The End of the Beginning: Where the Project Began and What’s Left To Do

After five months of preparation, the Stars and Screens project is just a few weeks away from its launch date. The first leg has been set in my sights for so long, it’s hard to believe that one day soon I’m actually going to hitch-up the camper and start driving north. When I slow down and think about it, I feel all the usual emotions of beginning a great adventure—excited, nervous, want to pump my fist in the air Breakfast Club-style-happy, but I also try to remind myself of the origins of the project and how much is left to do in this final stretch. So, I’m taking stock of the last five months and what’s ahead.

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The Origins of Stars and Screens:

As 2018 came to a close, I found myself in a funk—like a deep, dark, moldy pit of a funk. I’ve always bounced from thing to thing, or place to place; adaptability is my greatest strength, I like diving headfirst into a new situation and figuring out how to succeed. But suddenly, it felt like I’d hit a wall, or worse, a point in my life when society expected me to stop bouncing and learn to enjoy (or endure) the long haul—that was a challenge I wasn’t sure I could figure. The thought of getting stuck in a life I didn’t want just because I couldn’t come up with one I did, weighed so much on my mind I could feel it in my body like someone had strapped dumbbells to my legs and shotputs to my shoulders.

One night in late December, I laid awake in a puddle of sticky anxiety sweat and realized that I needed to get my momentum going again—if I wasn’t happy with my job, I needed to change it, if I wasn’t happy with where I lived, I needed to leave, if I couldn’t figure out a grand master plan for the rest of my life, I needed to just start moving and see where it ended up.

“What makes me happy?” I asked myself (I actually asked myself that question, like a poorly written fictional character).

Answer number one: My dog. She and I are soulmates in all the inexplicable ways souls connect.

Number two: Being on the move. I thrive in the slight discomfort that comes with never feeling settled.

Number three: Old movies. I discovered Turner Classic Movies as a teenager and a passing curiosity snowballed into a tattoo of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman forever inked into my forearm.

Humphrey and Ingrid freshly tattooed in 2017

Humphrey and Ingrid freshly tattooed in 2017

By the time the sun came up, I’d mixed my three happiness ingredients together and came up with the basic plan for Stars and Screens—the name took a few more days of brainstorming.

Since then, I’ve learned a whole lot about drive-in movie theaters, built my first website and blog, almost completely rebuilt my camper, made contact with drive-ins across the country, connected with the camper/van life community, and continued developing the project. Every moment of this process hasn’t been fun, but I’m moving again (even if that’s mostly in my mind since my camper has only recently been deemed road-worthy) and the weight of feeling stuck has left me. I’m sure my friends and family would agree that I’m a nicer person to be around. Now, as I finish up my day job and come closer to the launch date, I’ve still got a long “to-do” list.

What’s Left To-Do:

The Camper:

I know Honeybear the Camper from the floor panels to the studs, and through the aluminum walls because I’ve replaced or repaired most of them. Still, she needs some more work. The back window that caused the water leak still needs to be taken out and re-sealed, the escape window needs a lock, and the cabinet door needs some work. The lock and cabinet should be easy enough, but the damn window might be tricky. All these tasks will be made infinitely harder by the Florida summer. This time of year, it’s 90 degrees by 9 in the morning and sauna humid by afternoon. I’m thankful the floor and the walls decided to fall out in spring.

Map the Storage Space:

With very limited storage space, I need to make purposeful decisions about what to bring and where to put things. Right now, I’m thinking bulk food items like pasta and rice will go in storage containers under the chair, but I could see myself getting sick of moving the cushions and lifting the seat every day. Cleaning items might go in one wheel-well box and dog supplies in the other, but I don’t want to make towing more difficult or dangerous my weighing down the axle underneath the frame.

Replace Tires and Add Sway Bar:

I tried removing the lug nuts on the old tires and replacing them myself in the name of girl power and doing things myself, but I’m just not strong enough. Next week I’m taking the camper to a local tire place where they will change the tires and add the sway bar to my hitch for fifty bucks. I can live with that.

Setup the Truck:

Much like organizing the interior of the camper, I need to use the space in my truck wisely, especially since much of the back seat will be dedicated to the pup’s comfort. I also need to organize my water storage tanks, generator, and compost bin in the bed of the truck in a way that will make sense on the road.

Get in Contact with Remaining Drive-ins:

After hearing about the project, a number of drive-ins invited me to their theaters and I’ve received messages of welcome from a few of the theaters I’ve reached out to, but I’m also getting radio silence from a few I really want to hit, so I’m going to make an effort to track down the owners of these hold-outs before I cross them off the list.

Curate the Perfect Road trip Playlist:

This is maybe the most important task. Any suggestions?