Hint: Listen to the Icicles

If I was a poet

I’d write about roads

And I’d write about words

 

And warmth and rain

I’d try to capture the sound of sunshine

I’d dream up a new star

 

If I was a poet

I’d know the secrets of blue and gold

And I’d be able to tell you

All the ways life whispers

 

Can you hear it?

I can.

But I’m not a poet.

 

 

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Muddy horses

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.

 

I cruised into Christenburg, Virginia, hunted up a small church on a side street, and arrived just barely in time for a Toastmaster’s meeting. I participated in the meeting and had a good time but I had missed out on the pre-meeting gathering and couldn’t stay afterwards because I had to connect with the Airbnb host who was expecting me deep in the mountains.

She was a veterinarian’s assistant for large animals and had a couple horses. On the Airbnb ad the place looked comfortable and I liked the idea of spending some time with some horses.
I called her and she said the place was kinda hard to find and since her and her boyfriend had yet to eat dinner, did I want to meet in town for a bite first?
Sure! Awesome!
I’d been renting out my extra bedroom on Airbnb for a few years. I didn’t find it uncomfortable at all to invite strangers into my home. In CT I had been feeling a lack of worldliness and I’m pleased to say that opening my home to travelers was a wonderful experience. A German couple, an artist from West Virginia, a grad student from Oxford, a chain saw carver, cross country cyclists who arrived in a rainstorm, a young Russian man who’d just landed a great job here and was looking for an apartment to bring his family from Russia. I found it wonderful to sit and chat with these folks, or go out to dinner on a couple occasions, so I was delighted with her invite.
Only one time with an Airbnb guest did I have a poor experience. A lawyer father of a Wesleyan student.
“A single woman living alone here?”
I was trying to show him around the house. He starts peeling off his shirt.
“Oh I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable, I have to change quickly and be at a function. I’m sure if I have any questions I’ll find you. And if you need to find me my door will be open all night if you need anything.”
Yeah. Unh. Thanks.
He called a couple hours later, said he’d be out late and asked if he could stay an extra night. I told him no. I couldn’t accommodate that.
I slept with a milk crate in front of my bedroom door, with a vacuum cleaner balanced on top of it. I didn’t actually expect any trouble from this guy. He was just sorta creepy and smarmy. He and all his stuff were gone when I woke up.

Virginia Tech town. My host and her boyfriend were friendly but extremely spacey, both of them. Conversation was punctuated by dreamy stares. After a decent dinner at a student hangout I followed them up into the mountains. I had a few moments of – what the fuck am I doing?stardust
I called my then boyfriend, made sure he had the exact address, and if he didn’t hear from me in the morning he should do something about it. I dislike fear when it shows in me. What do I have to be afraid of?
Seriously.
Maybe you’ve not seen the meme, but it’s true –
Stardust. That’s all.

There wasn’t much to see of the place, it was dark. The horse pen did come pretty close to the back of the house. And two of them came to say hello. As they did I noticed they were standing ankle deep in mud.
Inside the room was comfortable enough but it turned out the internet wasn’t working, nor was there any cell service. I sat on the couch for a while with them and watched the local news. Snow coming. Overnight. Or starting early in the morning. Yeah. Deep in the mountains.
I half joked that I should leave now before I get snowed in. They made plans for how to deal with a morning of snow and assured me that I could stay a second night free if I got snowed in. I had zero desire to do that. I felt like I was running from snow. Like this send off onto my journey had a weather push that was still going on. And with no internet???

The place looked dingy in the daylight. The entirety of the horse pen was mud. It was still grey above, still threatening snow but I was getting out early enough. The horses looked tired and looking at them tired me. I wished them sunny skies and less mud as I backed out of the driveway.

I left early enough to have lunch with my friend Deb in Mooseville, NC and then I went on to Anderson South Carolina where I spent my first night in a hotel. I rather enjoyed it. Upscale wanna be highway-side food just steps out the door. Clean comfy room. It was a nice place to bring all my shit inside and rearrange a bit. I was excited about tomorrow’s itinerary.
And here’s two blog posts from last year about the next few days…

I Visited The Georgia Guidestones Today (One year ago Today!!!)

Atlanta Whirlwind

Pools

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to keep pace with myself last year. This post I wrote the other day and was reluctant to publish. But… I’ve edited it…

yellowstone

Yeah BFD. I got in the car and drove through some snow and met an internet friend.
Why do I act like (think in my mind like) it was some momentous thing.
Like I broke some restraint.
Whose restraint?
No one was trying to hold me back.
I can’t actually think of too many times anyone has tried to hold me back.
Me. Me who sometimes does amazing projects. Who tries to stop me?
There have been friends who laughed at me and told me I’d not go anywhere.
Luckily I managed to let them go. Since that kind of attitude is completely counter productive to the kind of life I want to live.
What did I think I was accomplishing? That morning. It was my first morning. It was cold and snowy.

Getting our cars out of Kari’s driveway and going to her corporate employment place, getting me a guest ID. Going to a Toastmaster meeting. And then hitting the road again when she went to work. Such a grey day it was, driving across the north of Virginia.

Luray Caverns, closed when I drove by. Or rather I’d be too late for the last scheduled tour. That had been a big one on my starting itinerary.
I visited Luray Caverns once in the 80s. On a lark on the way to spring tour one year. It led to a bit of a cave obsession over the next few year’s worth of journeys. Anything! Anywhere. To get underground and see what the earth can do.
Such wondrous places. Caves. Eons of time piled up to see. Glistening, towering stalagmites. Dripping, growing stone hanging delicately from vaulted ceilings. Deep blue green waters. I once saw some blind fish in a cave in Tennessee. Swimming endlessly back and forth in the pale green water.
But this day it was only pale grey skies.
I was not going underground. I was heading for the mountains instead.

Isn’t that just like life? Plan one thing and another happens.
I had reservations at an Airbnb place near Virginia Tech. And if I was on time, a Toastmasters meeting in the same town – Blacksburg Virginia.

hours later…

Stream of consciousness takes over sometimes…

Little brass hummingbird drinks from a brass water dish thingy. Sitting in the utility sink with a softly glowing green pool in its dish. Reminds me of an underground cave pool. Caves. That’s the second time today.

The desire to see those types of pools again, often, is strong. Always.
Sigh, it’s just brass polish. Not a magic pool.
That’s why Luray was such an important destination as I set out. I need to see it. I knew it as one of the most commercialized caves even back in the 80s. But with good reason. I remember the formations as impressive and accessibility as a joyous walk through the world. I want to experience that majesty again.

Is that why I’m on this road trip?

Partially, yes. But I just had to pass it by.

This Road Trip is bigger than Luray.

In dreams I often see such a deeply colored pool in my front yard. It’s as large as the yard (different yards in different dreams) with comfortable looking craggy boulders splashled around. The water is the clearest thing I’ve ever seen. I see the depths – more boulders, like lava, artfully tumbled below. And the colors! All colors of the rainbow, so bright, electric even. Inviting. I’ve seen pictures of places with underwater scenes almost as vibrant as my dream but I’ve never seen one in person. Sometimes the photos I see of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful give me the same impression of the pool and colors in my dream. But not quite.

A Hearse in the Wyoming Night

hearse cropped

I was 18 and I was in Berkeley California when I got the opportunity to travel halfway across the country in a hearse.

I was a new follower of The Grateful Dead and the hearse idea was symbolic and appropriate. What Deadhead wouldn’t jump on such an opportunity?

The hearse was old – a 1963 Cadillac Hearse – so she needed a mechanic. A good one. Someone who would always be there no matter what happened or where.

Steve hired Bob. Bob was a hardcore Punk Rocker, also from Berkeley, and he knew his way around carburetors, gaskets, filters and everything else required to keep an old car moving. While this seemed like an unlikely pairing it worked rather well. Bob was able to fix every problem that cropped up and, mostly, he had fun doing it.

Many years later I bumped into Bob at a party. He introduced me to a friend of his who kind of sneered and actually said something along the lines of – “You KNOW a hippie chick?!”

Bob was delighted and recounted the tale of the time he rode cross country as a hearse mechanic. His Punk Rocker friend was horrified!

“You did DEAD TOUR?!?! That’s SO lame.”

And I had the very memorable and enjoyable experience of listening in while this hard core Punk told his friend all the reasons why Dead Tour was not at all lame – in fact , it was about one of the coolest things. EVER.

“Dude! The parties! The drugs! The dancing! The CHICKS!”

I’m not so sure his friend was convinced but I loved hearing his perspectives and his glowing endorsement of the way we liked to do things.

Anyway.

It was very late one September night. I was asleep in the back of the hearse with 3 or 5 other hippies and Bob when they world started to sway. When I opened my eyes we were swerving all over the road as I tried to think who was driving – do they have control? What’s going on? The hearse rolled to a stop.

From the front seat – “Bob. Wake up man.”

Grumbles and growls as Bob crawled out from piles of blankets to assess the situation while the rest of us pulled the covers deeper over our heads.

We’d had a blowout and now we had a flat tire. This was Bob’s responsibility and we were all pleased it wasn’t our job as we snuggled down into the blanket warmth, grateful that we didn’t have to get up. It was obviously cold out there.

US night lghts

Mmmmm. Not my problem.

Ah but then. Bob told us we all had to get out while he changed the tire.

Guess we hadn’t thought of that.

It was 2 or 3 am and who knows where the hell we were. None too cheerful about having to crawl out into the cold, we tripped over each other and ourselves and fell into the night.

Shiver.

And look up.

HOLY SHIT!

Yeah, not very eloquent but I think we said it collectively.

We were somewhere in Wyoming along Interstate 80. And we were 50 miles from any town in any direction.

And the STARS!

The STARS!

milky way

So close you could almost reach out and touch them.  Stretching from horizon to horizon and looking like you could take a short hike over to see where they’re standing.

Seriously. Have you ever seen that?

Have you ever seen the Milky Way?

Do you even know what it looks like?

There are not a lot of chances to see it on the East Coast. There’s just too much ground light.

Here, in Vail, AZ, I’m about 20 miles southeast of Tucson and it may well be the darkest sky I’ve seen in decades. The sky is so filled with stars here that Orion – who stands proud and alone in my Connecticut front yard – is almost lost among his celestial companions.

And you know what???

milky way faint

I can see the Milky Way!

I can SEE it!

That slash of brightness across the night sky.

It’s a bit faint here. and it has been so long since I’ve seen it that I had to ask to be sure – IS that the Milky Way?

It’s not the brightest it can be. It’s not what ancient peoples saw when they looked up. It’s still tainted by ground light somewhat.

But you know what – It’s THERE and I can see it!

And if you have never had the pleasure – I implore you – at some point in your life – and the sooner the better – get thine ass somewhere crazy-dark and look!

Seriously Look!

LOOK at the sky!!!!!!!

 milky way apod

(Most Milky Way images from Astronomy Picture of the Day.)

Adventures in Messy Driving

I didn’t pack until pretty much the last minute. Which meant I was up late the night before I was to leave. Really late. Like 4:30AM.
So when I woke Sunday morning at 10 to the idea that it was going to snow all day along the eastern seaboard and by 5 pm it would be freezing solid in Baltimore, I questioned the idea of actually leaving.
Baltimore was my first planned stop.
I could wait a day and be a little more organized in my packing, but that would set me back a whole day and while I haven’t planned much of this journey more than a loose outline, I had planned the first three days.
I hemmed and hawed for a good hour before I finally started throwing everything in the car.
It was really hard to leave my cat.
Maybe it was just really hard to leave.
Does it make sense that it’s really hard to actually do what one really wants to do?
To which my best friend Vette replied, “If following your dreams were easy, everyone would be doing it”

The weather was fine and the weather was fine and the weather was fine all the way through NY and over the GWB. Then it started to snow.
I figured I’d go as far as I could, then stop and get a room. I didn’t expect I’d make it to Baltimore, and I was okay with that.
It got messy fast.

I thought about stopping when a truck almost ran me into a jersey barrier, but I soldiered on. How far will I push this?
Traffic stopped. I looked at the map.
Hmm.
I’d gotten an invite from Kari who lives in Newark Delaware. Maybe I could make it that far. I called her. No answer. Then I popped on to Facebook and shot her a message.
I kept going. The roads were definitely bad. but I’ve driven in worse, and I’ve got a Forester.

IMG_0719

I had no idea what I was going to do, or where I was going to stop, or where I would sleep.
I began to remember what life on the road is really like.
Then Kari called.
She’d had to go to a funeral in Wilkes-Barre and she was driving home in this mess. When I told her where I was, she determined we’d get to her house about the same time. There’s a rest area just before her exit. We’d meet there.
We arrived at the rest area within about 5 minutes of each other.
And here’s the fun part.
See Kari and I had never actually met in person before. About 15 years ago we joined the same online book group. We always said we’d meet for real. I suspect neither of us imagined that first meeting would take place on the side of the highway in 10 inches of snow.
I followed to her house. Parked my car and we went out for dinner and drinks.

IMG_0775IMG_0752

How perfect it all was! It couldn’t have been more so.
One would think.
Back at her house talking, late, and I’m planning my morning departure and she says “Oh and I’m Toastmaster at a meeting tomorrow at noon.”
What?!?!?
We’d never discussed Toastmasters. I’m a dedicated Toastmaster and I’ve planned to attend as many meetings as I can along my journey.
So yeah. It got even more perfect.
Kari kept talking about the serendipity of it all. I only smiled and didn’t tell her that I did a speech abut serendipity just a couple weeks ago.
That was a perfect start to my journey. Thanks Kari! Great meeting you!

IMG_0973

And here’s me tonight – in a hotel, trying to get a handle on managing my digital life from the road…

IMG_1204

What’s the goal?

Lots of people ask – “What’s the goal of this trip?”

I do not have the answer. I say so. “Um. I don’t really know…”

Shouldn’t I know? I should. But I don’t know. I’m going anyway. I feel the need. The timing is right. I have to go. That’s all I know.

Tonight – (And then three dinners left in CT)

I was going for dinner at a wonderful oyster bar in Saybrook CT called Liv’s. Next door is an Arthur Murray Dance Studio with windows wide open to the street/sidewalk view.

Standing and watching the dancers and their tutors I commented “What makes people want to learn ballroom dancing in this day and age? What makes them, among all the choices one has in the world, say ‘I’m going to take ballroom dancing lessons’? Is it fun? They look so thrilled and happy. I wonder what it costs?”

And a woman sees us looking in, comes out the door and says “You should try dancing. An introductory private 45 minute lesson is only 25$. It’s fun and you’ll be amazed at the joy you’ll feel moving to the music.”

Oh she said a bit more than that but I was too busy with my jaw hanging open with the awareness that I asked the universe a question and it sent someone to me to answer it!

I said to Ray – “OMG that’s so cool! Did you see that? I asked a question and the universe sent the answer. I’m SO  happy – I feel like since I decided to take this trip all “the flow” is coming back to me!”

Fast forward 20 minutes. We’re inside eating. I relate to him how so many people are asking the goal of the trip and I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t know exactly myself why I’m doing this.

And my spectacular boyfriend looks at me and says “Oh Hollie, *I* know why you’re taking this trip? It’s so obvious. Do you really not know?”

“Um. No Ray. I really don’t know. Tell me.”

“You’re going on this trip to re-find your magic.”

And I burst into tears.

He’s right. That is why I’m taking this journey…….