Digest

I’m giving up.  It is something I don’t do often. I’m just overwhelmed with guilt.

It has been almost a year, and I’m not going to finish writing up elegant blogs posts for each stage of last year’s road trip. Every time I go to write a post about anything else, I don’t, because I think “I should really catch up.” Enough is enough. I need to be writing. What follows is a digest of the memories that stick out many months later. I got pictures of some of it, but as I was solo driving, so much of this is just memory.

I’ll start by saying Chinchin behaved very well, on the whole. She doesn’t like being pushed around by heavy winds. In a few spots, white knuckles holding on to the steering wheel for dear life, thankful for mostly empty roads, I found myself yelling “Stop IT! Just STOP!” at the wind. We would suddenly find ourselves a few feet outside our lane to one side or another. We also had to stop in Sweetwater, TX for the night so she could get new brake pads (Chinook didn’t upgrade the brakes on the Toyota trucks when they added all the extra weight, so they don’t last long.) Otherwise, she was a trooper, often maintaining 70 – 75 mph on open stretches of highway. She really seemed to love a little fuel additive, so I fed her little baby bottles of the stuff with almost every tank of gas.

So, the things I remember in no particular order…

  • Somewhere between Chattanooga and the coast, a strong thunderstorm came up. After such an intense drought in CA, this much water falling from the sky felt miraculous. I was low on gas, worried about the back leaking, and a little concerned about possible tornados, so I pulled into a gas station with a big awning and just marveled at the amount of water coming out of the sky.
  • Pulling into a parking garage in Atlanta, where I stopped for a few days for a meeting, and thinking, “Well, I hope she fits!”
  • Being on the part of Highway 65 that is elevated above the swamp approaching Mobile, AL, just as the sun was setting, and seeing a huge mostly white owl, soaring through the tree tops.
  • Taking a dip in the gulf, worrying about the after effects of the BP spill, and coming out of the water to find my copper bracelets oxidized to almost black.
  • Realizing the only way I was going to survive the heat would be to stop regularly for ice and drinks. Then realizing half the heat was coming through the floor boards.
  • Hurrying to TX, knowing that I would only be able to move so quickly, and I had a deadline.
  • Stopping for the night in Houston. The drivers on the highway there were more often than not, big bullies in big trucks, or so it seemed at the end of a long day. Melting in the humidity as I tried to pull some things out of the back, so I could check into a hotel for the night. Being so very thankful for the A/C in my room.
  • Locking my keys in Chinchin at a gas station. Thankfully I had one of the back windows partly open to increase the breeze inside. I borrowed a little ladder from the gas station, pretended to be an expert level contortionist, and was back in business in a matter of minutes.
  • Delighting in the hill country south of Austin, stopping at Hruska’s for kolaches, seeing the aftermath of a fatal car accident, sinking into the loving arms of my friends in Austin, and buying myself the BEST knife at Metier.
  • Being ever so thankful that the brakes told me with a few loud screeches that they needed to be replaced, right as I pulled into Sweetwater, TX, where there was a cheap hotel room, a Napa auto parts, and a very nice mechanic. Being punched in the gut with the sense of how much rural America is truly dying on the vine.
  • Gleefully pulling over to take pictures of the wind turbines that are beginning to dominate the oil fields and cattle ranches. Smiling from ear to ear every time a semi-truck drove by with a new turbine blade on the back.
  • Watching a small tornado trying to twist itself into formation in the copper colored landscape between north Texas and New Mexico. Being terrified and thrilled at the same time.
  • Inhaling the deep, sagey, green coolness of northern New Mexico. Giggling at the “No smoking marijuana in smoking rooms.” signs in hotels in Colorado.
  • The heart warming hospitality of my friends in Colorado.
  • The strange, earth shaking, rooting nostalgia that rose up in me while visiting the campus of the first college I attended for only one semester, when I was 17, and all the associated “what ifs?”.
  • Driving over the Rockies, giggling at the concept of ski resorts, wishing there was time to stop and ramble over the woods and rocks.
  • Coming through a pass out of Colorado into Utah, as a rainstorm was ending, and there was a bright golden glow looking to the west, framing swooping wind turbines. Once through the pass I noticed an intense rainbow in the rearview mirror. I pulled over, shaking with joy that we might actually find a way to stop being dependent on fossil fuels.
  • Trying to absorb all the awe I was feeling rushing by all the layers of strata, ancient salt lakes, and spectrum of colors as I went from Provo, UT to Kirkwood, CA in one day.
  • Being so excited to see my friends and family in Kirkwood that I reversed into a stone wall and broke the back-up camera.
  • Being EXTREMELY self-conscious of how squeaky the new brakes were in the hilly streets of San Francisco.
  • Running out of gas 12 miles from home, because I was so excited I forgot to stop.

There is so much more. It was a great, though hurried trip. I thought by now, I’d have her all fixed up and ready for more adventures, but life has been very busy, and will continue to be so for a few more months. I may just need to throw some cash at a few of the things. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m making friends with lots of other Chinook owners online, and letting them provide lots of inspiration.

Tell us about it…

If you walk outside your home every day and are set upon by mosquitos that don’t go away until you go back into your home, you may have some sense of how I feel…of why I told a friend I was losing my mind.

I’m a very privileged person. I have an amazing family, amazing friends, amazing job, live in an amazing city, travel to amazing places, and am in fairly amazing health. You get it, my life is amazing. Yet, I find myself irritated, grumpy, distracted, angry, etc. all too often. It is as though I am not-so-slowly slipping into a place that is dark enough that I won’t be able to find my way back to the light.

What are the mosquitos that are swarming so thick that they are blocking out the light, driving me mad?

I can’t say with certainty. One of the biggest failings of all humans is that it is hard for us to see ourselves and our motivations. I’ve got some good guesses though.

I grew up mostly sheltered and very idealistic. The world was absolutely a wonderful place full of sunlight, magical forests full of fairies, silvery fish swimming in fountains of youth, and people that loved with open and honest hearts. Jesus loved ALL the little children of the world. I could be or do ANYTHING I wanted, if I just tried.

It was great. I’m so thankful for that. The only problem is that I’ve become an adult that is eroded to the core by disappointment, and life is full of disappointment if you are an idealist. People are just bad at treating the world around them well. We maim, kill, destroy, insult, abuse, and pollute. Sometimes it is through ignorance, but more often than not, it is with knowledge, forethought, and selfishness. It sounds dark and awful, and it is, and none of us are innocent of it. The older I get, the more I see of it. That may be from increased exposure through age or our ever present media, or maybe things are getting worse. I can’t know. The mosquitos of disappointment swarm, and the light disappears.

My friend said “Lose your mind. And tell us about it.”

I don’t want to lose it, to surrender to the darkness. Every day (THANKFULLY!!!) I am also reminded that people can love, build, sing, move, laugh, give, and hope. To surrender those things is to truly lose myself, my mind. I AM STRONGER THAN THAT. I choose the light, and want to embrace everything that keeps me in it.

What I want to tell you are the stories about how I stay here in the light, how I cut away the shadows with my twin swords, Love and Hope. When I pull you into my arms, smile into your eyes, do you a favor, or rail against the darkness, don’t dismiss me, don’t turn away. That is Love and Hope doing their work. When I fall or make a mistake, reach your hand out. Come dance with me, and laugh with me, and lay in the sunshine. I’m ready to have fun, and fight for the light. If you come to me with an armful of darkness and aren’t prepared to let it go, don’t be surprised if I turn away. Mosquitos will no longer be tolerated.

I’m going to go have fun and be happy now. Let me know if you want to join me, but be forewarned, I might include you in the stories. I might also sing.

Or, maybe losing my mind IS embracing the light.

Tennessee

I have decided it is impossible to explain to someone why they should love a place. I have also realized no one will ever love a place like I do, because each of us experiences a place differently. All that’s ok. Give me a minute though to talk about the place I love, the place that still feels like home, despite having been gone so long.

Tennessee is not a perfect place. Like everywhere else there are subhuman beasts roaming the streets, with their fear, biases, ignorance, and hate. Tennessee can be slow to embrace change. I know. We know.

Tennessee is the loamy, fertile, flickering forest. It is a warm, breeze at night, so soft it feels like a loving hand has caressed your face. It is red soil, as hard to move as the metal that gives it it’s color. It is the sharp tingle as you slide into a mountain creek or river. It is skinny dipping under the light of a full moon. It is sitting in the mouth of a cave, part way up a bluff, watching fire light paint the ceiling orange, knowing it has looked like that for millennia. It is the wailing in the night of an owl, a prayer, or a banjo. It is dancing, arms swinging, and people laughing and clapping. It is the sweet quench of a fall apple, or cold, sweet tea. It is the sincere and tenacious preservation of craft, history, and the land itself. It is offering to do and go before you are asked. It is not knowing a stranger, but not letting folks too close. It is women and men of letters. It is making whiskey in a dry county. It is mischievous, fun, serious, and faithful. You can’t know it like I do, and that’s ok.

It was late when I landed in Knoxville, and snuck quietly into the home of the woman (HB) whom has been my friend since we were five. We stayed up chatting in whispered voices, making sure not to wake her husband. Just like slumber parties when we were ten. I’ve never been married, but it kind of felt like I would be saying “I do.” the next day.

So I did. “I do have my credit card.” A quick exchange of money, information and incredulity that I was going it alone, and off I went with ChinChin. Like all new Mom’s I was filled with love and a healthy dose of terror about what I’d gotten myself into. The odd bit of grinding gears, and hauling of the manual steering around, and I felt much better. The next few days were spent enjoying the company of my friends, running around outfitting the wagon for the long trip west, and soaking up thunderstorms, lightning, The Tomato Head, and wrangling HB’s husband into helping me build an “air conditioner” out of a cooler and a tiny fan.

Side Note: You can make one of these yourself, like this one. I wanted mine to plug into the DC cigarette lighter adaptor. The fan I got was not strong enough for it to be affective during the hot days, but on the nights I camped in ChinChin (and had A/C power), I popped two bags of ice in the cooler, and set it up on the over-cab bunk. It certainly kept me comfortable on the hot nights.

With the first rainstorm, I found a nice little lake in the back step by the door. A judicious use of duct tape, and a car cover kept things dry on the trip home.

Pleasent surprises included the ability to see out the back window in the door from the rear-view mirror, the interior being in pretty good shape, and the nearly constant thumbs up and requests to sell that occurred over the next 3,700 miles.

Finally, it was time for the highway test. I scooted off to Nashville fairly early, and found, other that the wind vulnerability, it was no trouble. At my first gas stop, a woman got very happy when she saw me, and explained her Mom had a Chinook when she was little.

Nashville was a crazy few days of work events and catching up with the natives. My sweet friends in west Nashville let me camp in their driveway. Being lulled to sleep by storms is the best, as are friends that lend your their love and their bathroom. Being inspired by the open source community, a quick trip to Santa’s Pub, and finally that text message that was eleven months in the making, and it was time to scoot off to Chattanooga.

My time in Chattanooga wasn’t long enough. It is a cool town, that is growing and rehabbing itself under the careful eye of some savvy, tech-minded folks. We took one of the two days, and ran off to Russell Cave. The cave has signs of almost continuous occupancy from 10,000 BCE, through the late 1600s. I love my Chattanooga peeps, and didn’t want to leave, but work and Atlanta called.

I love and miss Tennessee, but it has many of the same over development problems that irk me here, not to mention some of the politics. This trip released me from the feeling of needing to live there at some point in the future. I wouldn’t object, but I no longer feel that I should.

 

 

Four Seasons in One Day.

“By yourself? You’re going to drive all that way by yourself?”

I sure as heck am. I drove well over 3,000 miles by myself in a forty year old rickety camper. It was six months ago, and I can already tell some of the memories are a bit fuzzy. It wasn’t all easy or good, but I loved it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything totally insane, risking life, limb, and money. If you don’t get hurt, hurt anyone, or totally loose your shirt in the process, it is a ton of fun.

I picked up the camper in east Tennessee. The mechanics who worked on her (and yes, she is her), got her in what I would call workable, but not perfect shape. Even they had their doubts about her making it back to California, but I’m going to set the record straight here. She did great. I regularly got her up to 70/75 MPH (WHERE LEGAL!), and she only had two real problems. The suspension and steering need work, so she was very susceptible (which autocorrected to rustable when I first typed it, hahaha) to being blown all over the road in gusty conditions. There were a couple of very windy spots in north Texas and southern New Mexico, where I found myself yelling into the wind, “Stop it! Just stop!”. Very effective tactic, which worked like a charm. I also needed new brake pads by the time I got to Sweetwater, TX. The brake pads are sized for a tiny truck, not a heavy camper, so they wear through quickly.

I think to avoid a monolithic post, I will need to brake it down into sections. The whole trip was, according to roadtrippers.com, about 3,700 miles. In the big scheme of road trips it was very fast, so I didn’t get much time for stopping to enjoy the sites. That was the only real “failure” of the trip. I still saw many a beautiful things and had a great adventure. This ended up being the route:

Chattanooga Trip Roadtrip - Roadtrippers

The silencing domino effect.

Apologies for the long absence. The week after the road trip ended a series of emotional events began. I wanted to finish writing about the trip, but the longer I waited, the guiltier I felt. The emotional events kept occurring, and I ended up in a sleepy, defensive silence. This happens sometimes when I feel overwhelmed.

Now…on with the show.

Very incomplete advice to a 17 year old girl.

When I was seventeen, eleven days after graduating from high-school, I started my first semester of college. I had chosen to attend Colorado College in Colorado Springs, because I had good memories of the Rockies from traveling there once as a child, and I thought I would do well in a program that used the “block system” (one class at a time for three and a half weeks.). I arrived at CC a painfully shy, painfully self-conscious young woman. I didn’t drink, smoke, use any drugs, didn’t have a clue that things like NOLS existed, kept my (perfectly lovely) body covered, and was far from well read.

I visited the campus recently, and it made me wonder what advice the current me, would have given the seventeen year old me. Should you, or any young woman, find themselves in a similar position, this is the very incomplete advice I can offer you:

  1. Stop calling yourself a girl. You have just entered the adult world, and the sooner you start acting like it, take the responsibility that comes with it, and demand the respect that it commands, the better.
  2. That guy/girl that says “I’m really going to miss you, I wish you weren’t going.” versus “You’re going to have such an amazing time, I’ll be here when you get back.” is not the one. Go ahead and let him/her go. (S)He doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and you won’t grow with him/her they way you need to.
  3. That thing you’re so passionate about in the world, the one that occupies your mind, and sets you to problem solving at all hours of the day and night? That isn’t likely to go away. Research that. Make connections in the field. Find out what problems haven’t been solved yet, and start talking to others about it. Give up some of your “free time” to it. If someone says you won’t make any money working on it, tell them you will find a way.
  4. Work a crappy retail job, even if you don’t have to. Serving others will teach you patience, compassion, how to talk to anyone, how to resolve conflict, how to let the small things go quickly, and just how important it is to look someone in the eye and REALLY see them.
  5. Be bold backed with smarts. You do NOT have to be great at everything, or anything for that matter, but you do have to try things and put yourself out there. Climb a mountain, sing in front of others, get naked in front of others, let down your guard, wear crazy clothes, and do it all responsibly. Test your mettle, so that when someone asks you if you like/want to try something, you can say yes or no with confidence.
  6. You do not have to use intoxicants of any kind, read, listen, or watch certain things, or play or do any certain activities in order to fit in. Just be you. The people who don’t like you for who you are, aren’t worth your time.
  7. Learn to comfortably eat by yourself, at very nice restaurants, and in people’s homes. You will need to be able to do all these things in your future.
  8. Don’t let anyone, not your parents, your boy(girl)friend, teachers, friends, heads of state, and especially your own mind, tell you that you can’t have or don’t deserve the life you want. It is all up to you, and if you want it, you can find a way to build it.
  9. Be flexible. It isn’t all about you. Others will have needs greater than yours and you will find serving them holds the greatest joy and most satisfaction, even if it means sacrificing some of your own desires. Just make sure you aren’t loosing yourself in the process of serving.
  10. Stay in touch with the people who build you up now. They will most likely always do so, and will know you like no one else will the rest of your life.
  11. Love your body. I don’t care what shape, color, size, or disorders it may be or have. It is the vessel that will carry you through life, that will allow you to extend your love into the physical realm with others, and that will be the filter and framework for all of your experiences. Exercise it, feed it well, learn what it likes and doesn’t like, stop fighting it, and protect it with sunscreen, seatbelts, helmets (NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIR), and condoms.

There is much, much more, but that should get you started. I left CC after my first semester. I wonder, had I had the above advice, if I might have stayed.

Are you happy?

A few days ago someone asked me if I was happy. I paused before answering. That pause came from two sources. First, I’m normally the person asking others that question, so it was a bit surprising and refreshing to be asked. The second source of the pause came from a desire for my answer to be the truth. It is so easy to give a quick response when asked such things. “How are you?” “Good.” “Are you happy?” “Yes.”

I want the answers to these questions to be truthful, thoughtful, and considered. The last couple of years have had some really hard times. I wanted a minute to think about what being happy means, and if I really am.

My definition of happy has changed over the last few years. Happy used to fell like all things were good, there was no pain or tension, no sense of urgency. Happy has grown into something different. Now happy is knowing many things are hard and always will be, and that I can pour my blood, sweat, and tears into making them better. Happy is knowing that things don’t last forever, and that a sense of urgency can help you to savor everything you are experiencing. Happy is working through pain, being patient with yourself, and gleaning knowledge from the process. Happy is accepting imperfection and inconsistency in myself and others.

Am I happy? You bet I am. A more complete happy than ever.

In other news…

In five days I will be hurtling through the air on my way to pick up ChinChin and the first long road trip in too many years. This week is slated to be a very busy one, but the bubbles of joy and excitement are beginning to form along the inside of my soul, the way bubbles form along the bottom of a pan right before it boils. I can’t wait to be hot, sing out loud to unending playlists, see lightening bugs, eat all the food, hug the ones I love, evangelize for open source, and feel the deep, still peace that comes when you see so much of the world in a few short weeks. My wandering heart craves this like few other things.

Dad has been an excellent project manager, and we’ve put our faith in the mechanic’s ability to get ChinChin’s guts ready for the road.

This song keeps running through my head:

If I can just get packed, finish up my work projects, and get beyond the annoying crush I currently have, it is going to be one heck of a great summer.