'2020' BOOK EXCERPT: Going Back To Cali

Though I prefer the East Coast and cities like Miami, Los Angeles is still a pretty cool city. Sunshine, beaches, beautiful skyline, what's not to like? And then you have where they completely got South Florida's number: Marijuana culture. (PHOTO: Occidental College)

This is an excerpt from Andrew Powell's first book '2020: A Year So Wild I Had To Write a Book About It' which is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2021


When our six week journey was over in the United States, we had been to California (Los Angeles), New York (New York City), Florida (Miami) and stayed with my family in Pennsylvania in small-town Lock Haven.

It was a glorious trip, with a lot of experiences, but after all of the travel and all of the money spent (thousands upon thousands upon thousands), we were exhausted.

We were ready to get back home.

My mom drove all of us to Philadelphia International Airport to be able to catch our flight to Los Angeles. From there, we were going to fly to Auckland in New Zealand, and before we could get home to Dannevirke, we had to do a two-week quarantine in an Auckland hotel. After that, all of our troubles and stress were over.

Everything was going as planned and we had gotten to Los Angeles, where we had stayed in Anaheim again for a night to give the kids a rest before the big 13-hour flight back to New Zealand – we got some Taco Bell to eat, me and Crystal got a little weed to smoke, and we rested up before it was time to close out our journey.

The next morning when we woke up, we had 10-12 hours to kill, because our flight to Auckland wasn't scheduled until 9:30 that night. So, we decided to walk down Disneyland Drive that morning to give the kids some air and a chance for us to smoke a little bit, and then went back to the hotel to get some breakfast and get rehydrated – it got hot out there. It is California after all.

After hanging out at the hotel and relaxing for a bit, getting some lunch and then going out for another marijuana break, we got back to our room again and proceeded to finish up our packing to make sure we were ready to leave for the LAX way ahead of schedule – we had no interest in being in a rush. Who does?

Especially when you're about to embark on an international trip, with a toddler and a baby on top of that. It was going to be rough as it is, no need to make it any harder.

So, we're completely prepared, everything is packed, we still have a few hours to kill before the taxi picks us up, Crystal is making sure we have everything we need for travel, and then, it happened.

She can't find the passports.

Immediately, we start looking through our entire luggage, grabbing everything out of the suitcases, searching every department and corner, and nothing.

The passports were gone.

Needless to say, that was a pretty crazy situation.

After looking around everywhere we could and finally giving up after no luck, Crystal called the New Zealand government to figure out what she had to do to replace the passports – luckily, I had mine in my back pocket the entire time, but she had to replace hers, our daughter’s and my step-daughter's. In other words, it was still a disaster, but it wasn't a complete disaster.

The New Zealand government told Crystal that she had to fill out some documents, pay some fees, and they could get new passports sent to the hotel, but it was obviously going to take a few days. So what that meant was, we had to formulate a plan to figure what we were going to do.

Because here's the thing: Not only did we have to get new passports, but we also had to book new plane tickets because we obviously weren't going to catch our original flight to Auckland. That was easier said than done, however, because due to COVID-19, New Zealand decided to completely close their borders for an entire month. As a result, Air New Zealand – the only international airline in the island nation – wasn't making any flights whatsoever for an entire month.

So, you know what that means: We couldn't book a flight for an entire month.

Oh, and it gets even better: When I called Immigration New Zealand to check on the status of my visa with the new border restrictions, they told me that the current visa that I had would not allow me back into the country – meaning I couldn't fly back with my family. Ultimately, I ended up getting stuck in the United States, and Crystal was forced to fly back to New Zealand by herself with two little kids. Yes, it was a rough experience for her.

We didn't have many options as far as what we were going to do next, especially without passports, and honestly, we really only had two: 1. Stay in Los Angeles for a month, which was going to be extraordinarily expensive. Or 2, an idea that my lovely fiancée came up with: Drive across the entire country of the United States of America from Anaheim, California to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania – in total, that's around a 38-hour drive, 2,583 miles.

One of the original plans that my now-wife and I had to escape Anaheim, California to get back to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania was to literally drive across the entire country – a trip that would have been a total of 38 hours and 2,583 miles. (PHOTO: Google Maps)

At first, on paper, it sounds like a fun experience to partake in, and I was game to do it originally, but then I started thinking about it: Are we really going to drive across the entire country in the middle of a global pandemic with high unemployment and riots breaking out all over the place without a gun?

Oh, and we also had two small children with us, let’s not forget that either.

Traveling via plane, I obviously didn't have my weapon on me, and at the time, I wasn't even a gun owner as of yet. I didn't buy my first gun until later. If I would have had a firearm at that particular time, I probably would have been down to drive across America, but I honestly did not have a good vibe at all about it without a pistol. That's where I stood.

The first gun that I ever bought took place last summer after we got back to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania from Anaheim, California. I traveled across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to finally find a piece after visiting sold-out store after store for a gun to carry on my hip. I finally came across a Beretta Nano 9MM, which has become a close buddy of mine. I love my gun, and the power and protection that it brings. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)

As far as Crystal was concerned, she was all for it, and was extremely excited to experience a drive across the entire United States. At the end of the day, she's a foreigner, and this was a completely new land to her. So, of course, she wanted to do it and pushed for it as I kept worrying.

I can't lie though, part of me wanted to do it as well, and I eventually caved.

After a brief cigar break, we went back to the hotel room and started planning everything immediately – we had planned on leaving the next morning. I called and rented a car for the week (it was going to take around five to seven days to get across the nation), ordered a ton of water bottles and snacks for the kids, and made sure we were prepared for this journey.

I still wasn't sure about it being a good idea, but we were going to do it anyways.

We were going to drive across the entirety of the United States of America.

When we woke up the next morning, we gathered our stuff together and planned an Uber for later to take us over to the rent-a-car center. While we were waiting for the time to leave, we went outside and smoked a blunt, discussing our adventure that was only a couple of hours away at that point.

I admit, I got incredibly nervous, and the closer and closer we got to the time we were supposed to leave, the more anxious I got. But there was Crystal telling me, "Oh, you'll be fine. No pressure. You'll be fine driving through the Los Angeles metropolitan area."

Yeah, just L.A., no problem.

Los Angeles is known for their huge roads, their huge six-lane roads. Crystal actually wanted me to drive on these monsters. "You'll be fine. No pressure," said the person who wasn't going to be driving. (PHOTO: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

And then after I drive through Los Angeles, we're then stuck with the task of driving across literally the entire United States of America, but no problem!

Yeah, she made it sound like that easy of a task.

She had some leverage over me though, because at the end of the day, I still wanted to embark on this journey too. I was just nervous to do it, both because of the long-distance driving, and more importantly, because we were unarmed and had nothing to protect our babies with.

But, we were going to go. After all, it was a road trip across the entire country. And not just any country, the United States of America, the greatest country on earth. We were both nervous, but we decided to do it for the experience of a lifetime – let's go.

It was time to get our stuff together and wait outside of our hotel for the Uber to take us to the rent-a-car center. Once we got our stuff and the waiting game began to get picked up, I was incredibly nervous the whole time.

Once the Uber showed up and it was time to pack the luggage in the car to leave, I got even more nervous.

And then you had the drive over. At this point, I'm sure you can imagine the kind of anxiety I had during that painful ride to go get our car. I was a nervous wreck.

Then God showed us his face, in the form of the rent-a-car center being closed.

When we pulled up, there were two of their cars blocking the entrance to their building and other vehicles, and on the cars, they were explaining how that particular location was closed due to COVID-19 and that we had to go to another location in order to grab a car.

That was the first sign from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to NOT go!

At the time though, I was just relieved that there was a setback, while Crystal still wanted to make the drive. At the end of the day though, it was still going to be extraordinarily expensive to stay in Los Angeles for a whole month, so we were going to have to go through with this drive whether I wanted to or not – I just wish we had a gun.

We went back to the hotel to re-group, re-strategize and reschedule a rent-a-car since that location was closed, but before we got back to the room, an amazing thing happened: We got back our passports.

They must have dropped out of our bags or something, because the front desk called us over to let us know that somebody had turned them in – they were all in a black zip-up case. With that being said, we got incredibly lucky to find them.

Instantly I'm trying to talk Crystal into flying since we got back the passports, but she was still wanting to experience the drive across the country. And I understood why she wanted to, again, a part of me wanted to as well. But under our circumstances with kids and no gun, I just don't think we were ready for that trip.

After a discussion over a couple of blunts, Crystal ultimately came to the conclusion that flying would be the best decision for us, and as a result, we were back on the same page.

The biggest piece of intel that I brought Crystal’s way that swayed her towards my direction was the introduction to Spirit Airlines – to both of us.

Say what you want about Spirit Airlines, but they impressed me during my trip from Los Angeles, California to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And they have incredible "swag" with the Proud Boys' signature 'black and yellow' colors. And on top of that, they're based in Miami, Florida – my favorite city in the entire world. My experience with them was great, with each their swagger, budget-friendly prices and excellent marketing tactics. (PHOTO: Dreamstime)

You know, the airline that has a reputation for having cheap ticket prices, no entertainment or food unless you pay for it (well, at least with the food, there isn't any entertainment), and having passengers that can be, well, a bit rough around the edges.

I can honestly say, however, that they completely proved their bad reputation wrong to me.

via Wikipedia:

Spirit Airlines, Inc. (stylized as spirit) is an American ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida in the Miami metropolitan area. It is the eighth largest commercial airline in North America. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the United States and in the Caribbean and Latin America. The airline operates bases at Atlantic City, Baltimore,