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 trunk. 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.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 106: Astoria, Oregon

To no surprise, I arrived in Astoria to rain. However, I was immediately relieved and lighter and happier. Apparently the energy is not for me, as if I needed a further tick mark in that box.
I arrived in the adorable downtown area; it was clearly a tourist town. I drove around to all of The Goonies spots I could find online, including to the house that had multiple signs like this...

So, I guess no Goonies nerds allowed. Also, she's selling her house. I guess she's really had it with us. Again, I got a hotel for the night. I went to the park, which was still open for the season to camp in, but it was $28 dollars to camp in the park and $40 to stay in a hotel - with a fireplace. Wet and cold or warm and fireplace for $12 more? I figured that having saved so much on lodging the past few weeks, I was allowed to spend the money. Plus, I couldn't fathom paying thirty fucking dollars to sleep in the woods. I have principles, people.

The following day, I started my day at Seaside Beach. On my walk down to the water, I had a revelation...

Walking along the beach, suddenly it really hits me what I've done. What I've been doing. And the comments on the post help boast my feelings of self-achievement. The sun out, my mood completely turned around from how I was feeling holed up in Portland, I went about playing a tourist for the day.

I went to the Oregon Film Museum, which was mostly just a Goonies museum - but did you know that Kindergarten Cop was filmed in Oregon? (I'm not a policeman, I'm a princess.) Time for a film museum (Read: Goonies) montage...

being that it was off season (another perk!) and i was the only one there,
the lady who worked there asked if I'd like her to take any photos for me. :)

As part of their Astoria "museum package" (aren't they the cutest little tourist town?!), I also visited the Flaval house across the street from the Goonies jail ...err, I mean Oregon Film Museum and learned all about the history of the town, which is actually pretty interesting. I also took the opportunity to take some selfies in the history house because, for whatever reason, taking photos of myself in all of these various places puts me in a good - or better - mood. They're fun. It's like a visual conversation, maybe. Who knows. I'm alone a lot again.

I didn't have time to visit the third museum because by the time I got out of the Flavel house it was nearly 5pm, which meant everything was closing, but also it was getting dark. After walking down mainstreet for a while, I headed to a bed. Tonight I got a hotel...again; it started to rain again by evening and still that expensive ass camping is not appealing. Tomorrow I head down to the Pacific Coast Highway. It's time that I make good time down the coast. I need to be in Las Vegas in five days, which is over a thousand miles away. Time to hustle. Feeling a little better now, a bit more myself: Thanks, Astoria.

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