Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane

This is another long drive, made worse by losing an hour as we enter central time. We leave early, knowing rain is in the forecast for much of our route.

What we don’t know is that the rain is coming from a wannabe hurricane that has moved up from the gulf. It won’t rain much of the day, it will pour. It starts around Odessa and continues for the rest of the day, with only short breaks in the action.

We’re talking the kind of shower that makes you feel like you are driving through a car wash; one that is so loud you can’t talk or listen to music, and is so intense that you can barely see the tail lights of the vehicle ahead of you. We change drivers often because it’s exhausting at best and downright dangerous at worst. As we near Fort Worth, we start to run into the inevitable weather-related traffic accidents, and from then on we find ourselves in stop and go traffic in a downpour until we reach our destination.

A few years ago I made a play list of songs with the word “Home” in the title. I was moving across the country at the time, leaving my home of fifteen years, and I was trying to generate enthusiasm for making a home elsewhere. It helped.

As I take my turns driving, one of the songs keeps running through my head, I think because the chorus has something to do with stopping a hurricane.

Tonight, I won’t be in my own house but I’ll be staying at the home of someone I love, and I’m looking forward to it. There will be a home-cooked meal (and probably a very good one) and fine wine and a soft bed that I haven’t had to pay to sleep in. It feels welcoming as I drive through the storm.

I don’t have a rule of the road today; the best I can do is a guideline. (Thank you Jack Sparrow.) Avoid extremely difficult days as best you can and when you can’t, do your best to see there is comfort waiting for you at the end of the day. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive at your own home, or that of someone who loves you.

 

Day 19. A Border Crossing

You’d think it’s be pretty easy to wake up, throw all your shit in the car, and go, but it turns out is isn’t.

I have to dismantle a 6-man canvas tent, a shade structure helpful camp mates have skewered into the ground with lag screws, and a shelving unit I assembled on site. I have countless dusty bins of what-the-hell-is-this, not to mention 3.75 unused rolls of singly ply toilet paper and more lotions than I could use in a year. Nope, I was definitely not one of those under-prepared first time burners.

It takes me about three hours to do what I allowed 30 minutes for, and that’s only because I get a fair amount of help. My noon-time good-byes are rushed and sweaty, perhaps not a fitting climax to this amazing experience, but then again, exactly what about this experience has been fitting?

Because I am leaving a day before the man burns, I am avoiding the most crowded time here (by choice) and am also avoiding the up to 12 hour exit lines others will experience two days from now.  Even then, the five mile an hour drive out is slow and long. Along the way, I distract myself by cherishing my favorite moments.

There was the deep playa at night, my happy place if ever I’ve had one. There was the humor and playfulness. The kindness that was the norm, not the exception.

How about the nearly assembled 747 blaring out Santana’s Black Magic Woman as I rode up to it at sunset? For that matter, the mix of music of all types coming at me 24/7 was surprisingly entertaining and even soothing. The soothing part is hard to explain, but ear plugs and an eye pillow remain two of the things I didn’t need to bother to bring. Burning man lulled me into a sound sleep each night, and woke me each morning.

I never visited the MOOP MAP place (MOOP being matter out of place, often referred to as trash in the default world), but it’s location pointed me home to camp each night when I was done exploring. Thank you MOOP MAP.

I spent a few early evenings over at Vines Without Borders, a camp near mine that poured wines from around the world every night, offering both a great selection of wine and of people to drink wine with. They made me glad I brought a plastic wine glass.

I know there is so much I didn’t see, and I suppose that is part of the charm. I think this place works best if you leave deciding you found the things you were supposed to, and what you missed, well, it was meant for others, or maybe for you another time. Some of the art and camps do come back year after year.

I was warned it was common to feel a rush of emotions once one’s tires first touch pavement after the exit, and when mine roll onto the asphalt, I do. To me it feels like a border crossing, leaving one reality and entering another.

As I drive through Gerlach, I slow down with the same care I showed six days ago. I don’t need a speeding ticket, so I let all the sparkly memories settle into the back of my mind as I concentrate on the road.

I realize I’ve had a crazy week, but I wasn’t in a crazy place, just a different one; one in which I got to experience joy and sorrow and wonder, sometimes all at once.

Today’s Rule of the Road: When you cross the border into another reality, cross it.

Today’s song? I must have heard this one a few times, as I rode around and as I slept.

 

Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help

As I leave this morning, I know I’ll be driving everyday for the next five days. This will be the most demanding part of my journey. Today should have been an easy bite but yesterday I realized my departure time put me driving through Denver at the height of rush hour. I checked out a traffic map at 5 pm and found more red and burgundy than any driver wants.  But wait. I saw a clear alternate route veering off of I70 at Limon. Just what I needed. I decided to ignore all of Google Maps various suggestions and go rogue.

Given that Google has spent so much effort trying to reroute me onto slightly more efficient paths on all my previous days, I also decided I’d try this without its assistance. Like turned off. I mean, it looked pretty direct. How could I go wrong?

The day started out rainy, with the intermixed heavy showers that make any travel challenging. The mysterious highway 86 out of Limon turned out to really exist, which was good news, and to even be a decent two-lane road through wide open plains. It had almost no traffic, which was great. It also had almost no homes and absolutely no towns and went on for at least thirty miles more than I had guessed. This unexpected lack of civilization, lasting for an indeterminate length of time, came up against two problems: my increasingly full bladder and my emptying gas tank.

So I gave up and turned on Google Maps, only to discover it was sulking at not having been consulted sooner. Well, okay, maybe I projected the sulking emotion on to it, but it was now insisting it could only work offline and show me my blue dot and road outlines but not give me any street names or directions. That does sort of seem like sulking, doesn’t it?

I finally reached a small town with a gas station and as I left the rain came down harder and my phone rang. I was enjoying a conversation with my daughter when I noticed several things had happened. Denver seemed to have spilled down into this area, with congestion and construction now springing up all around me out of nowhere. A glance at my phone showed my blue dot was nowhere near where I thought I was or ought to be. How did this happen? Worse yet,  what was I going to do about it?

It’s lucky my daughter is savvy with maps, and she was able to find my route on her computer, figure out my location from intersections I saw, and direct me through the mess of traffic to where I needed to go. Let’s hear it for humans helping out other humans.

The day ended well. I’m in my fourth Airbnb of the trip, and every one has been fine. This one has a view of the canyon.

I did a little exploring before dinner, and found the one gem I wanted most: the small cabin I lived long ago, when I wrote my first science fiction story. The sight of it brought back a flood of precious memories. My time there remains one of the more special times in my life.

After a nice dinner out, I’ve retired to my room to relax with a glass of wine and to share my thoughts. Today’s rule of the road? When all else fails, it’s okay to turn to another human for help. And today’s song? One I saw performed live, thanks to the same helpful daughter. It was one of my most amazing concert experiences, and I’ve had a few of them. Cheers, and enjoy!

(For other posts from this 28-day journey, along with my rules of the road and my song for the day, see Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles, Day 2. Rules of the Road, Day 3. Rule Three: Just Don’t, and Day 4: Be Where You’re At all on my d4 blog. Then check out Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect. and Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn. both on my x0 blog. You can find Day 7. Like Tears From a Star on my z2 blog. Yes, the daily posts will keep on coming until day 12. Then …)

Sometimes I Fly

I’ve always wanted to be a bird. In eighth grade I took my first trip in a plane. I squirmed with joy during take-off when it was everything I had dreamt.

I was flying.

One of my most common reoccurring dreams has always been being airborne. I’m surprised to find myself aloft, then I remember. That’s right. I always knew how to do this. I just forgot I knew. Sometimes I get details of what works, like I have to hop twice on my left foot before I jump off, but those recipes for flight have never been the same twice and not one has worked the next morning.

I keep on flying in my dreams.

When I got drunk in college, it made the room spin and made me laugh but the best part was when it made me feel like I was soaring through the air. After I graduated, I talked a friend into sky diving with me and even though I was scared, I was exhilarated, too.

Once I got my first real job, it came with this new thing called discretionary income. I signed up for flying lessons. I did fake emergency landings in fields and got okayed to fly solo. Sunday mornings, I’d drive to the little airport and spend my drinking money on an hour of airplane rental instead.

And I flew.

Then I got older. I had babies. They cried at changing cabin pressure when it made their little ears fill with pain and vacationing by car was better. I dreamt about flying, but not as often. When the dreams came, I was alone, moving silently through the air over wilderness. Maybe it was because I traveled a lot for my job, through busy airports on crowded flights, in seats that kept getting smaller. Claustrophobia kicked in. I decided conference calls worked fine.

I didn’t fly often.

Time takes some things, and it gives others. I now travel to places I’ve always wanted to go. The planes are crowded, but they’ve shown me the Andes from thirty thousand feet, and the island of Madeira sparkling in the twilight of a frothy Atlantic.

These days I write. When a sentence comes out perfect, I suck in my breath knowing it’s the best it can be. The sensation feels like flying.

When I edit my work, sometimes my words reform themselves beyond the original, and the outcome makes me laugh or cheer or cry. I am flying, then, the way I’ve always known I could, the way I was meant to do. Sometimes the realization makes me cry even more.

It’s amazing. Sometimes I fly.

woman traveling alone

She’s prohibited in a few places, and frowned upon in many others. Some fear for her safety, others decide she is asking for trouble. Few cultures, if any, are totally comfortable with a woman traveling alone.

These days, she travels for her work, sometimes, and that is understandable. Other times, she is on her way to help aging parents, or to meet friends or family, and of course that makes sense. But what about the woman on a journey, a whole journey, by herself, simply for the sake of enjoying herself? At best, it seems odd to many.

Yet, she does exist, and she wants to go places.

Women have more money than in times past. They also have (on the average) more of a yen to travel. Spouses, relatives and friends may want to go, too, but when they don’t, women are opting to go alone. For many, joining a travel group provides an easier, and possibly safer, way to do this.

Now, I’ve always been someone who enjoys researching a destination and making my own plans. The internet allows for fabulous discoveries for someone willing to invest the time, and I prefer to move on my own schedule and get off the most-traveled path. But I also have always had someone, usually my husband, traveling with me, and I wonder if I am up to taking  similar trips, to a foreign country very different from my own, by myself.

I recently went to Peru, and did it with my first tour group.

There were a lot of considerations. I wasn’t traveling alone, but with my daughter, and I didn’t want the role of tour guide. I was concerned about our mutual safety, our poor grasp of Spanish, and the fairly daunting logistics of getting from Lima to Cuzco, dealing with a 12,000 elevation change, then navigating buses and trains through the Sacred Valley, and securing two of the carefully controlled tickets into Machu Picchu and then doing it all again in reverse to get home. I knew I could manage it, but it sounded more like work than fun.

So I used the internet to find a company called G Adventures, and read about their modestly priced, no-frills modular tour concept. It seemed to include them doing the hard part (clean yet cheap lodging, train tickets) and us handling our own arrival in Peru, shopping, dining and all extraneous activities. I liked the approach.

When our group of sixteen convened for the first time at a hotel in Lima, we were an eclectic mix of two mother-daughter combos, two sisters with one’s husband, a married couple, a pair of twenty-somethings, and five solos travelers. We hailed from Canada, the US, Germany and Australia.

Four of the solo people were men, and one was an independent young professional woman who impressed me with her approach. She’d always wanted to go to Peru, and finally accepted that it wasn’t a priority for anyone else she knew. So, here she was.

That’s the way to do it, I thought.

We had a great time in Peru, and the tour thing worked out quite well as this was one destination where having some help was wise. I took away more from this trip than happy memories and fine photos, however. I took away an idea.

You see, there are a lot of places in this world I want to go. Many of them do not interest my husband at all. Relatives and friends may be persuaded to go to some of these with me, but hey, I don’t think I’ve got anyone who wants to see Kyrgyzstan as bad as I do.

Guess what? G Adventures offers a trip there. They also do to Bhutan. And Cambodia. And Antarctica. And there are other companies like them. And maybe, after doing some of these, I’ll feel ready to tackle more difficult destinations on my own. And maybe not.

Either way, the world is my oyster, as long as my health and my funds hold out. You see, I came home from Peru with more than pretty scarves and coco candy. I came back with a plan; a plan of how to be a woman who travels alone.

(For more on my trip to Peru see What you don’t know …. has the power to amaze you and History at its most exciting.)

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Enjoy this tale of a young woman learning to trust and use the strange powers with which she was born.Kanchenjunga You’ll get to climb one of the world’s most dangerous peaks, take on a crime lord with no scruples and hide from his all-seeing super hacker. Marvel at sunrises in the Himalayas and beaches in Thailand as you flee those who would harm you with no second thought. Revel in developing the ability to outwit people who give you no respect, and learn to be stronger each day as you take them on.

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