The End of the Road, the Beauty of Car Culture, and the Start of What’s Next
After five months, 12,500 miles, eight states and dozens of campsites, Victoria’s van trip has reached the finish line. And it’s all thanks to you.
I am, at long last, stationary. My faithful Toyota Hiace Marsha carried me the final 845 miles without incident, and as I write this, I’m shopping for a medley of new upgrades and maintenance parts for her so that someday—hopefully very soon—we can do a trip like this again. Now, as I finally sit in a bedroom without wheels, I am torn between looking ahead for whatever is next and taking a moment to appreciate the whirlwind that just ended.
Said whirlwind ended up being close to 12,500 miles long; that's approximately five months away from home, all my friends, anything and everything that had once been familiar to me. When I left I was terrified by the unknown. I genuinely had no idea what to expect on the road or from myself, and the path seemed so uncertain that if I had not already bought my van and forced my own hand, I certainly would have decided to forget my stupid dreams at the last minute and just stay at home. Home was safe and certain, and after over a year indoors to avoid the invisible and visible threats of a seemingly ever-decaying world, outside had never been more terrifying.
[Editor's note: Writer Victoria Scott took off to travel the country this year and explore car culture in a JDM 1995 Toyota Hiace, and we've chronicled 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 an eighteen-month 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 17, the finale; you can read the entire series here.]
And looking forward, five months later with my feet planted on terra firma, I still have no idea what awaits me on future journeys or in my life. I am working on a book now for fun; I have no idea if it will ever see the light of day or if it’ll be any good. I have more vintage cars I’m chasing down for retro reviews, and I don’t know which ones I’ll be lucky enough to find myself in the drivers’ seats of. I have ambitious plans for Marsha and myself next year, but we’ll see if my schedule, budget, and willpower will actually let me get to all the events I’d like to cover or compete in.
I still don’t even know where I will live next. I want to get out of Houston, but with rents skyrocketing in nearly every major metro area in the country and no solid idea of where my next paycheck is coming from, I worry about where I can actually afford to live. On top of all this, things for the trans community are still tenuous at best, and I fear what the future will hold for both me and the people I care about so much.
But when I left the house with Marsha back in June, I did something that terrified me. I went into the unknown, and despite the rough patches I would not trade a single second of my travels for anything in the world. Taking that first leap and seeing natural beauty beyond my comprehension, meeting hundreds of new people I’d never imagined crossing paths with, forcing myself to adapt to continue onward; all of these experiences changed me. I have only met with a handful of friends since I have returned home, but they all have noted that I am no longer the same person I was before. I walk and talk differently. My outlook on the world around me has changed. The fears of the future are still present, but they no longer seem insurmountable, because I know that I can look at fear and tackle it now.
Most importantly, I no longer carry the crushing burden of shame about who I am and who I have chosen to become. I feel like this is a natural part of experiencing puberty (even if it’s the second time around), but I was able to do it in a way that affirmed truths about who I have become and what I can accomplish, and it has permanently changed how I will head into the second adulthood of my life. No matter what actually comes next, the person that left is not facing the challenges ahead. There is so much more work to do, but I think the woman that returned from this journey is much better equipped to handle whatever comes next.
Van Culture, Car Culture
Writing a conclusion for this series is challenging, because I have no idea what these stories will amount to. When I left, they were the most meaningful pieces of art I had ever tried to create; now with some time and the realization I have a future beyond eking out survival and writing drafts in my spare moments, I hope they’re the first indicator that someday I will truly accomplish important things with my life. Either way, day-in, day-out, I have journeyed with Marsha, and this series has truly been my life in a way that very few of my stories ever could be. Beyond all that, whether this series is my peak or these stories have accomplished nothing at all, there is still the incontrovertible fact that my life will never be the same for having written the Vanscontinental Express.
At various points throughout this saga, when my writing deviated from traditional road trip tales and automotive theming and delved into the deeper questions of who I am or how my specific experiences shaped me, I wondered if I was doing a disservice to the automotive community that was reading this series. For as long as there have been cars, there has been the cliche of the great American road trip, taking off for the West in a little old econobox in search of wider horizons and a sense of self.
But in reality, this voyage has made me realize how fortunate I was that this hobby, this love of cars, underpins all of my work and my goals and the ambitions I carry. The reason car culture is so fascinating to cover and so rewarding to be part of is complicated, but underpinning it all is that I’ve never been part of anything in my whole life that introduced me to this many different people who all can enjoy some aspect of the hobby. Fellow trans women driving old Hondas like I do or cis men rocking Americana of the 50s who’d never met someone like me before, sports car pilots and slammed-car cruisers, ASE certified mechanics and people who solely appreciate aesthetics—I found community everywhere I went, and it made my “solo” road trip so much more enjoyable.
Nothing that happened in the past five months would have been possible for me without the friends I made from being part of the automotive world. My van bears the signatures of dozens of people who I’d only ever had the good fortune to meet because we started chatting about the cars we love. This entire series feels like a love letter from my own passion for cars to me.
And there were dozens upon dozens of moments where the enthusiasts of this community were what kept me afloat. All of my retro reviews to date have been from other car enthusiasts’ collections, and those have been some of the proudest stories of my life. The very Audi that let this trip continue for months longer than I could have alone, back when I shattered Marsha on Cuyama Peak, was provided by someone I now count as one of my closest friends, but who I only knew in passing from our mutual hobby before. The biggest events of my trips were all centered on the automotive world—Mercedes-Benz inviting me as its guest to help them be more inclusive, walking the Petersen Museum among the heroic cars I’ve adored since childhood, attending my favorite car show on the planet (twice), covering the Rebelle Rally—and they stand out so vividly as life-changing moments in a year packed to the brim with them.
And now as I head into what’s next, the only certainty I have is that I will be closer to this passion than I ever have been. Getting to be an automotive writer is a lifelong dream of mine, and one I still can’t quite believe has come true. Every car I step behind the wheel of—from the bespoke to the historically important to the downright nutty—reminds me of how lucky I am to not only get to experience so many incredible machines, but also how fortunate I am that I’m trusted by my readers, my editors, and the owners of these fantastic cars to share them with the world. Not only do I get the chance to participate in car culture, I get to help shape it in some small way. There is no higher honor for me than to contribute to the hobby and the people I’ve met in it I care about so deeply.
So, truly, thank you for reading the Vanscontinental Express. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I hope that if you’ve felt forced to watch your automotive passions from the sidelines, it’s helped show that there is a place for all of us in this community. It has been a gift to be able to write it, and I can’t wait for the next journey, no matter where it takes me.
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