I’d been looking into Prius dwelling for years before I took the leap.  Even after I had determined that I had saved enough money, I sat on my hands for months worrying about all the “what ifs.”  Finally, I yelled myself one day about how long I had been delaying, giving into fear, worry, and doubt.  I began looking at cars in earnest, contacting folks online about ads I saw listing priuses (prii?) for sale.  Finally, I saw one that was everything I had wanted: a 2012 with modestly-high mileage and a solar roof package.  I saw the vehicle, fell in love, and purchased it with high hopes about travelling and breaking loose from the chains I felt bound in.

(For folks who want the brass tacks of the transaction, I bought a 2012 solar roof edition gen 3 prius with 130k on it for $6k).

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic had just become major news in my area, so I had to wait over two months to legally register my car to drive, as everything that was not a life-sustaining business in my area had faced a shut down.  

BUT — the dream was real!  I had made it happen.  And so I took this time to dream, plan, and gear up with supplies and map pins for an itinerary.  

In late May of 2020 I was finally able to register my car, and I, a law-abiding citizen, had not really had to chance to drive it until then.  Upon registering the car, I decided “Why the hell not,” and took an inaugural trip to the ridiculously-named local town of Intercourse, PA.  I figured that this trip would bring good tidings for my vehicle and me, and at the very least, give me a good laugh as I learned the ins and outs of driving a little land spaceship.  

I think I planned correctly, because on this journey I got into my first car accident ever — a small fender bender — as I was not used to the amount of visual occlusion provided by the A-pillars of the vehicle.  I promptly returned home, threw $400 to my local body shop guy, and by the end of the week had a healthy vehicle again.  It was my birthday gift to myself.  

The following week, I vowed to take a longer trip — to see how it felt to drive a longer distance in this vehicle, to get a feel for its handling, to ensure there were no major issues before taking a major trip, and to test out how it would feel to sleep in the back of a prius.  

I set a moderate itinerary and planned to travel for two nights and three days, with the furthest distance from home being about six hours.  I packed up the back of the car — really, I overpacked — and set off to see Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  

Yoga mat, mattress, sleeping bag, backpack, cooler, and clothes.

I travelled through a small town called Waterville PA on my way to see Jersey Shore, PA (hey, I’m from Jersey, naming a place like that in the middle of PA is a must-see).  It was beautiful, lush, green, everything I had been missing in the cold, prius-less winter, and I enjoyed seeing the rolling green hills of the Allegheny mountains.  

I ended up at Lake Erie visiting the Presque Isle state park, which a friend had recommended to me years prior.  What a phenomenal place!  When I was there, with the weather as it was, it was immensely difficult to tell where the water ended and the sky began.  This was my first time visiting the Great Lakes and I was not disappointed — except perhaps by the fact that they had been so downplayed to me my whole life!  Phenomenally gorgeous place and I have since had the pleasure and fortune to visit all of the great lakes, but we’ll get to that later.  

Something I bring absolutely everywhere with me is a light, packable, double hammock.  It allows me to rest and relax pretty much anywhere there’s trees, and provides comfort to my back when I’ve been driving for a long while.  I took a long break and enjoyed the scenery, even taking a nap.  

That night, I parked and slept in a suburb of Pittsburgh on my way down to West Virginia.  I had a peaceful, undisturbed stealthy night of sleeping, though I was a little anxious about sleeping in a vehicle.  Thankfully I was able to catch a lot of rest and woke up early the next morning, refreshed and excited to see the sun early in its journey across the sky.  

On my way southward, I stopped to pick up a new windshield wiper, as the ones I had been using to clear out the misty evening prior had proven to be less-than satisfactory.  I had replaced a wiper blade before in the parking lot but had some difficulty this time — and the only person around I solicited for help, despite the fact that he was a dude, had also never replaced a wiper blade.  Oh well, we figured, and moved the wiper back down without a blade.  What do you know — it smashed right through the windshield.  I stifled an internal scream at destroying my car after having just paid out the ass to buy and fix it, and drove to an autoglass shop, crying my frustrations to this local West Virginia man, who despite the pandemic, hugged me.  Although he could not replace my windshield at that time, I took comfort in scheduling a local appointment and his kind words.  

I tried to relax and salvage the trip, and hit up Tudor’s biscuit world, a local joint much recommended by someone I know, and ate my feelings heartily.  I tried to relax in my car, diverting my mind from the huge cracks spreading across my windshield, and took in the gorgeous scenery.  And then I travelled to Cooper’s Rock state forest, a place I had been eyeing for its scenic river views.  It was phenomenal.  

Despite all this, it was hard to keep my mind off the stress I felt over money, and my own self deprecating thoughts about how much I was destroying my new car.  I decided to go home early and decompress. 

All in all, this early trip taught me: I won’t die if I live in my prius, I can (literally) afford to make mistakes — the world did not end, it’s OK to not stick hard-and-fast to an itinerary, and washing myself in a lake was not too horrible.

(As an aside, I fixed up my car, burned hella sage inside it, and ventured out West again with companionship this time. I think it was worth it.)

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