows, and cast iron cookware that trying to go up the hill on Sheridan Street to leave Boston was enough of a struggle to make me reevaluate our plans. I will admit, my wheels were a little shaky that first hour, but after that I had my bearings back. No problem-o, I've got this. I am Dragon: fearsome, fire-breathing, and ready to take on the world.
First, we headed down to Virginia to see the other Gallagher, Lex. Eight hours, no traffic, and we only had to refill my oil once. For an eleven year old like me, that’s not too bad! Then it was off to the West - West Virginia and on into the Bourbon country of Kentucky. The mountains in West Virginia were beautiful, warm, dry, and held one of the most awesome sunsets any of us had ever seen. At the same time, the mountains wore me out a bit, but no matter. I could see the plains of the Midwest ahead and I knew the hills would end soon enough. In Louisville we got a prime parking spot that fit both me and my tail right in the middle of town so I could show off my beauty to all the passersby while Brian and Kyla tried small batch bourbon and marveled at the art on the streets. I was tired, so the rest was nice, but I was still holding strong. We stayed out in a trailer park in Indiana for the night and took off towards St. Louis in the morning.
It was a glorious morning too, as it had been the whole trip thus far, warm and sunny, but very unusual for the first week of October. We hadn’t taken a second of it for granted though, so when it started raining we conceded to finally putting the top up without even a grumble. We deserved a little rain for how lucky we’d been with the weather.
Throughout this whole time, I had a lot of time and open road to think about the time I’d spent with Brian, the things we’ve done, and the 235,000 miles we’d traveled together. I thought back to that day on the lot when he chose me over everyone else. Memories of the miles started flooding back: 100 miles, 1,000 miles, 100,000 miles. I realized - suddenly and unexpectedly – that my scales weren’t as brilliant as they were that magical day on the lot. One of my eyeballs was duct taped into my face to keep it from falling out, but I never really dwelled on that until now. My top had to be bungeed down to keep in in place these days and my oil was dripping on each mile of pavement we put behind us. My tail was as heavy as ever and the hot sun beat relentlessly down on me. Unlike the fields around me, it only made me grow tired. For the first time ever, I thought that maybe, just maybe, my glory days were behind me. Maybe I wasn’t as fearsome and beautiful as I had been in the beginning. Maybe, someday, I was going to die.
It was around St. Louis that I realized this eventual mortality, but it was only a few miles later that I saw myself for what I really am. I am a bug. A driving machine. A 2003 silver convertible Volkswagen Beetle with 235,000 miles on the odometer and an engine that purrs like a pneumonia afflicted lung. And tail or no tail, with all my afflictions aside, by the name of Zeus and everything mighty, I am going to make it to Colorado – wings and scales or no.
Hear me roar.