Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 133: Restock, Restart & Bump

I found out that it is terribly difficult to get going again once you've stopped. Sort of a like a roller coaster that went halfway up the incline and then just kind of rolled back down to start ... now do that like six times. I spent the past week in Laughlin. Well, technically Laughlin and then also across the Colorado River in Bullhead City, AZ in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Saturday. $50 is a price too high for me, but it's still only $18 Sunday through Thursday, so score!

total cost of walmart parking lot dinner: $1.28

However, the second night I was there, I was restocking at the Bullhead Dollar Tree (the gypsy paradise) and after I left I pulled off the road to take a look at the river and nab a photo. I noticed a funny group of raccoons in the parking lot and stopped to take their photo for a funny post I had so cleverly come up with in four seconds.

Laughlin cats something something joke...

Just then! I heard a terrible noise and nearly pee myself. I look over to the source and see a huge pick-up had just backed into me.

I get out quickly to assess the damage and suddenly the pickup truck floors it towards the river, stops suddenly and then bounces back towards the river again. "STOP! STOP! REVERSE! REVERSE!" I yell to him. Soon, he halts his panic and comes back to a normal parking space and then, the culprint, a 50 something man, exits his truck. He approaches me and with an English accent, apologizes for having left a huge dent in my poor little hatchback's bumper.

back at the casino hotel, i assess the damage and whine. wah.
my dad owned a detail garage so i've always taken pride in my cars, but now mine looks tragic.

After the first few minutes of our exchange, which began with him apologizing and then telling me it was his son in law's truck and he didn't have the insurance, I told him if he couldn't produce it I had to call the cops. "But I'm English..."

"Okay?" I responded, in a tone that suggested I needed more context for that to mean anything.

"You can trust me," he said as if his Britishness qualified my trust.

After explaining that I don't trust anyone I don't know, he texted his son in law. Huzzah, the document. A security guard showed up and the Englishman admitted fault and apologized, which is all well and good - but what about my house...I mean car.

After a while, we decided that he would pay me $500 out of pocket. He clearly wanted to avoid cops and I always believe in leaving the insurance companies our of small claims. Plus, I had remembered seeing a YouTube video where a guy popped his bumper out with hot water and I was in desperate need of more funds. So this worked out for me, unfortunately, my car looked crappy now - which I'm never a fan of. He only had $230 dollars on him (he had just won that night at the casino) and we agreed to meet up the next afternoon for exchange the remaining cash.

i got my photo though?

We both left a little salty that night, but when we exchanged money the next afternoon (although I was late because I forgot that when you cross the river, it's a different time zone) and I signed his hand written "contract", we talked for a while. And by a while, I mean we talked for over two hours in the parking lot about every random thing you could think of: why I'm single, his shock at my singledom (because "you seem so normal"), my travels and London. And if I'm ever in London, he will show me around.

Did John and I just become friends?! Yup!

The rest of the week was fairly blah. Because my time here was meant - excused? - to be attempting to catch up on my blog, I had to find free WiFi. Unfortunately - or fortunately, I don't know - the only free WiFi in town was at the Golden Nugget Starbucks a couple of buildings down. I spent a couple of days, a few hours a day there (where I stumbled upon my long forgotten Tiago Pass photos - next post.)  I went on a windy ass walk along the "boardwalk" and stalked the local Dollar Store and then found the most magical of places: The .99 and Below store. THEY HAVE PRODUCE. FOR A DOLLAR. I cooked meals on my bathroom sink with my camp stove. And I have begun a new low...or high: baby food... because it doesn't require utensils.

A couple of days later, I was still struggling to get back on the move. Fortunately for my inability to jump start my life back into a lack of beds and electricity, I had promised my friend in Seattle (who I stayed with) that I would drive over to Banning, CA and meet up with him when he was there for a Pin-Ball tournament.

I meant to leave today, but I didn't. I'm the worst; I know. I had suddenly decided I wanted to drive back up into Utah and see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. (Kinda like that time I all the sudden decided I needed a sign language certificate in college.) I didn't though, obviously. It's so fucking hard to give up a bed and television and leaving your pots out when you don't know the next time you will see one or when you'll get to stay put for more than a day or two.

My travels up until this point have been scheduled and fast and full of fervor. I am now looking forward to a more relaxed portion of the tour - having extended my travels. I am, however, struggling with the idea that I have left my parents back in Pennsylvania, to deal with the cancer with just the two of them. I will check in again soon. Until then, I'm off to Utah tomorrow. Finally, on the road again...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Day 126: New Year's in Florida

Accurate NYE fortune cookie?

As it began to get to freezing temps in Pennsylvania, it was time to leave. I had an evening flight and arrived a few hours before New Years. I was staying with my friend - since 7th grade during the school dance we were bored with and instantly bonded over making some gross concoctioin drink, throwing a quarter in the bottom and telling anyone who drank it they could have the prize (no one drank it) - and her girlfriend. Last year, I finally fulfilled my 'dream' New Year's Eve of sitting at home on my couch doing nothing; I was thrilled to be buying bras on Amazon in yoga pants as the year switched to 2015. DC parties had become so pretentious with expectations and price tags to match; I like house parties. So, party of one...mostly.
Interestingly, I always say that the how you spent your NYE and what you do at midnight is indicative of the rest of your year. I hadn't planned to travel the US by myself at that point. But as my theory would  have it, I spent much of the year planning to be on my own, doing whatever the hell I wanted and the last four months of it following through on the plan. I may be onto something...

The plan for New Year's was simple: Chinese food and board games. YES! Is it a problem I would like to have enough kids to complete teams for my favorite board games? Whatever, it's fine. After my fill of chicken and broccoli and Pandemic, we headed off to bed with no real plans for the following week. 

My friend had days off and switched days so we could spend a bunch of time together. We went to Ledo Key and downtown Sarasota and just hung out. It was nice, but the 80 degree weather decided to end there at the same time that I rejoined the east coast. So my dream of laying out on the beach was squashed and we did a lot of walking in the sand - and people watching. All we were missing was a gross drink with a quarter at the bottom - ha!

Also, my phone decided to get a black spot of death in the display - that then began to move around - which required me to upgrade my phone and during that time I discovered someone left the Framily plan and my bill went up $30. So then plus the new phone, my bill went from $50 a month to $120 - not good. Terrible, really, Plus, I had planned to switch networks to whichever network was best in the city I move too, but now I'm stuck with Sprint. Also, not good; but Mercury is in retrograde and I suppose these things happen. With very little time to spare I got my new phone, traded in the old, grabbed my rental car and took myself to the airport - and accidentally through a toll so I'm really looking forward to how much a rental toll costs me. 
On my way back to Vegas this evening, I sat beside a kid, Colton. Colton was 21 (a fact I learned after he hit on me and I asked him how old he thought I was "24?" Awesome.) He was on his way to Vegas for the first time. We talked the whole time and, being thrifty and having had my Lyft coupons I activated for the ride to the airport two weeks ago expire, I thought we could share a ride and then I drive him down to the Strip. It was during this flight that I unexpectedly became the Condom Fairy of Seat 21A: Back in August, I had a farewell party and my friends filled a pinata with candy and condoms; I'm not sure what they thought I was going to be doing on this trip! So I took their gift to me and told Colton "don't get STDs" and then he informed me that he's from St. Petersburg, the "STD Capital of the US". So there's today's PSA: Prophylactics in St. Pete.
We de-boarded, I taught Colton how Lyft worked, and after a wrong turn or two, we were back to my hotel where my car had been for two weeks. What I failed to accurately tell him was that my passenger's see was fairly occupied so he was going to have to sit with his feet and legs up against the dash. He didn't mind. And we continued to chat until I dropped him off and he said he tell me if they were going to any clubs - okay, I'll be 90 minutes south...

While I was in Pennsylvania, Danny Also texted to say we was going to be driving through Las Vegas and asked when I would be back; maybe we could connect there. I was stoked, Beatles "Love" was on my Buck List and I got money for Christmas. I declared aloud (so I would actually do it!) that money would afford me the opportunity to finally check off "Love" and now I had Danny to go with me. Unfortunately, while Danny Also had told me while I was in Florida that he had been delayed in his excursion. I said I would wait near Las Vegas for him to finish. So, I headed back to Laughlin - my cheap hotel oasis to take a breather and wait to see when Danny and I could go see Beatles "Love".

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 119: Christmas in Pennsylvania

Warm and frustrating and nearly normal is the best way I can describe the week at home. My sisters didn't stay very long; they left the 27th. No one in my family or extended really asked about my travels, to my disappointment (and none of them read this either). Except my grandfather who asked certain places and did I visit places I'd been again that he'd taken us as kids? My grandmother, quiet and not herself, as she had suffered a stroke 10 days before (much to my surprise and concern). She is one of my spirit animals so while minor, her unapologetic honest is her charm - and mine as well - so I'm worried that maybe we won't get her back, but I'm hopeful that she recovers. My father, quiet and at times frustrated and often tired. I tried to stay out to be out of his hair - so to speak. I tried to get my mother out of the house since she has been tasked as caretaker and as much as the ill person is going their their trial, the caretaker needs to be taken care of as well. I begin to feel as though as soon as I left, everyone got sick. I don't feel responsible for it, but I do feel a certain tinge of something...unsettling.

On the positive, aside from seeing my family and not being alone on Christmas, my lifetime best guy friend/'brother'/betrothed - the guy I told Danny Also he reminded me of - was in town and we got to hang out a bunch. He is my single sucks sometimes friend and also the very un-tethered babies of our families. During a conversation he deemed himself controlled chaos and me, the unstoppable force. While we seems to be spinning out of control, the irresponsible ones of our families, we tend to be the calms in the centers of a storm of relations and love. True.

And then, my best girlfriend from DC decided to come up and visit me as well. We went out to High Tea with her mom (who was on her way back to Michigan) and mine. It was great to see her again and I was warmed over with her wanting to visit.

mother daughter high tea, W hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa

Then the three of us - the single kids in the snow - hung out together. One night in particular, became my favorite of the week. First, I took my girlfriend to this mythical land I had been talking about for years: Gabes. It's like Marshall's but cheaper. I'm so frugal and I love finding a great deal, so I've loved this place for 20 years. As kids, we were given $200 or so dollars for an entire wardrobe for school. Obviously that's not a lot of money, so we learned to stretch it as far as possible and I learned the absolute beauty of Gabes and being a thrifty shopper. So after years of being complimented on my outfits and me saying "thanks, it's from Gabes," my girlfriend just HAD to go and I was happy to oblige - especially since I was using this gem by moving west.

While there my brother betrothed called. I told him to join us. So there the three of us were and then my girlfriend found a rack of onesies. Soon, we decided to buy a matching pair and then head out to the shitkicker bar by my house that night in our onesies. So we did.

gabes, my fav place and one of my fav ladies.

my favorite place and one of my fav men.

We put on our new onesies and went upstairs to show my mom. She laughed. And then my father came out, gave us a look and my girlfriend asked, "is this weird?"

To which he responded quickly, referencing me, "No, I'm used to his by now."

"My doing weird stuff?" I asked.

"Yes," he responded in one of my finest complimentary moments.

And then we were off to the bar down the street. When we stepped in the door everyone looked at us. We started to make friends as people asked what we were doing and we replied: These were on clearance at Gabes, as we shook our onesie tales.

 Two days later it was time to pack up and get ready for Florida and leaving all of this love. But what a lovely week it's been. A little scary - I hope everyone stops getting ill and begins to repair - but I can't imagine not having been here. What a fool I was to feel any amount of resentment. I am so thankful my parents wanted me home enough to fly me here. So now it's time to head to Florida this evening. Warm weather, I hope, because with my arrival in PA, it finally became winter. Perhaps all the warmth is in my heart. (cheese!) Everything is going to be okay. I'm refeuled in my heart and ready to continue on my journey alone... but first! New Years with my friend of 20 years in Sarasota!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Day 112: Wheels Down Christmas Eve

shhhh, little baby.
Three hours of sleep. 5:45am wake up, 6am Lyft, 8:30am flight. Board the plane and sit, baby begins to cry in the seat behind. Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.

12/24/16, 2:06p

I'm sitting in an airplane, descending into Pittsburgh. The past few days have been tough and I've felt kind of resentful. (I know that makes me a selfish asshole.) Resentful that I had to go out of my way, defect from my plans and use gas money to head way south, way early, to be flown home for the holidays. This was my time, I thought. And everything changed.

I really only feel comfortable admitting this because now that I can feel the energy of home, the prospect of seeing people I haven't seen in over 100 days, I'm excited. Beyond, a bit. Giddy, perhaps. 

I didn't realize how detached I had grown. Self-reliance comes with a side affect of a hidden sort of selfishness. What is self-serving for me today? As we head towards wheels down, I am very happy to be here. It was worth the 1,200 mile detour. What is a trip of a lifetime worth if you haven't a family (and friends) with whom to share it?

We deboarded. I grabbed my bag and headed outside to wait. I texted my mom and learned that my father was picking me up, a happy surprise to me. He exited his car to greet me, medical mask across his face, his head now completely bald. Cancer is a bitch. A familial hug - from my calming voice of reason, my brother in rubbertramping 40 years later - assured me I was where I was supposed to be.

On the way home I knew he was tired, but I was happy to be chatting with him in person and enjoying the 70 some degree, sunny day. A ridiculous thing for December in southwest Pennsylvania. We got home and I got a hug from my momma and greeted by sisters and brother-in-laws and a gaggle of nieces and nephews.

Last year I lost my bedroom to my sisters' growing families. I was relocated to the basement pull-out sofa. I was really upset last year. This year it's an upgrade; it's not a trunk or a couch or a stranger's home. It's *my* home, because I realize no matter where I end up or how far I go, Pittsburgh will *always* be "home. And I'm happy to be here, surrounded by the warm comfort of family. (Which is good because the weather followed me and it's dropped out of the 70's tomorrow just in time for my arrival and dismay. ha!)

"Now go tell mommy what I said..."
"Mommy, I'm a pot head. hahahahahaha!"
::sister looks at me disapprovingly, i smile and declare: i love being an aunt. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Day 111: Pacific Coast Highway to Las Vegas

I awoke in the morning to a beautiful damn view (prior post). The country is so wonderful. As an added bonus, the rains finally subsided. Unfortunately, I would soon find out, it was a little too late. About 30 minutes down the sidewinding Highway 1, I ran into the scene above.

That's right. California's solution to heavy rains on the PCH is to simply shut down the f*cking highway. This is bad news for someone already on a pretty tight schedule. I have two days to get to Las Vegas. I have two days to get to Las Vegas and the g'damn highway south is shut down. I had no choice but to turn around and go back; I looked at a map. About 10 miles past where I slept last night, I could turn on another route to go east to head south...

Unfortunately, that road was closed due to flooding as well. Which meant I had to drive all the way back up to Fort Bragg - 90 switchbacking minutes north - in order to head east and then south. Suffice to say the day did not begin well.

After about nine hours of driving, I arrived in Tulare, south of Fresno; about 5 hours west of Las Vegas. Happy with the cushion I'd given myself and feeling down with things again, I booked a hotel for $38, absolutely inhaled a dinner at Denny's (I hadn't eaten all damn day) and passed out. The following day was going to stink: I had to find a hotel in Las Vegas, pack everything in my "dresser" suitcase for a week in 70 then 40 degree weather in Pennsylvania and then 80s (hopefully still) weather in Florida and then figure out how to get my car to the hotel I booked to park it at for two weeks before getting to the airport by 7am for a 5 hour Christmas Eve flight. My mom texted me when I was about an hour outside of Tulare and asked if I was excited: Ask me again tomorrow, I said exhausted and weary of all the work in front of me to get back to Pennsylvania. The only saving grace is that I had finally drivin out of rain and got to enjoy a  gorgeous drive -by sunset. 

I woke up and headed to Vegas. About an hour outside of the city, I reconsidered where I had booked my car while looking for a hotel for the night. (Since I was too tired to pack my back last night, I had to get a hotel in order to unpack everything so that I could repack the dresser, which required a room.) It was then that I discovered the option of booking a hotel for the night, which then allows you to keep you car parked in their lot for up to 30 days. Mid-drive, I canceled my original parking and rebooked a room at the Best Western outside of the strip, which gave me a room and parking for $115 ($10 cheaper than the original shithole I had booked before, which had me nervous about break-ins). I arrived to another beautiful sunset. And finally a day with zero rain!

I checked into my hotel and did my laundry and packed and unpacked and repacked for about six hours. The hotel room looked like a disaster area. Around 3am, I finally go to sleep. Three hours later, I was up and on my way to the airport, heading home on Christmas Eve...

looking at facebook, seeing everyone with their families on christmas eve
and i'm like...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 109: Rainy Night on the PCH

Morning view at my 'campsite'

The rain taps atop my car; behind it I hear the ocean waves swell and crash in the distance - angry with the winter storm. To my right, an enormous evergreen, branches on the ground askew, clearly ravaged by the latest storm and proximity to the ocean. The thrwap of the extra large water droplets compliments tapping on my roof when the rain is tapping too hard to hear the gentle sound of a volatile ocean. The things sound machines are made of.

Only this is real life, stopped at a vista point on the PCH - sleeping in my trunk... again. I haven't heard a car pass in hours, the nearest building or person is arguably unwalkable - but who knows in the call of a pitch black night. To cook my supper, I had to hide my sterno stove beneath my bumper (being incredibly cautious of my gas tank nestled right behind it(, reheating old meat from days ago, then eating it while crouched inside my drunk. The last time I've seen a bed was three days ago in Northern Oregon; I'm now 120 miles north of San Francisco. I've been on the coast now for exactly 30 days. The past 22 have seen rain. Nothing about the pacific north west winter is anything I could have imagined - and I really miss the sun.

But this experienced, sprinkled with miserable moments, is the most fulfilling thing I've done. And when I click the button on my phone, close my eyes, the crash of the ocean and tapping of the rain will be my lullaby. I'll wake up on the cliff of an ocean; vista point most people only get to stop at, has become my home for the night. And when I wake up, it's going to be raining again - or likely have not stopped - and it has become my troublesome adversary, blocking my beloved sun.
 But I have the gentle song of shifting sheets of rain meeting the gravity cooing above my head. The sound of delicate, angry waves in moments of precipitating reprieve. Water is both my enemy and my peacemaker tonight.

Perhaps nature encapsulated my contemplation or perhaps that I've been confined to a five and a half foot by two foot space in a car for five hours. Either way I realize that through the grey and rain and laughs and smiles, the bad always met with good. These moments I will never get back, may never have again and will always remember. They are all mine; a singular ownership. And I've fallen in love. With something - my life, myself, my (version of the) world (not what may have been expected of a woman at 32). It's hard sometimes. And it's fucking amazing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Day 108: 101 to 1, Beaches and Redwoods and New Friends

Cannon Beach; rainy again

The 101 runs down the coast of Washington and Oregon, eventually leading to Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast highway, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. The PCH has been on my list of things to do since I left, which, in terms of solid plans I had, was a fairly short list.

I started my drive down the coast by first stopping at Cannon Beach just outside of Astoria. Stopped for a highway sign selfie. I spent the night in Coos Bay at the Wal-Mart, now back into economical mode having spent the past weekish in hotels. Naturally, even though the day began dry, it rained. My least favorable conditions in which to convert my car into a bed.

There were at least a dozen of us car camping in the Wal-Mart parking lot and specifically spaced out at least five spaces each and strategically parked by bushes. This is absolutely a subculture.

I woke up, "showered" in the Wal-Mart bathroom. On my way out I grabbed a donut was a free coffee sample being handed out to sell Kureigs. Donut and a coffee is a good start, plus, it was sunny! (Eventually it rained again in the day.) Throughout the day, I received some Tinder messages from a new Danny - we'll call him Danny Also - whom I assume I matched with in Portland, but who knows.

I went into the Wal-Mart for my 'shower' and a donut, ended up with free coffee and SUN!
Its the little things. 
Well, if you say so road...

Orford Beach - the painted road didn't lie

Danny Also kept me entertained during my drive and I soon learned that he had just filmed an episode of Naked and Afraid. "OMG!" I screamed in delight to myself (and also on facebook). I love that show. I asked him about filming it and picked his brain and we chatted easily throughout the day, which passed the time nicely. Eventually, I was almost in California. The last town just before the border was Brookings, Oregon, which, earlier in the day, Danny had told me he was from. "I just drove through your hometown," I sent him.

"You should have stopped in for a beer," he sent back.

"Oh, I thought you were in Portland."

"No. I was a few days ago but I live in Brookings. You should come back."

Having just wasted ample amount of time taking photos in front of a California sign (finally) and an Oregon sign, the sun was getting ready to set and I thought: he seems like an interesting fellow and also, maybe I'll get a free place to crash. I told him I'd turn around and he told me an address to meet him.

I showed up and scanned the room to make eye contact until someone reacted - a lot of the men in the bar looked the same: White, beard, fuck, I couldn't tell the difference. I thought it was this one guy, but then he didn't react like I had requested, so I kept scanning. Eventually Danny Also waved at me from the bar. Cute, but short, I approached. He had been talking to a drunk Native American women who, when I approached, asked if he was my boyfriend and then proceeded to tell me how incredibly attractive Danny Also was. We laughed.

About a half an hour later, she brought a huge - yet unfinished - basket she had been weaving and gave it to an acquaintance of Danny Also's, who was also sitting at the bar. (The guy beside the basket guy was the one who really wanted to be on Naked and Afraid, but the casting folks thought he was too desperate to be on TV and asked if he had any friends who would be good for it. He mentioned Danny Also and that caused a rift between the two.) Anyway, the Native drove off drunk, Danny and I bonded immediately with one another.

We headed to another bar where we had a meal and some more drinks. Like moths to a light, people kept coming up to us, wanting to join in our conversation and hang out. That's how good of a time it seemed we were having and we got along so well that people half a sheet to the wind believed us when we told them we were siblings. We walked out to the car while we aited for our food and on the way he confessed how much more attractive he thought I was than my photos; what a rarity. "I've been told that before," I confessed, lightly delighted. 

"It's your personality," he said, "It's so genuine." What a compliment! Thanks, Danny!

We headed back in and ate, then laid on the floor to plan Bananagrams (thanks for that crazy Thom), were given blankets by the bartender and had a wonderful time. We laughed so much and I needed it so much. He reminded me of Nathan, I told him and that was a bonus connection to the comforts of home and people who have loved me all of my life.

Danny Also invited me to sleep on his friend's couch. He had had a yurt he was living in before he left for Naked and Afraid, but leased it out to someone else and was now a nomad - like me. The trend of like attracting like in this world of nomads and vagabonds continues... so strange, yet incredibly intriguing.

In the morning, I woke up and asked the actual renter if I could use his shower. He acquiesced - and thank goodness because it had been a while since I'd had a shower - and then I was on my way. I wanted to get to the Redwoods before hustling down to Las Vegas.

I drove through to the redwoods, including the Avenue of the Giants. What a splendid surprise that one was! I loved it and even though it was raining, I was a happy girl.

After the redwoods, I finally made it to Route 1. I was on the Pacific Coast Highway. I got about 60 miles into the surpintine roads before I got uneasy enough to call it a night. There was no highway, barely any phone service, to ask for a Wal-Mart would have been laughable and - again - it was pouring rain. I decided that my campsite on this night would be a vista point, cooked dinner under my back bumper, reflected on my life (next post) and eventually fell asleep to the lull of tapping rains and undertoes.

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