I feel that since I moved to California I have been in a sort of cocoon; great transformation happening inside, but with little contact with the outside world. Two and half months into my new journey, I'm feeling myself emerging... reaching out to those whom I've not spoken with and also making myself known in the world once again. In this spirit, last week I wrote a letter to my grandmother (with whom I've been penpals since I was 10) and I told her about my 4 day drive from Michigan to California (among other things). Once completed, I realized that I'd written a mini-memoir; a commentary on my traveling. It is now that I offer this memoir to you, written to my grandmother.
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Originally my best friend Matt was supposed to accompany me on my drive across the country, that is, until the day before we were supposed to leave. On Friday, August 29th he found out that his dad needed open heart surgery that following week, when he was supposed to be in California. It was unfortunate on all accounts, but this news meant that I didn’t have a companion on my trip. I was in a flurry and was immediately stressed. He and I were slated to leave at 9 o’clock the next morning. I didn’t know what to do. My apartment was nearly empty, I owned only what would fit in my car, and it felt like Kalamazoo was trying to hold on to me with a death-grip. I only wanted to leave. So, that’s exactly what I did. With the last few hours of light, I packed up my car with my belongings, said a somber farewell to my friends, and was on the road to California by 7pm.
|Final Michigan Sunset|
Sleeping in a car, I found, is not that easy. At least not for me. I winked about two hours of sleep in that gas station parking lot before I decided to go brush my teeth and splash water on my face to continue my drive. I believe it was around 6am that I set back on the road. I quickly crossed into Nebraska... a place where landscapes go to die. I jest, but truthfully there is nothing in Nebraska. I’ve been through a lot of boring states, but that one… it takes the cake. As far as the eye could see, there was only flat land bathed with corn fields and cows. Every mile looked exactly like the one before it and I felt like I was in the twilight zone. The only respite from the monotony was when I decided to deviate from the highway and found a lake to sit by and rest for an hour. It was all I could do to not stay there all day, but alas destiny calls and I was on my way.
My destination on that first full day was Fort Collins, Colorado, where my friend Angie from Kalamazoo had just moved. Angie is one of my yoga students and in the last year of me being in Kalamazoo, we became good friends. I was excited when I was able to turn off the endless road that is I-80 and venture into Colorado. I was a little dismayed as I crossed the border. We always hear about Colorado being mountainous and breathtaking, but at the Nebraska border, it’s still mostly flat lands.
|Driving through Wyoming|
Truth be told, I wasn’t that upset when I pulled over to see my back passenger’s side tire pathetically deflated. I found no good reason to get upset, as this was the truth of the moment and there was no wishing it away. My biggest obstacle at this point was that my spare was located in my trunk, beneath a good portion of my belongings. On the side of the road with the failing sun in front of me, I unloaded the contents of my trunk and changed the tire. Now is a good point to mention that my car was loaded beyond capacity and was quite heavy. This reality may have attributed to my “let’s just get this over with” attitude. Not much later, the spare was on, my trunk was reloaded, and I was on my way… until 5 minutes later… when the spare tire popped.
|Hopeless frustration manifested|
Rick the tow man, though friendly, was not best problem solver. It was Sunday night on Labor Day weekend and I needed a tired replaced so that I could get to my motel room, which was still an hour and a half away, and he didn’t really have any answers to my questions. Granted, it was my own false expectation that a tow truck driver in the middle of nowhere Utah/Nevada would know the hours of operations for various auto repair services in the surrounding locale, but Rick only had hunches. And me… I apparently had angels. Rick’s only hunch as getting my tire fixed as a remote “tire shop” on the outskirts of this town at the Utah/Nevada border. In pitch black night, we pulled off the exit and into a gas station. We drove behind the gas and passed four large white diesel silos and to a row of trailers that were the “tire shop.”
I said I had angels and I’m really not joking. By chance (or grace), Matt the tire repair guy was there and in business. This must have been the only open tire repair place within a hundred miles and we landed at the right one. Here we enter phase three of this road trip snafu. Rick dropped my car off, I paid him (painfully) and he was on his way. Matt, too, was on his way. This tire shop’s main business was traveling to big tractor trailers along I-80 that had flats and Matt had received a call just minutes before I arrived, so he had to take care of that customer first. Whatever, I thought and both drove off leaving me with my injured car. This setting... the pitch black, the diesel silos, the run-down line of trailers… I felt like I was in a horror movie. To sooth my growing discomfort, I called my friend (and now roommate) Suzanne and talked with her until she had to get off the phone. Then I called Mom and she stayed on the phone until Matt returned about 30 minutes later.
Matt was nice and seemed to have something between his ears. He didn’t try to swindle me or sell me a crap tire. If fact, he sold me my replacement tire and a replacement spare and by 9:30 that night I was back on the road, leaving that tragic deviation behind me. I was so tired that I barely made it to the motel in Elko, where I fell asleep immediately.
I didn’t want to get up that next morning, except for the fact that it was my last day driving. By that night, I’d be in my new home. I took my time getting ready, showering, and paying my motel bill. I grabbed breakfast at a local diner, and then I was again on my way. Despite the drama of the night before, I felt reenergized after eating. I’ll admit I was squeamish about my other four tires and their durability to withstand this last stretch, but halfway through Nevada I relaxed a bit and just enjoyed the drive (or as much as I could after 1,500 miles). I stopped for lunch in Reno, Nevada. As I sat at the burrito joint, I knew that the next time I got out of my car I’d officially be in California. I was excited and I felt an awakening of hope, possibility, and best of all happiness.
Crossing into California was much as I expected it to be. When you drive in on I-80, you immediately enter Tahoe National Forest, a highway winding between mountains lined with pine trees. It was absolutely beautiful (as much of the landscape up to this point had been). I no longer worried about making it to Oakland, because I’d already made it this far. So I just drove on, passing through Northern California and at about 6pm that night, I pulled up to the apartment that is now my home. Tired and elated, my new roommates and I unpacked my car and blew up my air mattress, me soon falling asleep.
When I woke up my first morning here, I wanted to pinch myself to make sure that my journey had not all been just a dream. From my flight from Kalamazoo, to my journey through Nebraskan-purgatory, to my pit-stop-rendezvous in Fort Collins, to my flat tire debacle, to my burrito filled musing about my new life… it all happened and I had finally arrived.