Chris finished entering one last address onto his itinerary sheet, looking over it in satisfaction. "This is literally the best route possible."
Ben looked at the list, brow furrowed. "I mean it's fine but… why does it matter what route we take? And why did you plan all these stops? There's nothing that interesting to stop and see in the Midwest. Why don't we just drive to Indianapolis, go to this conference, come home, and get it over with?"
"It's always important to have a plan. And I found parks at waypoints along the route so I can still get my daily workouts in!"
"Okay, Chris, I get it. I know you like to have things planned out and that your workouts are important to you." Even if the Midwest wasn't the most interesting place for a road trip, it would still be good to have time hanging out and talking with Chris. They didn't get to hang out as much anymore now that they worked in separate departments.
"You know me, Ben Wyatt! Now I'm going for my afternoon run, then we can get packed."
Chris carefully placed his cooler full of fresh vegetables, fruit, and other healthy snacks in the trunk of his car. Ben handed him his bag full of Star Wars Cheez-Its and Oreos that he'd bought while Chris had been on his run. "We're all packed now, right?" Ben asked, seeing both their snacks, suitcases, and suitbags in the back.
"Nope! Those are just my work clothes, I still need to pack my workout clothes."
"Of course you do." Ben tried to hide his smile so his friend wouldn't think he was laughing at him. Sometimes Chris's perfect workout schedule made Ben feel bad about his own difficulties with finding time and motivation to exercise at all, but he knew it was just their shared neurotype manifesting in different ways.
Half an hour down the freeway, Ben tried to put on music from Chris's phone. "Workout 160 bpm, Workout 170 bpm, Workout 180 bpm, Workout 180 bpm 2… Chris, do you have any playlists that aren't for running?"
"Yes! I have my meditation playlist as well."
Ben turned on the playlist marked meditation and quickly switched it off when he could feel himself drifting off. It was definitely relaxing, but sleeping wasn't exactly conducive to driving. "So… How've you been?"
"Excellent! I've gotten my mile time down to 5 minutes. I've been trying out a new workout routine and focusing more on high intensity interval training, which has allowed my cardio to get even better."
"What about weight lifting?" Ben wasn't particularly interested in workout routines himself, but knew it meant a lot to his friend to be able to talk about his interests.
"I'm on the hypertrophy phase right now! I have a set of barbells in my basement along with a set of dumbbells in my office at city hall so I can get three weight training sessions in a day along with my two runs."
Ben noticed Chris's left leg jiggling a bit. "Hey man, do you need to pull over somewhere and go for a run or use the restroom or something?"
"I am a bit restless and could use some physical exertion. Oh, look, a rest stop!"
After Chris got out and ran a mile around the dog walk area, they switched drivers and continued on the freeway. Chris broke the silence this time. "Anything interesting happen on Doctor Who this season?"
Ben lit up. "Yeah! They brought back the Master, except this time she regenerated as a woman. They started a time travel plotline with the Daleks. I'm not too sure about some of the characterization choices they've made with Clara this season, but I'm glad that they're bringing back some of the characters from the classic series."
They continued to chat about Doctor Who until the next rest stop. Well, Ben talked and Chris occasionally asked questions. Taking turns discussing their special interests on long car rides was a long standing habit between them, and it felt good to slip back into that routine.
This time they stopped at a park near an elementary school. "Hey Chris, why are we stopping here? There's not a public restroom."
"Because there is a pull up bar here! I can currently do 30 consecutive pullups, but I hope to have it up to 50 by the end of the year so I cannot miss a day of training."
"Alright, go do your thing. I'll wait here." Ben sat on the hood of the car and pulled a comic book out of his briefcase to read while he waited.
In a few minutes they were on the road again with Chris behind the wheel. Since they were beginning to get closer to Indy there was more scenery along the road. Well, there was occasional landmarks to break up the sea of corn and soybeans. Just enough for Chris to find things to pepper random facts about into the conversation.
"How do you know all this stuff, Chris?" Ben understood knowing a lot about your special interest, but was always somewhat surprised by the breadth of Chris's knowledge.
"I read encyclopedias when my anxiety keeps me awake. That way even if my physical health is deteriorating because of fatigue, my mental agility will be maintained. And since I was always hyperlexic and have taught myself to be a speedreader, I can finish an encyclopedia volume in under an hour on a good night."
"Sorry about the sleeping problems, dude."
"It happens less now because I sleep better when I exercise and because my anxiety keeps me awake less than it used to. Therapy!" Chris took one hand off the wheel just long enough to flash a thumbs up to his friend. "Which does mean that I have less time to learn things now, but I can read even faster when well rested. If you were not here I could be reading books at traffic stops."
Ben chuckled slightly. "Sorry I'm keeping you from being able to do that, then."
"You are not keeping me from doing anything. I enjoy talking with you, and besides, I learn about other things from you. Like Star Trek and Doctor Who."
"And you're one of the only people I can talk to about those things without people thinking it's annoying."
"I will never think you're annoying, Ben Wyatt. After all, who else would I go to an accounting conference with?"
The two were discussing accounting when they pulled into the last stop. Ben looked around, confused. They were in a strip mall, not a rest stop or a park. He started to unbuckle, wanting to stretch his legs either way. It wasn't until he got out and looked at the signs around him that he realized that they'd stopped at a comic shop. "Hey, they've got sonic screwdrivers from all the original Doctors here! And Marvel 1602!"
"I am going to get my Crossfit workout for the day done next door while you look in there. Meet you back here in an hour?"
Half an hour later, Ben turned around to find Chris, somehow already done with his workout, showered, and changed. "Done already?"
"Yes I am, Ben Wyatt. The workout was supposed to take 90 minutes, but I am in significantly better shape than the average adult male."
"Yes you are, Chris. Do you want to get going?"
"It is fine, I want you to have time to look at your interests as well."
In the hotel room that night, Ben went to bed early, but Chris began pacing, unable to sleep in an unfamiliar place with a day full of socialization looming ahead of him. At first Ben rolled over and tried to ignore his friends pacing, but when he realized that Chris wasn't going to sleep anytime soon, he got up and put his hand on his shoulder. "Hey man, are you going to be able to get to sleep?"
"No. But that's alright! I can read through the conference information for a tenth time!"
"Do you want to borrow a comic book or something instead to read?"
"I have not actually read a comic book before. Everything I know about them I learned from you, Ben Wyatt."
"Hey, you might like this one. The main character is a body builder."
Neither of them got much sleep last night, but Chris read every comic book Ben had with him and they had found three different parks within running distance of the convention center in case Chris needed to get away. Conferences were still slightly nerve wracking for both of them, but they knew the other understood and was there for them, which made the whole situation much less frightening.