My JDM Van and I Went to the Brink and Came Back Stronger Than Ever

As many have noticed, I have been quiet for quite a while. It turns out that a road trip story without my trusty Toyota Hiace, Marsha, is not much of a road trip story, and I had been without her for two months after shattering her undercarriage on a rock on Cuyama Peak. I spent the time trying to stay occupied in Los Angeles, writing and reviewing cars, while I anxiously awaited her complicated repairs to be completed.

© Provided by The Drive

The pause was a difficult one for me, which is why updates were sparse and my stories that did come out were somber. I spent most of the time I wasn’t couch-crashing or trying futilely to escape the gravitational pull of Los Angeles squatting in a house in the middle of a remodel. I had permission to be there thanks to a gracious and patient friend who lives very close by, and who helped me through my mental exhaustion as the loneliness seeped in and meaning left me in a city of chaos. It was not homelessness; no one would arrest me, and many of the institutional challenges that the homeless of this city face I was exempt from, but it still was admittedly difficult. There was no running water or appliances. I used a porta-potty for the restroom and a bottle of water or my friend’s bathroom to shave and brush my teeth, just like I did in the wilderness, except in a multimillion-dollar shell of a house in the Hollywood hills; the irony of Los Angeles is not lost on me. And similar to Marsha’s initial prognosis, I faced what felt like complete failure, my narrative shattered and my hope fading. 

© Victoria Scott

[Editor’s note: Writer Victoria Scott is taking off to travel the country this year and explore car culture in a JDM 1995 Toyota Hiace, and we’ll be chronicling her adventures through a series on The Drive called The Vanscontinental Express. It’s natural to yearn for the open road at a moment when it feels like the world is waking up from a yearlong daze. But as a trans woman looking for her place in the world, Victoria’s journey is anything but your average road trip. This is part 12; you can read parts one through eleven here.]

I was torn at various points throughout the forced pause in my journey on how I should proceed. The wait for the repairs was originally supposed to be much shorter, but as the shop–World Famous 4×4 in Burbank–encountered more and more challenges with excising Marsha’s cancerous rust, the timeframe kept stretching. At first it would be a few weeks; then the CNC machinist they contracted made an error in the new brackets, then complications with their installation pushed things out even further. At every unforeseen delay, I considered going back to Houston and giving up on the journey until later; I was tired of a lack of autonomy, my lack of a home, and having to continually rely on my friends to keep me going as my exhaustion heightened. It was disheartening, but I so desperately wanted to continue. Why? The forced break felt like failure enough; to go home would feel like complete abandonment of the very mission that gave me purpose.

Finally, I was forced to confront my single-minded obsession with continuing my journey when despair set in. That feeling was helped along not just by the admittedly absurd juxtaposition of the Hollywood sign and Bentleys littered outside the gutted house I was using for shelter, but by the weight of everything collapsing around me. As I burned away the summer days writing or sitting inside the empty home, some of my friends became sick or unhoused, the skies were darkened with soot from the wildfires raging throughout California, and every morning I would wake up, open my phone, and face bleaker and more alarming headlines about some imminent collapse of the climate or politics or the economy. I was sitting still and powerless as I watched everything fall apart.

That’s nothing new, of course – the country has been like this since my very first memories as a child. 9/11, like it is for many millennials, is one of the first events of national importance I remember. I was six. Ever since then we have faced an ever-accelerating downward spiral of polarization, escalation, and the Fear. I fled my home for two natural disasters in the span of a year because of the deteriorating climate of the Gulf Coast, while I didn’t–couldn’t–come out at my old job because of the political climate of the previous administration. The underlying mechanism of the Fear may be ever-changing, but it still grips us, and we all are told we are powerless to fight it, because the mechanisms that cause it are vastly outside of our control and our individual actions are meaningless in the face of massive systemic problems. 

© Victoria Scott

But finally, as I plummeted to the depths of despair (helped along by medication woes, as my prescriptions ran out from being stuck for so long) and was forced to confront my darkest thoughts as I grappled with my self-imposed sense of failure, I had the realization that this trip has become, for now, the source of my meaning. The Vanscontinental Express is both my offering of gratitude to the friends that have shown kindness and love to me in a period before I can fully pay their good deeds forward, and a whole-hearted rebuttal to a world that refuses to let me be free of the Fear and insists that I am inconsequential and purposeless. This is how I face the Fear. This is how I have been able to feel free of the Fear for the first time in my life.  I wanted to drive forth into the unknown again and prove that not only could I defeat it, but I could bring joy and inspiration to others by doing so. And so this road trip through the West in a little Toyota van has become my solace in a world that has been on fire my whole life, and my reassurance that someday I can help my friends extinguish the inferno and we can have the futures we deserve. 

Armed with the realization of why the trip had become so wrapped in my psyche, at last I made arrangements to leave Los Angeles without Marsha in early September and be with friends. I wanted to give myself the comfort and kindness I had not let myself feel since I broke Marsha, and return to my voyage through the West reinvigorated. The world, my friends, the journey–they could wait for Marsha and I to be ready again, and they would understand.

© Victoria Scott

And then World Famous 4×4 called the next day. Marsha was done, her shattered undercarriage fully repaired just as I had gently reassembled my fragile psyche. 

As I write this, we have at long last been reunited. World Famous encountered problem after problem caused due to the ravages of age on her rust-mottled underbelly and seized bolts, but they still resurrected her from a near-certain death and managed to save our trip together. The sheared unibody horns are stronger than they ever could have been from the factory thanks to reinforced CNC machined replacements welded directly to her undercarriage. A two-inch-lift kit has replaced the tired, leaking struts. She stands taller and prouder than she ever has, and although I did not enjoy being stuck in Los Angeles for as long as I was, I feel like I, too, am proud to have waited for her, and for the first time in months the open road is calling us, and I find my purpose renewed.

A quote that stuck with me through my times of despair was one from Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms. A fatalistically pessimistic Henry muses: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

The intent of the quote is to say that no one good survives; Hemingway was famously very depressed. But the inverse of his statement that finally became clear to me is that the very good and the very gentle and the very brave will be stronger at the broken places. If the world does not kill us, we will be more resilient than we could have imagined. Marsha sure is; she has the most reinforced trailing arm brackets of any Hiace on the planet and ground clearance that could make a Wrangler blush. As far as myself–I am not very good, very gentle, or very brave, but I want to be, and I think this strength will help me reach it. I am excited to see what comes next for us both, and in a world gripped with anxiety about what will happen next, that feels like a victory already.

I am typing this from a Starbucks thirty miles from Temecula, finally free of Los Angeles; with Marsha restored and my own motivations clearer than ever, we hit the open road immediately and it has been a true joy. From here, the plan is vague outside a burning desire to get the hell out of southern California, but I want to keep going until one of us needs a break, and then I will allow us to have it. In the meantime, we will enjoy our times of strength together.

You can follow Victoria’s journey in real time on Twitter here. Got a tip? Send us a note: tips@thedrive.com

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Hampton builds on plan to transform business park into a community with places to live, amenities

If they build places to live, the shopping is soon to come. © Rob Ostermaier/Daily Press Construction on the Lumen Apartments on Commander Sheppard Boulevard in Hampton is progressing Friday ... Read more »

Lane Johnson returns to practice Wednesday

© Provided by NBC Sports Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson returned to practice Wednesday after missing the past three games. Johnson revealed Monday that he took time away from the ... Read more »

Fact Check: Jen Psaki's Claim on Police Officer COVID Deaths

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to the number of COVID deaths among police officers when asked about force departures due to vaccine mandates. © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images White ... Read more »

Baker & Lamar at contract crossroads, AFC's power vacuum & trade deadline buyers/sellers

Subscribe to You Pod to Win the Game Apple Podcasts • Spotify • Stitcher • Google Podcasts Baker Mayfield & Lamar Jackson, the first and last picks of the 2018 ... Read more »

U.S. readies plan to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 against COVID-19

By Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason © Reuters/EMILY ELCONIN People receive COVID-19 booster vaccination in Michigan WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined its plan to vaccinate millions of ... Read more »

Patrick Reusse: State's most loyal sports audience gets a brilliant return to hockey

The most loyal audience for professional sports in the Twin Cities is the one that follows the Wild in St. Paul. This could be argued by Vikings zealots, but they ... Read more »

Daniel Snyder denies leaking WFT emails

© Provided by NBC Sports The NFL won’t say whether it’s investigating the origin of the leaks of emails that brought down Raiders coach Jon Gruden and exposed a too-cozy ... Read more »

Human remains found in Florida park amid search for Gabby Petito's fiance -FBI

By Kanishka Singh © Reuters/FLORIDA POLICE FILE PHOTO: Handout photo of Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie (Reuters) -Partial human remains were found on Wednesday in a Florida wilderness area where ... Read more »

Dems toil to save SALT following last-minute scare

As President Joe Biden huddled with his party’s centrists on Tuesday, he fielded a question from Rep. Josh Gottheimer about an issue that holds extraordinary sway among senior Democrats: relief ... Read more »

FDA OKs mixing COVID vaccine boosters, backs Moderna, J&J boosters

More Americans would be eligible for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines and could get any brand of vaccine they choose, according to an authorization Wednesday from the Food and Drug Administration. ... Read more »

Why the the gift of an experience is the best present

COMMENT: I don’t want a lot for Christmas. In fact, there is just one thing I need. Travel. At the very least, an experience that can’t be found within walking ... Read more »

Shalita Grant Claims 'NCIS' Hair Team Treated Her 'Different' Than Costars

© Provided by US Weekly Shalita Grant Claims She Was Treated Totally Different Than NCIS- New Orleans Costars Says Her Hair Was Damaged on Set Shalita Grant claimed she was ... Read more »

Top US diplomat calls for 'sustained and substantive dialogue' with North Korea

The United State’s representative to the United Nations called on Wednesday for “sustained and substantive dialogue” with North Korea over the country’s denuclearization. © Getty Images Top US diplomat calls ... Read more »

Donald Trump launching new social media platform

Silenced by many major platforms, former President Donald Trump is launching his own social media app. Trump Media and Technology Group and Digital World Acquisition Group, which is already listed ... Read more »

Arizona Gov. Ducey threatens legal challenge to 'unfathomable' Tucson vaccine mandate

The city council in Tucson, Arizona, voted to terminate city employees who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine jab, a move that Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., condemned as “unfathomable” as ... Read more »

19:19 Mirror Hour: Think Before You Act

© Astrofame Whilst looking at the time, do you often noticing yourself seeing the numbers 19:19? If so, know that this is way more than just a mere coincidence. You’re ... Read more »

In lieu of Dynamite, AEW again offers a three hour ‘Best of' Dark

© AEW’s YouTube As was the case last week, TNT’s moved Dynamite to Saturday so they can kick off the first season of their NHL contract by broadcasting Wednesday night ... Read more »

Newt Gingrich huddles with House Republicans: Time for new ‘Contract with America'

With Democrats having the slimmest House majority in a century and midterm elections historically favoring the party opposite from the president, Republicans are well positioned to flip the House in ... Read more »

Alur Sistem Satu Pintu buat Bus Pariwisata yang Mau Masuk Kota Yogyakarta

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Yogyakarta – Pemerintah Kota Yogyakarta akan mulai membuka akses masuk bus pariwisata ke dalam kota melalui sistem satu pintu atau one gate system. ... Read more »

Sandiaga Uno Pertimbangkan Pembukaan Pintu Wisata Aceh untuk Turis Asing

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Menteri Pariwisata dan Ekonomi Kreatif Sandiaga Uno mengatakan pihaknya memberi kesempatan bagi Aceh untuk menyampaikan permohonan pengajuan pembukaan pintu wisata Aceh ... Read more »

Texas nurse convicted of murdering four patients

A Texas nurse was convicted on Tuesday of capital murder over the deaths of four patients, who prosecutors say she injected with air, the Associated Press reports. © Istock inside ... Read more »

Mark Meadows retains top GOP lawyer for Capitol riot investigation

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows retained a top GOP lawyer to represent him in the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. © Provided ... Read more »

Bowlus RVs Put an Aerospace-linked Twist on Luxury Land Travel

Bowlus is the luxury RV company you probably don’t know exists, but it’s been around as long as the Chevrolet Suburban – since 1934. The first of its travel trailers ... Read more »

NBA live streams: How to watch 2021-22 games for free on NBA League Pass

Are you trying to figure out the best way to watch NBA games this season? You’ve come to the right place. Basketball fans will have a variety of viewing options ... Read more »

Ralph Carmichael, Composer for ‘The Blob,' ‘My Mother the Car,' Dies at 94

Ralph Carmichael, composer and Emmy Award-winning arranger-conductor for Nat King Cole, Jack Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Roger Williams, died Oct. 18 in Camarillo, Calif. He was 94. Carmichael got his ... Read more »

Chris Stapleton concert at Riverbend postponed

CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Singer Chris Stapleton is postponing his concert at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. © Chris Pizzello Chris Stapleton performs “A Simple Song” at the 54th annual Academy ... Read more »

Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra rehearsing for first full concert since the start of the pandemic

PERRYSBURG, Ohio (WTVG) – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a live audience was something you’d expect at a concert. © Provided by Toledo WTVG The Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra is preparing for ... Read more »

North Korea accuses US of 'double standards' over SLBM test

North Korea accused the United States of “double standards” over weapons testing, state media reported Thursday after an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the issue. © STR Pyongyang fired ... Read more »

Grandmaster Jay indicted by grand jury, faces 20 years in prison

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – A grand jury has indicted the leader of an armed, self-proclaimed militia that protested in Louisville during the 2020 riots on new state charges, accused of pointing an ... Read more »

What in the World Is This 18-Hour Play?

© Provided by Fodor’s First, let me set the stage for you—literally. It’s got a double proscenium structure, which makes it seem that the action takes place far away from ... Read more »

For music journalist Kelefa Sanneh, pop is a passion and a ‘portal into everything'

If you’re fortunate enough to be accepted into Harvard, you’ve earned an elite education. For Kelefa Sanneh, however, the world opened up not behind the gates of Harvard Yard, but ... Read more »

MTU Rozsa happy to have shows

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Live musical performances are returning to Michigan Tech at the Rozsa Center and so are live audiences. © Provided by Marquette WLUC Practice makes perfect The ... Read more »

Carrie Underwood Trolls Mike Fisher Over Habits She ‘Wouldn't Put Up With'

© Provided by US Weekly Carrie Underwood Trolls Husband Mike Fisher Over Habits She ‘Wouldn’t Put Up With’ If She Didn’t Love Him Putting him on notice! Carrie Underwood exposed husband ... Read more »

J-Pop Band Atarayo's Emotional Set Shines in Billboard Japan & TikTok ‘Next Fire' October Edition

Atarayo Billboard Japan and TikTok teamed up once again to present Next Fire, the hybrid program focusing on today’s hottest J-pop artists. Atarayo was featured as the monthly pickup act ... Read more »

Twitch tests three new buttons on live channels: Rewind the Stream, Remind Me, and Watch Trailer

© Provided by Dot Esports Twitch Support announced via Twitter it will test out three new features. Rewind, Remind Me, and Watch Trailer will all be added to some users’ ... Read more »

Russia's Putin orders workers to stay home for a week, urges fellow citizens to get vaccinated as COVID spikes

A week after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for upping the coronavirus vaccination rate, he has ordered most of his fellow citizens to stay home from work as COVID-19 infections ... Read more »

MacOS Monterey: Find out if your computer is compatible with Apple's new OS

MacOS Monterey, Apple’s newest Mac operating system, arrives on Oct. 25. The software, also known as MacOS 12, will run on the new laptops announced at Apple’s event on Monday — ... Read more »

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND-UP: Villarreal hit four past Young Boys

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Villarreal ended an 11-game winless streak in the Champions League group stage by beating Young Boys 4-1 on Wednesday. Headed goals by Yeremi ... Read more »

McAuliffe, Youngkin Tied in New Poll Less Than 2 Weeks Before Election

Monmouth University pollsters released the results of a new voter survey on Wednesday that showed Virginia’s top two gubernatorial candidates tied with less than two weeks remaining until the November ... Read more »

Audit: NC town ex-finance officer had questionable expenses

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The now-former finance head of a small southeastern North Carolina town spent more than $11,000 in town funds on her home utility bills and other questionable ... Read more »