It’s my anniversary

12-8-2013 Deer Park

One year ago today my car sat parked up on the lawn outside my front door. It was cool and sunny in Connecticut but apparently there were some weather issues to the south. Rather attention grabbing weather issues.

I was preparing for a mad dash to Baltimore as the first leg of my journey. I had picked the date rather arbitrarily. It was a Sunday. I would leave at noon. But with reports of Baltimore having snow currently and, more of concern, by early evening it would turn to rain that would freeze on contact. Baltimore drivers were cautioned to avoid driving if possible. And I wanted to go there?

I wanted to visit my childhood friend Donna. Perfect yes? A little check in with my past as I stepped into what some friends called, lovingly, my mid-life crisis. Five and a half hours. A good first day’s drive.
Do I delay? Is it smart to drive into guaranteed frozen roads? Funny question. Is anything about this road trip “smart”?

The weather system, moving north, would be here in CT tomorrow. If I didn’t leave as planned I’d probably not leave tomorrow either. I asked the cat’s opinion and got nothing.
Okay. Well. Maybe I wouldn’t get as far as Baltimore but I could get somewhere. Drive as far as is safe then get a hotel. No procrastinating on this. I shall not be stopped by weather. Sheesh. Part of the whole point of this trip is to get away from the winter weather.

I threw some final, questionably necessary, items into the car, locked up the house for the house sitters arrival later in the day, said my goodbyes to the lovely seven pound elephant Miss Voodoo, and went to say goodbye to Vette and Rob at the Wadsworth Mansion Xmas craft fair thingy.
And that was it.
I was on my way. On the road again!

It was smooth sailing right onto and over the George Washington Bridge. Splendid day for the start of an adventure.
And then it started to snow. Pretty at first, I drove right into the thick of it. By the time I reached Elizabeth, NJ there was two inches on the ground. As I moved south the snow piled up quickly. Driving started to become treacherous in spots. Somewhere this side of Philly an 18-wheeler nearly ran me into a bridge abutment. That was a bit nerve wracking. It was kinda sleety. Traffic was slowing down.
What was I thinking? How many people are pulling over now to grab hotels and wait it out? Ugh.
How much farther to Baltimore? I can do this… Donna was on alert that I was attempting this. I texted and told her I was still on the way as far as I knew.
Traffic stopped.

I looked at the map again. I was hours behind schedule already. This little jaunt to Baltimore was becoming an ordeal. I looked at the map again and saw Newark Delaware not too far ahead of me. I had a friend there. A friend I’d known for years but had never met face to face. We were both in an online book group many many years ago.
The book-a-week group had always been a favorite of mine. Members read anything at all with the mere goal of trying to read 52 books each year. Then we’d write blurbs about what we’d read. I got many great unexpected reads from years spent reading with those ladies. The group kind fell apart when our beloved leader Donna got a nasty brain cancer and left this plain of existence. (Although I had never met Donna either, we were close. I still miss her.) She was our center and without her we drifted apart. I kept in touch with a few of the members, and facebook brought a few others back into my world. I always expected I’d meet Kari someday. We clicked right from our first emails. And she had extended an invitation to me to stop by. I figured I’d do so on my return. But. All this snow…
Wonder if she’s home? Wonder exactly how far it is? Wonder if she’ll let me crash there? I don’t have her number do I?
Traffic absolutely crawling. Snow and sleet and other icy particles collected everywhere.
I opened facebook to send Kari a message. It was the only way I had to contact her. I sent her my number and said “Text me, I’m stuck in snow traffic.”
She called right away!
Ha! She was stuck in snow traffic too. Had gone to a funeral today in Wilkes-Barre and was now trying to get home. Different highway. Same reality.
Sounded like we were both about the same distance from her house.
Of course I’d be welcome!
There was a big rest area just before her exit. We’d keep in touch and meet there.
Text message received – “I’m here.”
“What do you drive? Where are you parked? I’m two miles away.”
Cars are crawling into the rest stop and there’s no parking in sight.
But look! There! Through the slapping of the wipers, there’s a person standing outside a car widely waving arms! What a fantastic sight! Yay! Kari! You look like a crazy lady! Hello friend!
I have the biggest grin on my face reliving the moment.
Who would have ever thunk this is how we’d meet? Ten inches of snow on the ground. Sleet pelting our faces. A quick hug and a “follow me to my house” shouted over the general roar of the highway and the sleet.
Fifteen minutes later and we were warming and drying at her kitchen table.
A half hour after that we were out in the world again at a pub for some late night drinks, some warm food and to finally get to know each other.
The late night snow silence of the University of Delaware and the fire-warmth of The Deer Park Tavern were so far removed from the life I’d been living for years. I was elated to have launched. And to have landed, not just safely, but oh so enjoyably.
Thank you Kari!

(Alright here’s the deal folks. I’d like to think I’ll spend the time to relive my journey in a way I didn’t have time to write as I did it. Plus I should be writing and I haven’t been. I’m rusty. Bear with me.)
(Oh and hey. It’s not the first time I’ve written this story. Look there if you want to see pictures, or to see how I spent the next morning with Kari.)

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To Those I Missed…

a rain

My sojourn to the Northwest was not my favorite part of the trip so far.

I actually love the northwest, but this time around it was not where I needed to explore.

You might notice, from an earlier post, that on a deep level, I was aware of this. Yet I persisted. Because there were so many people that I wanted to see.

A few miles west of McMinnville, Oregon a woman who was not paying enough attention to the realities around her, pulled out in front of me. Now, I’m a good driver but I have to admit that I even impressed myself with my ability to avoid colliding with her car. And, to avoid colliding with the guardrail. However, my extreme maneuvers, while enough to avoid vehicle to vehicle contact, were not enough to keep me from slamming myself into a ditch.

A witness was ecstatic when he stopped “That was some of the best driving I EVER saw! You avoided that like a pro! Are you okay?”

The woman did stop and took full responsibility for her mistake, and her insurance company is covering all costs that come from this. But it was really a bit of a wake up call for me. I’m not supposed to be here.

But now I had no choice for a few days.

I transferred all my belongings to a rental car while mine sat at a body shop awaiting attention in the form of getting the rocks out of my tires/rims, re-mounting and balancing, and an alignment.

So I went on my way north. The events of the afternoon caused me to miss a planned dinner with some of my favorite people in Portland. (Will her insurance company pay me for that? I think not.) I stayed one night with my dear friend Hank there, then went to Olympia, Washington next day to stay with a wonderful old friend Andrea and her awesome husband Robb.

On Sunday the three of us went further north to watch the Super Bowl with one of my favorite people in the whole world. It was great to hang with Dana and her fabulous family and watch Seattle trounce Denver. I’m not much of a football fan but to be in Seattle when this went on was highly enjoyable.

As Monday rolled to a close, spending time talking with Andrea by the fire all day, it began to sound like my car might be ready the next day. I was looking forward to that reality and knew I wouldn’t come north again once I got my car back. I REALLY wanted to see the restaurant of my grade school friend Bob, so to make sure I didn’t miss that opportunity, I blasted up to Seattle to have dinner at The Wurst Place in Seattle and reacquaint myself with a hometown friend. We took the ferry to his house on Bainbridge Island, drank some wine and talked about what the world is like now. I’m so glad I made the time to do this.

Next morning I was on the road again back to McMinnville to get my car. (It’s safe to drive but there will be cosmetic fixes ‘ll need to address later.)

I was supposed to go back up to Portland to stay a bit – see the people I missed last time around, and see a friend I haven’t seen in maybe 25 years, but once I got my car my entire being screamed – GO SOUTH – get the eff outta here!

So I did.

I told myself that now that I was headed south I could take my time. Visit all my friends in Eugene, Grant’s Pass and Redding. Then I’d cut over back to the coast and see everyone in Northern California that I’d missed on my way north. But that wasn’t what the songlines had in mind. Plus the weather. Threats of snow loomed and I was in no mood for snow – hell, that’s part of why I’d left Connecticut when I did.

So Eugene got only a quick drive-by hug with one dear friend (Lonnie it was great to see you – wish it could have been a longer visit!), Grant’s Pass got dinner. (Hey Corin, thank your lovely boyfriend for making up the guest room for me, sorry I couldn’t stay…)

Everything in me was pulsing “Home. Home. Home.” (In this case it didn’t mean Connecticut, it meant Timmy’s house in Vallejo. Some places just ARE home – ya know?)

And snow was coming next day. So I drove and drove, through the mountains, through the night – home, home, home.

So many of you, I missed.

Tim and Patti – I love you guys, it’s been too long. Kim that was a most awesome invitation for a day on the water – maybe some summer? My cousin Lisa, whom I had hoped to surprise. Kelly in Gig Harbor – it would have been wonderful to stop and say hello. Bobby – I really wanted to step into your world for a visit – maybe next time? Sachita – it’s probably good that you’re on vacation, yes? Paul – we’ll reconnect. Steve and Kathy I appreciate the invite and sorry I didn’t get there. Chewie – ah Chewie! Big love and hugs my friend – stay well and keep smiling. Bob and Marie and Ginny – I smile even now to think how I was going to surprise you. Laura – thank you so much for the invitation to crash at your place. Steve – I’ll have to catch you next time – I love you lots and lots – I really do! Lisa, I wanted to meet your daughter and see your smiling face but I just didn’t get there. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie – it would have been SO fun to visit with you! Breck – have I missed you completely, I hope not. Brice – I wanted to come see the llamas and meet your boys.

 

So I hope you’ll all love me anyway and forgive my not visiting.

I’m just gonna sit here in the Bay a bit and enjoy the rain before I start to work my way home.

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.

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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.

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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!

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

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