Day 27 - All Roads Lead to Brooklyn

Today was weird. I thought I was ready to just full on blast back into Brooklyn and get settled so I can get back to work on Monday, but getting here was harder than I expected.

I had about 6 hours to do, according to Google Maps, which in Odin time means at least 8 by the time our 55 max speed plus stops are factored in. It was mostly a blur of highway signs, but I did take a random side trip in Maryland to complete my state magnet collection, and found a great yard sale where I overpaid for a box of rusty stuff I don't actually need, but it was a good distraction none the less. The diversion also took me down a one lane road through the woods that was a refreshing break from semi trucks and rest stops. It was like the beginning of the trip, down the Oregon coast...clean air, lush trees and winding road. It made me realize how long I've actually been driving. It seems like months ago I was getting blown all over the road and wondering if I was going to crash into a ditch! Now I'm casually driving with one hand, barely phased if a truck barrels by and the wind is gusting. Odin and I have really figured one another out.

When I crossed the state line into New York, I got pretty choked up. It was a mixture of being home and the adventure ending, and knowing that I'm back here without my dad being just a phone call away. It was the period at the end of that chapter. It really felt like I should just turn around and start driving back from where I just came, so I wouldn't have to end it, but I knew I couldn't. I decided to take the long way home on surface streets so I could cruise through Brooklyn. The sun was just going down, and it was a beautiful night, so people were out and about everywhere. Pedestrians walking out into traffic, people double parked, horns honking...it was all music to me. As I passed through Bed-Stuy, I got to see Jessae as she was walking Apple, and while I had no where to park and give her actual hugs, we got to have big waves and blown kisses, and it instantly made me feel like I was home. When I got back to my neighborhood, I stopped in at my friend Julie's birthday and was greeted with lots of love and hugs from her and a bunch of my other friends. It was exactly what I needed to remind me this is where I belong...for now at least...

Day 26 - Miles and Miles and Rain

Leaving Annie and Lief's home today was a bummer. I had such a great time with them, and seeing them parent their son was really cool. They are so patient and they listen, which has resulted in their son, who isn't even 2 yet, being able to communicate what he wants and understand when he is asked to do something, or corrected for acting out, which was rare while I was there. He is going to be a very independent and articulate person, and his parents are giving him so much love there's no way he will be anything other than a compassionate and wonderful grown-up. I hope they have 10 more kids. They're real good at it. I talked to them a little about the want to have kids, because I never had that, and it makes me really happy to see people that are smart and caring raising families. That goes for all my pals with little ones...you guys amaze me. I just don't think I could have done it!

I got to think back a lot on the miles behind me today, partially because the radio shit out half way through my drive, and partially because there was a huge storm that I drove into in Virginia and I decided it was better to get a cheap hotel than to fight traffic in the middle of accidents, thunder, lightning and buckets of rain. (Don't worry, the radio mysteriously started working again, so my Temple of the Dog/Soundgarden sing along got to continue.) There were so many strange little signs of my dad along the way. Did you know I-40, out of North Carolina is the Michael Jordan Freeway? Yeah, me either. Things like that popped up over and over again, and while I cried every time, it became more out of the comfort of knowing he's always with me, rather than for the emptiness I still feel, and know I always will.

I'll make my way to Brooklyn sometime tomorrow, and reacquaint myself with real life. I feel like I'm ready.

Day 24 & 25 - North Carolina

I woke up next to the beach, smelling the sea and ready to go cruise the strip a little and see how Myrtle Beach bike Week was shaping up. It turns out that bike rally's aren't super van friendly, and I couldn't find a place to park Odin and check out the bikes, so we just drove up and down the main drag for a couple hours, checking out the scene. I decided to hit the road for Carolina Beach and spend some time with my friends Lief and Annie, and Clyde Baby, who was still residing in his momma's belly when they moved away from NYC.

Annie suggested I take the ferry over, and it was awesome. Odin looked very handsome on his first ferry ride! (Well, his first with me...that's all that counts!) Getting off the ferry and driving from the end of the island to the house was so lovely. The ocean on one side, these awesome wind blown trees on the other, and then further down the road, all the brightly painted houses! It's the kind of beach town I can dig. It reminds me of all the Oregon coastal towns...small, with locally owned shops and restaurants, and beaches that were still not crammed with people because it's still the off season. Lief and Annie have the cutest house, with an awesome front porch, and it made me feel at home immediately. I'm sure that had more to do with the company than the house itself, but you know what I mean. I had only intended on staying the night and then trying to blast home, but after 10 minutes of hanging out, I knew I needed to stay the next day too. It was a good decision. There were beers, and moonshine, tons of awesome food, bullshitting, a stick and poke tattoo on the porch and a cute as hell little dude running around to make us laugh. It's so awesome to really spend time with people that you already knew you liked, but never really got the chance to hang with, because you lived in New York and there just isn't enough time. Good people, these three, and all of their friends that I got to meet. Make the time. That's my new goal. So let's hang when I get back, k?

Waking up this morning to the news of Chris Cornell's suicide was heartbreaking. He was such a big influence on me as a teenager and throughout my life. That was the music that made me feel like I wasn't an outsider, and there were other people in the world that felt like me. Not to mention his voice. Good God, that voice. Depression touches us all somehow, and we have to remove the shame from it. I'm thankful I got help when I did, and I figured out how to manage it better as I got older. But it still creeps in once in awhile. Check in with your people. Make sure they're solid.

This was the perfect ending to the relaxing part of the trip. I feel ready, and inspired to get back to the city and figure out my next moves.

Day 22 & 23 - From 1st gear to 5th!

I had very low motivation to get anywhere yesterday. I woke up next to a lake with frogs jumping about, and it was beautiful and cool outside. I wasn't sure what my overall game plan was, but I knew I was going to drive a couple hours down the coast and see my cousin and his family for a little side trip. The drive was lovely, and there is something about the Florida air that made me all languid and unfocused. Or it was the sun, cooking my brain beyond function. I mentioned the no A/C feature of Odin, right?

It was good to catch up with some more of the family, even if it was just for a quick visit. I did have to get some miles under my belt, even if I didn't really feel like getting anywhere. Clem and I called it early, and had a nice relaxing evening outside Tallahassee. It was good thing, because I woke up today full of fire and ready to GO! I guess it was knowing I was making that northern turn today, and heading up the coast. I did make a couple little stops along the way, to check out some roadside attractions, and one was quite a trip...not in miles, but in it's totally bizarre existence.

I found 'The Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village' on my Roadside America app (So worth the $5) and decided to take the venture down a long dirt road into the woods. There are stucco buildings and fences, with tribal paintings on them at the end of the road, but it looked totally deserted. I went in the open entry, and was quickly greeted by a bleating goat! A few minutes later, two men came around the corner, and said they would send someone out to talk to me. I didn't really know what I had walked into, because I don't read too far into the descriptions on the app for surprise sake. This for sure had a children of the corn feel to it...when the young lady that was to give me the tour of the grounds appeared, she was so confused by simple questions and unable to speak, that I tried very calmly to back out of there. She kept saying she didn't feel well, and that it was ok, she would give me the tour, and then began mumbling what I'm guessing was the introduction to the tour...She stopped mid-sentence to tell me she like my tattoos, and then mumbled some more about not being able to think. I bailed. It was too weird, and I felt like I would have been there for hours. After reading about it after I got down the road a bit, it seems that it's a cult of sorts, founded by the first African-American to be initiated into the priesthood of Oyotunji. I'm kinda bummed, because I bet it was super interesting...

After driving for more hours than I have put in during one day yet, I ended up in Myrtle Beach. I've wanted to come here ever since I saw 'Shag'...And it just so happens to be bike week here...tomorrow should be fun...

Day 21 - New Orleans to Pensacola

Last night, I got into New Orleans, and got to meet up with some NYC pals! Mary and I met for a drink, a walk through the French Quarter and to complete a secret mission. We then went to check out my friend Johnny's bar, Bar Mon Cher, that he owns with his beautiful new wife Jeanette. One of Johnny's childhood friends, Michael, from Queens, was also there, so it was a nice little taste of New York to light my fire to get home to Brooklyn.

There aren't a lot of photos from today, or a lot of miles covered, but man was it a beautiful drive. Mississippi and Alabama were my first two 'drive through' states, and I wish I could have spent more time checking them out. I got a late start today, because I actually got to sleep in a little, and I decided to wander around Bourbon Street a little this morning. Once I got on the road, I had a grin from ear to ear for all the mile that did get covered. I got to spend 2 amazing days with my greatest love, and I got some good time in with Mary, who always makes me laugh and has amazing stories to tell. I'm starting to get anxious to get back to Brooklyn, and see all my people again and get back in the shop...if they still want me!

Day 19 & 20 - Angola

I hadn't told mom about Jeffrey. I was afraid of her reaction, and assumed she would judge him, and my decision to be with him. I don't know why I always expect the worst reaction from her. I got completely the opposite. Her compassion for mistakes in youth, believing in second chances and redemption shouldn't have surprised me, but they did. She listened to why I love him, and said "He reminds you of dad, doesn't he?" He does. Very, very much.

I had been tormented about it for months, and wanted to tell her and dad when I came home in July this year for dad's birthday. I didn't get to tell dad about him, and I will always regret having that secret from him, especially because Jeffrey brings me so much joy. I may have gotten a quiet head shake of disbelief in the beginning, but he always believed in me, and I would hope he knew that he raised a person that learns from her mistakes, and that this wasn't going to be one of them. They would have had so much to talk about, had they been given the chance to meet. I know dad would have been so happy to see me so in love.

Spending time with Jeffrey always makes my heart grow to 10 times it's size, and then breaks when I have to leave him. He is the hardest working person I know, who is continually learning and curious, and also always improving who he is as a human in this world. if there is a story about redemption and rehabilitation out there better than his, I'd be floored. He is the first person to see me in the way I see myself. He challenges me to always be my best, and he is continually setting that example for me. He truly has my heart, and I hope to always have his. I don't believe in forevers, but he is making me love the right now, more than I ever thought I would.

*Photos taken by his fellow inmates, over the last two years.*

Day 17 & 18 - Louisiana

I come here at least twice a year. I don't come for the festivities of New Orleans, but because the person I love the most in this world is here. I've been looking forward to this destination on this journey more than any other.

Two years ago, I came to Louisiana for the prison rodeo. While I was raised going to rodeo's, and I've watched my brother ride bulls, and loved everything about them, this one has a not-so-great feeling about it. There are men throwing themselves into a ring with powerful animals, granted, at their own will, but they have no experience in this ring. Prisoners are given a chance to win money, and applause while risking life and limb. It feels like the events of the Colosseum, and it felt a little wrong pretending it was any different. This was above and beyond my guilt for loving the competition between man and beast, and knowing the beast didn't want to be there either.

Within the rodeo (prison) grounds, there is also a hobby craft market. Prisoners make artwork all year to have the chance to sell it during one weekend in April and every Sunday in October. This is where I met Jeffrey. While I am the first person to roll their eyes at those head over heels, we are meant to be together, everything is magical couples...now I am part of one of those couples. I turned to jelly the first time he looked at me, and he claims he felt spark when our fingers brushed while he handed me my receipt...We are each others lobster, twin flame, split apart, and whatever other ridiculous thing people say about their soul mate. I have never loved someone more, or been loved so completely...and I get to see him, and hug him, and hold his hand tomorrow. My heart just might burst...

Day 15 - A Wash / Day 16 - Friends New and Old

Monday was a day of cleansing. Laundry and the scrubbing of a stinky, muddy pug were the big plans on the agenda. Once those were out of the way, there was time for a quick meet up with my niece for lunch, and then I was on the road. I hadn't planned on going to Austin, because it was a little out of the way, but then I thought, whose schedule am I on? Oh right...mine! So I took a little side trip to see my childhood friend Mindy and her family. She has a beautiful home, and it was really lovely to talk to her and her family. I hadn't seen her boys since they were little kids, and I really loved being able to get to know them as full functioning grown people. They are all really smart and funny, just as I would have suspected, since their parents are too! I left there this morning and headed to visit my friend Mykal, whom I hadn't seen in almost 8 years...SO good to catch up with him as well. It's always so comforting to know that I have friends that I don't need to talk to all the time to feel right back at home with them the second we do meet up. Mindy and I, and a whole group of our friend since childhood, can always fall right back into conversation without missing a beat. It never matters what has happened in between, how different our lives are, or how far apart we live. We are always 'home' for each other. I feel so fortunate to have them still so there for me. The love and support, and total understanding of what I was going through with my dad, and then being there for me during the funeral, and then fully supporting me on this trip...it's more than I can really process. Love them, with my whole heart.

On down the road this evening, I found myself agreeing to something I never thought I would. My search for a place to park Odin for the night was proving difficult. After a couple RV sites told me they only rented by the month, I was getting the impression I would be camped by the side of the road. Just as I pulled in to my last hope, I saw a guy walk down from his mobile home and ask me if I needed help. He was about my age, and looked like a sweet, corn fed country boy. When I told him what I was looking for, he said, 'Well, just pull up right here! It's no problem!' While I know I should have been thinking 'STRANGER DANGER!!!' I was instead thinking, 'He seems sweet. I'm in.' So I backed Odin into his yard. We started talking like we'd know one another for years, and he was really sweet to Clem. He asked if I was hungry, and then said "Do you cook? Get on in there and find whatever you want and cook something up!" So I did. He chatted away with me the whole time, about his businesses, the house he's building, his aunt that used to live in New York, the art work that he does, and life lessons he's learned. It was great to cook for someone, and really nice to have conversation with a random dude I met in a tiny Texas town and have it be worthwhile. He might be my favorite road friend yet.

 

Day 14 - Layover

Having a day of rest at my sister's place was great. I even got the full experience at Medieval Times! It was quite a site...the knights and fair ladies, birds of prey, torture devices...they had it all! It's no surprise though, that my favorite part was checking out the horses. It was cool to be able to do that with my sister, and speak a language that I don't get to speak with too many. Horse talk is a specific thing, and can't be shared with just anyone. There was a beautiful dapple grey, that we both knew would have been dad's favorite. He always loved those grey horses. He passed that down to us, along with his knowledge of equine, and how to make them do their best, while you were learning to be your best as well. I miss being around horses more than I realized. It's something I've been able to quell here and there, but once you have horses in your blood, the need won't be silenced for long. I feel like I will have them back in my world, sooner than later.

The end of the night came with many, many hands of gin rummy played with my sister and my nephew Mike. I hadn't played in a long time, and I must have had all the beginners luck....

Day 13 - Texas

Odin had a little engine tick, because he was lying to me. I've been checking the oil, just like a good van owner would, but he was showing me that he was full, when, as it turns out, he was nearly out of oil...and ready to give up on me any minute. I had planned on getting an oil change when I got to my first layover in Waxahachie, Texas, where my sister lives. Instead, I had to stay the night in Childress, Texas and go straight to the mechanic as soon as he opened. Thankfully, Cory and Jeremy, my new saviors, along with my brother, via the phone, figured out what was up and got me back on the road for less than $100. WHEW! It's also real damn hot here, so that's been a little challenge too...and we're rockin' the 2/55 style AC. (That's 2 windows down at 55 MPH) I think Odin will survive, and me and Clem too, but I'm gonna need you all to pull out whatever good vibe stones, herbs, prayers, incantations and voodoo juju you have to keep us healthy and running...k? Thanks. XO.

I was thinking a lot today about my mom. She and I have not always had the best relationship. But I think we have really grown closer in the past few months, and have gained some understanding of one another. We have so much love between us, but sometimes just don't see eye to eye because she still wants to mother me and I want to do whatever the hell I want to do. Pretty typical mother daughter struggle I would think. I'm glad we're learning how to respect each other, and support what the other needs. She is also a very strong woman, that never backed down from a challenge and worked just as hard as anyone around her to get shit done. I remember her driving to Wyoming with my sister and I in tow to see my dad while he was working there. She would also haul us and our horses all over the state for shows and trail rides on her own. If you live near her, and you drive by in the springtime, there's a good chance you'll still see her out on her riding mower taking care of the yard. There is a lot of her in me, and I need to recognize and appreciate that more. Love you ma.

Day 12 - Decayed Beauty

I'm settling in to this life on the road thing. Driving from town to town, stopping for brief encounters with locals, and moving on...it's fitting for my state of mind at the moment. I can't really keep up my end of a conversation for too long without wanting to divulge too much information, so the brief snippets of chat are enough to keep me from looking like a crazy lady that only talks to a pug. Did you know that New Mexico is called 'The Land of Enchantment'? Well it is called that, and it is that. I was mesmerized by every inch I saw. I stopped into a town called Tucumcari today, and there was a rockabilly festival just setting up outside the convention center, where there is also a Rt. 66 museum. The museum wasn't much, but it was lovingly curated for sure, and the man running the door was kind enough to break the 'no dogs' rule for Clem. He said he had three himself and they were like his kids, so he understood. As I walked around the vendor area, there was a table of handmade knives, that also had some key chains with runes engraved in them for sale. I asked the artist about them, and he said he was watching the show 'Vikings', so he started making those, and some knives that were inspired by characters from the show. I wish I had the extra cash to have gotten one of them, because he was a guy that was just so happy to be making shit that people even looked at. Next to him was a man around 80 or so, that was manning a table of work by local artist, including himself, and invited me to check out their gallery in town. He went on and on about all the art programs and young artists in the area...he was so cool. I hope to still be that jacked up on art and proud of where I'm living when I'm that age.

On down the road were so many decaying signs and buildings, and I wanted to photograph every one of them, but I would have added about 10 miles to my trek for the day, instead of 200 like I planned, so I snapped as many as I could, and kept truckin'. As I made it into Texas, I did learn a good lesson about Google maps...sometimes it's not just telling you to get off the historical highway because it's slower...sometimes it's because it turns into a red dirt road and then ends. But it was still worth the detour to get back on the main road. I'm starting to believe that all detours are a gift of sorts.

Driving down Rt. 66 just reminded me of what I already knew about what I find beautiful. Things that have a story, that aren't perfect and new anymore. They have a dent, chipped paint, and a wrinkle or two. As I look at my road weary self in the mirror tonight, I'm thankful for the new creases I've gained in the last couple of months. They are full of love and determination, as well as aching and brokenness. I working my way toward the beautiful I need to be.

Day 10 - Outta Gas / Day 11 - New Mexico

I woke up Wednesday morning in a haze. I thought I could shake it off while I was driving, but and hour into my trek I had to pull over and crash out. I ended up making it to my destination, Bisti/De-Na-Zin, but I didn't even get out of the van. I just crawled in bed and passed out. I had the most fitful 20 hours of sleep I've ever had in my life, and my brain was going a thousand miles an hour. I realized it was the first day I'd been alone for more than an hour since February. I don't think my mind was ready for all my emotions. When I finally woke up at 7am, the sun was coming up, and everything had a calm glow. My stomach didn't quite have that same calm feeling, but I headed out to explore anyway. I drove down one dirt road after another, getting a little nervous in my desolation, but loving that I was relying on myself for the first time in a while. I mean, besides relying on Clem to sleep next to me in her little nest and reach a paw up now and again.

There were dozens of times I wanted to call my dad. Everything on the road reminds me of him. I wanted to ask him why the telephone poles here are so different. I wanted to stop and get fry bread and call him to brag. (He always wanted to know what good food I found on trips) I wanted to send him these photos, so he could tell me about the landscape, and why things look like they do. I just wanted to call and tell him I miss him. 

Day 9 - Repairs and Departures

The Southwest has officially won my heart. Driving through here has been beyond anything I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m used to lushy green landscapes of the Northwest and Northeast. Whatever it is, this place has made me want to just keep driving every inch of Arizona and New Mexico. The mysteriousness of all the abandon buildings and the wide openness of the terrain makes it absolutely mesmerizing. Beyond the scenery, the people just keep getting better and better…

I had to have some work done on Odin, and Tim, our mechanic, could not have been a more awesome human. He got me right in early in the morning, and even got us a ride into town so we wouldn’t be stuck waiting for him to finish. We found out later from our Lyft driver David, who was a friend of his, that he also played trumpet and was a singer! When we mentioned that to Tim, he said that David was really the talented one, and had played on the Star Wars and Superman scores! Flagstaff was full of surprises.

The crappy thing that happened today was that I had to drop Kelley off at the airport so she could go back to Portland. Having my best friend with me on my journey thus far was (insert word that doesn’t exist because there isn’t one to explain how big this was)…She knows my heart in a way that very few others do, and sees through my B.S. like no other. I always treasure the time I get to spend with her, but this time was beyond all that came before it. I know not having her with me will always feel like I’m missing something.

I headed toward Gallup, New Mexico after dropping her off, and I was traveling on Rt. 66. Not long after I’d been driving, a truck full of alfalfa whipped by me, and as soon as the scent hit my nose, I burst out crying…hauling hay in the summer was one of my most favorite things to do, and it was time I got to spend with dad. It made me feel like he was telling me he was there. Just as the sun started to fade, and the sky turned purple, another truck full of hay came by…watching the sunset with my parents in the summer was standard dinnertime stuff. We would sit on the porch eating tuna and noodle salad, and watch the sky blaze. I know he’s still watching them with me, and that was his way of letting me know.

Day 8 - Grand Canyon

I'm am going to post way too many photos of the Grand Canyon right now. I can't help it. If you haven't been here, I suggest getting here. I was literally walking around with my mouth open in total awe of the vastness and beauty. It also made me miss my dad horribly. I wanted to call him so bad and talk about all the history in the the stone, and every book I saw about the people that had been trough there I wanted to buy for him. I wish I would have been able to see this with him.

We decided to go back to Flagstaff to camp, because Odin needs a little repair in the morning, and we have to get to the shop at 8am. Kelley is leaving me tomorrow too, and we need to get her to the airport. I checked out my 'Roadside America' app, and we found that the world's largest log cabin was on our way to camp, and it has been turned into a country bar! When we saw they had karaoke, we knew it was going to be a long night...

Every single person in that bar was amazing. Mike, the bartender, was in his late 30's and had just purchased 40 acres to plant and live off of. Sylver, a middle aged cowboy, had Kelley and I dancing the 2 step and singing duets with him. Jenny had a mandela tattooed on her head, and sang like an angel. I also gained a knew Facebook friend in Veronica, the young Native American girl that was there with her mom, and pouring out her heart in song. It was a lot like being at the Spare Room, back when I worked there. Young, old, race, religion...none of it mattered. We all just wanted to be on stage for a minute and feel like a star. It was the perfect way to end a magical day.

Day 7 - Sedona

We found ourselves awake at 3:30am due to the distressed barking of a giant yellow lab. After trying to shush him for about 10 minutes, I finally went out to talk to him. He was standing in the middle of the road, just barking into the night. He seemed scared, so I walked over, talking to him quietly, but he scooted away. I tried squatting down with my hand out, and he eventually came over and sniffed me. After that he was all wags and licks! Looking over at the camper I assumed he came from, I could see the door was ajar, but I decided not to investigate in the dark. Instead, we had another little buddy join the crew in the van for the night. He was a polite guest, greeting Clem upon entrance, and then he curled up and went right to sleep. Around 6:30 he awoke, and I let him out and went to see what was going on with his owner. A guy eventually turned up, and seemed truly apologetic for him getting out, but I was still tempted to steal that big cuddly boy! But instead, I went back to bed.

When we finally woke up a couple hours later, we headed for Sedona. Along the way, we spotted a guy in a blue, 60’s era Ford camper van, and we both were waving as we crossed paths. We had heard from a guy we bought jerky from down the road that he had talked to that guy, and he was traveling across the country too! I was really excited to come across him.

Sedona in itself was mainly a shopping mall for the rich, but we could not get over how breathtaking the landscape is…I mean truly awe inspiring. The photos don’t represent how absolutely amazing it is. We decided our best move was to find a happy hour joint with a deck so Little Clem could hang out with us, and we found one with the best view and the most shade. Our waiter was so awesome, and talked us into too many margaritas (like it was tough) and we had a great afternoon. We also popped into the liquor store on the corner and had a chat with a 40 year resident of the town that said he is still in awe of how serene and beautiful it is. Whatever you may believe about the magic of nature, I can tell you, Sedona has the best vibe of anyplace I’ve seen so far. Every person we encountered was peaceful and welcoming. There must be something to getting vitamin D all year long! I almost wish I was a hiker, so I could really get into communing with that spot, but Clem and I are built for the indoors.

We’re set up now for the night a couple hours from the Grand Canyon, and I am so looking forward to that...

Day 6 - Pit Stop in the Desert

I never thought I would say this, but I love the desert. Waking up to the warm, but breezy plains started the day with a super peaceful vibe. We had a lazy morning of shopping for the perfect turquoise rings (accomplished!) and checking out roadside attractions. The old graveyards were really beautiful, and the vastness of the land has an immediate tranquility that takes over. We met some cool characters in Quartsville while we were buying our rings...one guy grew up in Brooklyn! I love it that we have the time to stop and get to know a little about someone and what their travels have been.

I got a call as we were about to get on the road from my brother, Pat. His Indy car team was racing in Phoenix, so he got us pit passes and we spent the evening watching fast cars make fast turns for 250 laps. They placed 10th! It was a good day for them, since they are working out how to run a new style engine. Clem got to enjoy her first race because of a small fib that I needed her to detect if I was going to have a seizure...so, don't tell anyone at the Arizona Speedway that it's not true! She was a perfect little spectator, and was turning tough guys into baby-talking sweethearts all day. She can draw a smile out of just about anyone.

Beyond seeing the race, it was great I got to spend time with Pat. I had planned on trying to see him in Houston, but he was going to be flying out to Indiana before I could get there. I think dad made sure we would meet up. Pat needed to look at the van so that there would be peace of mind across my family and friends. He gave Odin (Have I mentioned the van's name is Odin? Look it up...it's a fitting name.) an almost perfect bill of health, and I just have to get one small thing fixed before I leave Flagstaff a couple of days from now. So the brother gasket that was blown, is now fully repaired! I felt pretty cool having my own pit crew to check in with, and now I feel even better hitting the road to Sedona tomorrow!

Day 5 - El Capitan to Erhrenberg

Man, I love it when a plan comes together. There were a few people I was hoping to see while I was on this adventure, and while a couple didn't work out, one that I was truly looking forward too did today.

Trevor is not only my friend. He taught me things about metal work and machining. He was patient and extra kind when he didn't have to be. He made me feel capable of things I was super intimidated to try. Plus, he's super witty, and keeps you on your toes. I adore him. So getting to see him today, as he's settling into his new life in California, was fantastic. We talked about the journeys we're on, and how when you just follow your gut, good things always come to you. We're both on that gut following plan. He is a magical soul, and I'm so thankful I got to see him.

Directly after having that lovely interaction, we began our drive out of L.A. IT WAS TOTAL BULLSHIT. I am honestly confused why people would put themselves through that everyday. I aged 10 years. Accident after accident gave us the red line on the map every 15 minutes. Pair this with the burst of speed you sometimes get where everyone goes 70 past us, and we top out around 55, and my trucker mouth was blazing for 3 hours! We left California with middle fingers in the air, and headed for Arizona. Kelley took the wheel again at nightfall, and battled the wind for well over 2 hours. Keeping this tall orange can on the road isn't easy in regular conditions, and she was a champ. We made it 1 mile into Arizona and called it a night.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna smoke a J and look at the stars...

*The photo of Trevor and I was taken by Kelley*

Day 4 - Santa Cruz to El Capitan

I wrote a bunch of words down last night to report what happened during our drive yesterday, but all they turned into was a list of facts. Right now, it's 3am, and for once I'm thankful for my old lady bladder because it woke me up and forced me outside to walk under a sky full of the brightest stars, and all I can hear is the wind and the ocean. The ability to get in a vehicle and just drive, for hours and hours, watching the landscape morph from the lush and green, tree-filled Northwest, through a bit of the redwoods and now into this wide open sky and rolling farmland is just perfection. Riding along side my best friend for long stretches without a word, and then both of us noticing the same broken down barn, and simultaneously saying how we love old barns, and realizing it only took a couple days for our brains to become one again, is what I needed this trip to be. Tomorrow holds the promise of seeing another friend that I love so very much, and I hope the stars have aligned themselves to let that happen. Ending the night at a fancy campground topless, drinking cider in a Jacuzzi wasn't too bad either! California has been good to us. I am excited to see what Arizona has to offer next.

Day 3 - DELAYED!

The morning started with a search and destroy mission. We were searching for the source of the scraping noise coming from under the hood, and when we finally found it after calling my brother, Pat, on Facetime to show him the engine and let him listen, taking off a couple of belts and opening up the doghouse, it turned out to be coming from the same little part that's been acting up since the beginning. The choke thermostat. It was missing a gasket last week, so we made a new one out of cork. That only lasted for a few days and became a pile of ash because it's just too damn hot for cork in that part of the exhaust! We had tightened it down, but it had rattled loose, and it was screaming at me. We figured if we just tightened it down until we could get some high heat gasket material, it would be ok. That's where the destroy part of the morning mission came in. We tightened it just a little too far, and the bolt sheared off. Shit. Drilling it out was risky because we didn't want to grind the threads off. When Pat called back to check in on us, it was him who blew a gasket when he heard what happened! I got a lecture about all the things you check on before buying an old van, and I explained that I expected things to go wrong. (We agreed to disagree on that.) The plan after my scolding was over came together pretty quickly. We found a mechanic that had the proper tools, and we knew we could trust him because he was missing 3 fingers! He drilled and tapped a new hole to the side of the original one, (my idea! And it worked!) and put some high heat RTV in there, and we hit the road! I did also learn that you've got to watch your boots on a hot manifold. But now I will always have a reminder of today on my feet.

Needless to say, we were way behind schedule at this point, but we decided to reward ourselves with In and Out Burgers before getting down to serious miles. Once we crossed the California border, it was open farm land for miles and miles, and I loved it. What I didn't love was parting ways with Yoro, as he went on to the next part of his adventure. He was the best road crew, fire builder, curry cooker and sneaky photo taker there ever could be.

Kelley powered us through the last 4 hours doing all the night driving, because I can't see jack when it gets dark, and she, Clem and I are now in Santa Cruz, getting much needed showers and looking forward to finding some weird roadside attractions as we head down the coast.

Today brought lessons in patience, and I think my brother may have lost his...he's not even on this trip with me, yet I still manage to get him wound up! I'm such a good little sister.

Day 2 - DETOURED!

We had a bit of a lazy morning today. Last night lasted longer than expected, because hanging out around a campfire cleanses your soul. The comfort of sleeping next to my sweet little dog and my best friend made for a deep sleep. We were all well rested, and ready to get some miles under our tires. The van has acquired some new noises that we had to check out, but it looks like the exhaust leak is coming from a spot that is easily rectified, and the removal of the air-conditioning belt will alleviate the other, so all will be well tomorrow. This van is taking care of us. He is a beast, and I have complete faith in the love he is giving back to me.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I forgot how absolutely beautiful the Oregon coast is. But it is also windy as F! There were numerous times I thought I was going to fly into oncoming traffic today…but being pants shitting scared was a fine trade off for all the mesmerizing terrain. Part way through the trek, we asked about road conditions, and we found out Highway 101 was closed and we would have to back track from California back into Oregon. We were now going to have to miss the Redwoods…Super bummer, but our eyes were rewarded with the Rouge River. The turquoise water was flowing roughly, and the road was winding. It wasn’t the worst detour. We ended up in Cave Junction. I now have a hot toddy in my hand, and my pals are cooking up some curry, and we have the river flowing by outside the window…we will sleep well again tonight.