Day 140

My parents living room floor looks like a packrat has strewn its nest across every square inch available. (So glad they are on their own road trip right now, up at Doc & Al’s because I’m pretty sure that we would be banned from ever visiting again.) My goal is to go through our accumulated junk, pack up our unnecessary summer clothing and prepare our Fall/Winter items. What I have discovered is that it is much harder for us to let go of all the little things we have collected over the past few months, even if we’ve never used them.

We have stickers, travel sized EVERYTHING, games, note cards, postcards that we intended to mail (but didn’t), swimwear, (including goggles,) small boxes that we have never opened (and are no longer sure what is in them,) what seems like 1400 packets of oatmeal, 28 t-shirts, (but only 4 pairs of shorts,) and about 100 “please just take this little thing I’m sure you have room for it” items from well-meaning friends and family.

I have a trash can on my left side, a box in front of me and a bag to my right. The trash can is the old-fashioned metal kind and everything that goes in makes a very satisfying “clang!” when I make a deposit. The box is for items we want to see again someday, but don’t need in the van. Or possibly ever. I’m not sure. The bag is for items that I’m quite-nearly-certain have homes in the rig, and if they don’t then I am bound and determined to make space for them. Somewhere.

After all the breakdowns from our summer journey (both ours and the van’s) our relationship with Asterix* feels a bit tenebrous- we love her and fear her at the same time. She is currently having a pedicure- her back brakes are being replaced by a local mobile mechanic. I have more or less accepted that she is a needy, high maintenance creature. Since I’ve been described many times as the same I suppose we pretty much deserve each other.

In spite of our relationship issues, I can’t wait to take her back out. Ducky is well beyond ready and his impatience has turned to preadolescent sulkiness.

It’s time to get back out there.

I can’t wait to share with you all what we have learned during our break. We’ve connected with other #vanlife folk, each with their own diverse stories and wonderful advice. We have discovered that our choices are as homeschoolers are near limitless and that for all my fears, Ducky has opportunities to soar. When telling our tale, we hear the good that has come out of our adventures and realize how much grace and beauty came with the intensity.  Our lives have opened up in so many new and exciting ways it’s hard to encompass all of the wonder and joy.

Today we are chomping at the bit and are looking forward to our first campsite where we are assured stars, campfires, and falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. Just a few more days now…



Repairs & Nightmares

Badly shaken right now over a situation I’m still coming to grips with. Like many women who have been bullied, I find myself wondering if things went down exactly like I remember. The second guessing is erased however when I remember that I did not raise my voice, or yell, or scream.

The man I just dealt with did.

I can’t recall a time when an interaction with a business owner resulted in them shouting “get out, get out” (I can’t help but think of the Amityville horror -1979 of course,) and as much as I joke, I’m growing cold as I try to put all this down.

I made an appt. with SoCal RV Doctor in Lake Elsinore on Wednesday of last week explaining that I needed urgent appraisals before heading north. I was promised a quick same day look if I came in Friday morning at 8.

After arriving I had a comprehensive walk-through and felt like I was going to hear back by that afternoon. I called mid-afternoon checking on the status and was told, “we haven’t looked at it yet, we won’t have time today.”

Feeling resigned and frustrated, I agreed to leave my conversion van for the weekend after they promised to look at her “first thing Monday morning.” In my distraction I realized only after they had closed that I was short on my Ducky’s anti-seizure medication.

I showed up first thing Monday to get Ducky’s meds as well as to hopefully address what I was thinking of then as a “miscommunication.” After explaining to the woman staffing the front office why I was there and that it was urgent that I get into my rig (I was very clear what I was there for,) I was made to wait for nearly 20 minutes for someone to let me in to get his meds.

I tried to also deal with the miscommunication but the conversation was circular. My concerns were brushed off, and I felt unheard and very manipulated. I realized after taking Uber back that I likely should have taken the van and left, but was focused on getting back with the medication. I was also still willing to give them a last go due to a positive experience 5 months back with a quick turnaround on an installation of struts on my bench seat.  

Called Monday afternoon (yesterday) & was told “We are looking at it now!” Said they would call me back. They never did. Went in this morning to collect vehicle and leave taking a family member with me for moral support.

The owners meltdown began when I pointed out that if he had that many backed up customers (he had pointed at his folder system along the wall exhorting us to understand that “many of these people have been waiting weeks,”) then he should have said no to my request. He lost his temper saying, “Don’t tell me how to run my business.” I replied I hadn’t been but now that he went there my advice was to work on his C/S skills.

My aunt then addressed the owner as well. First she was trying to express the fact that she was trying to support local businesses. He cut her off. She then tried to further with her disappointment in what was happening. He cut her off.  Finally she said that she was considering contacting the BBB.

It was here that he really lost it.  His voice which had been steadily raising in volume and sarcasm with every interruption, now became a bellow, “so now you are threatening me!? Get out, get out!”

I’m actually relieved because I’d been walking away from previous conversations feeling confused. It’s so nice to know it wasn’t me.

I’ve never seen a businessperson conduct themselves so unprofessionally. I wish I’d checked Yelp first as there are plenty of warnings about this company. For my other #vanlife #rvlife #openroad folk: beware.

Music On The Road

We are back in the city of pavement and sunglasses, and the congestion, smog and snobbery is just barely balanced by the fact that there are people and food we love here. Not to mention REAL FREAKING music stations.

Traveling across the south was awesome, (really!,)  but the incessant Christian programing got to be a bit much. Such as the time when we scanned through all local stations and found two talking about Jesus, four singing to him, a lone country station and a station in Spanish that also turned out to be exhorting us to “canta a Jesus.”

Ducky and I missed our music from the get-go. In spite of getting adapters for my phone to the cassette player, various factors made using the thing impossible. Bumps, battery issues, overheating and mysterious dead air moments all played their part in our losing access to my carefully curated selection.

Our radio display burned out sometime in 2006 so when we hit search we never know what we’re going to get. Since we can’t look for any suggested stations directly, we tend to hit the “program” button whenever we find something decent. This means that we have to redo each one about every  600 miles or so. Fun times, especially if one gets lost that was actually good. “Noooooo!!!” We both shouted once after losing a particularly good one coming out of Shreveport. We spent the next 100 miles riding in grumpy silence each blaming the other for messing up.

There was practically weeping if we came across a “Classic rock” station. Especially if certain songs came on: “I’m a Coowwwboy, on this steel horse I ride, I’m wanted (WANTED) Dead Or Aliiiiive!!” (Ducky and I have a rule that this song is blasted and sung along with whenever possible. This rule also applies to “Life is a Highway” “Sweet Home Alabama” and most popular Queen songs.) For the most part though, we had religion, country, and dead air to accompany us.

Goddamit we missed all our favorite stations!

It is truly a wonderful thing to hit scan and have the thing stop every 2 seconds or so. The sun is shining down, there are honest to goodness palm trees, and the sky is that perfect shade of So-Cal blue.

Of course there is a soundtrack for the city. There must be, it’s like a natural law.

Thanks for the tunes, City of Angels, we missed this about you.


Day 74- Whiskey & Snakes

We bonded over Books, Booze, and Corn Snakes.

We got to know each other in the library at LASFS. We would hide in the back, sample various drinks and flirt outrageously. We would argue over which alternate history authors got it right and the difference between urban fantasy and romance novels masquerading as such.

We would talk late, make excuses as to why we had to go, and then talk for another two hours or so. When we met he had a girlfriend, and then when they broke up I had a boyfriend, and so on. We kept our boundaries in place declaring it more fun that way.

One day he was leaving for Austria and he needed a snake sitter, right away, right now, help! So we had another long evening talking, saying goodnight, and talking some more.  We had figured it out by then. We were both single! We liked each other! This was great!

The sunrise was beautiful.

Then he went away for six months.

When he came back, I was no longer available.

Our timing always was terrible.

This pattern continued for a bit. I was free, he wasn’t, he was free, I wasn’t.  I got a new snake, we bought a bigger tank, we said “hello” and “goodbye” a lot. (The snakes kept going back and forth for care of course.)

Upon his most recent return I was overwhelmed with depression. My illness kept me away from everything and everyone. I was melting down within my chrysalis hoping to emerge a butterfly. (Or at least have my PTSD, anxiety, depression and Bi-polar under control.) I was in and out of the hospital and he would send me PM’s. Heart emojis and bad jokes abounded. He kept the lines of communication open and I carefully responded as best I could from under the heap of cushions around my head.

Then I had the depression managed! I was ready to talk, and to be social and to… Move.

The eviction, the job-loss, the maddening swirl of my upcoming adventure took over and suddenly there was so much to do. Panic, plan, pack, deploy!

I needed care for my snakes of course.

Our last goodbye was bittersweet. I gave my girls,  Brownie and Candy, to the man named Whiskey with a snake named Bourbon. (Which sounds like the opening to some sort of joke, I know.)  We quipped about how often we had passed them back and forth, “like a pair of divorced parents.”  When we hugged it felt horribly final; I chalked it up to nerves and stress. We agreed to talk when I got back.

Our timing always was terrible.

I am grateful that we were able to grab some stolen hours during the periods when our calendars magically aligned.

I always thought there would be more.

I’m sure he did too.

I feel so terribly alone. My friends who are also grieving his loss are hundreds of miles away and I am stuck here on my way to Albuquerque. I suppose if there is a memorial I will miss it, not due back to California for another 10 days or so.

Even now, it appears our timing is still terrible.

At least I am left with a pilgrimage to make. He wanted to take me to Austria someday. So someday I will go on the road again only this time on a plane. I will find the place he told me about.

And I will cry myself dry.

Day Unknown- Faded

I’m supposed to be sad but all I can do is rage. My kids have often remarked that my first response to being hurt or startled is to get angry. This is so much greater than a simple unexpected pain it’s gone beyond a measurable response. Even rage is too gentle a word but I can’t think of any other descriptions.

This is huge, it’s so big, I can’t grasp it, can’t comprehend it, can’t encompass it. My mind is spinning from the fruitless efforts I’m making to grab hold of something solid. But everything is liquid.

I’m so physically worn out I can’t function. Upon getting into our cabin tonight, I collapsed. My legs simply refused to bear any more weight of any kind. I had the kids bring my computer to me and now I’m writing, my fingers pounding the keyboard, striving to make sense of the senseless.

I’m not supposed to deal with this much death at my age. Or for all the years previous when the phrase “so young” first began it’s poisonous insertion into my life.

How many? How many more? Why do I stay closed off Dr. Shrink? Well let me tell you…

Today someone I love died.


Today I was visiting the hometown of the last bright one who died on me.

It was to be a pilgrimage to try to make sense of what happened all those years ago to the two teens who loved, lost, tried to regain and eventually lost again.

Then the final loss.

Taking my children though the tribal lands today every drop of red sand felt like memory turned to blood, blinding my eyes and piercing my soul. I made myself vulnerable today and therefore I was already in a precarious place. Then the word came that on this day, of all days, another beloved one is gone.

There are no words for this, none.

I can’t rage, I can’t scream, I can’t let go because I’m the mom and I’m stuck in the cabin with my kids and the boy whose birthday is tomorrow. I have a cupcake for him. I bought it at the Diné market this afternoon, showing him around the land I didn’t realize I remembered so well.

(The stray dogs that wander all around and in and out, somewhat indulged yet ignored. One, with her teats heavy with milk followed us around the parking lot today and I wanted to grab her and say, “Take me to your pups and I will somehow save you all.”  Instead I got into my rental after griping after my kids for something-or-another and drove away.)

(The people whose eyes speak of both despair and wisdom but also great humor, they seem to see you from the side and not straight on as if to look too closely would be rude. The ones who approach you at the gas station with jewelry and the ones with fry-bread at the roadside stands and the tourist trap that we were at earlier today.)

(The land. Oh my dear God the land. The vistas that flow into pure light, colors not to be found at any other place I’ve ever been, the drab and dreary desert exploding into pinks and corals that aren’t quite those hues but again, there aren’t enough words.)

I have nothing but my words, I’m trying to ground but I’m not sure I’m able to. Tomorrow I promised a trip to the Grand Canyon and I’ve half killed myself getting us here and I have no idea what dawn will bring.

My kids are both scared of me right now. I have a snarl on my face that is so large and raw that I think they are reading it as a “Business Closed” sign. “Mommy isn’t home right now, leave a message and she might get back with you later.”

I know the rage is a cocoon, a safety-shield and a way of sheltering me from the tsunami of grief that I can see but refuse to face. I can’t. I just can’t.

I won’t candy-coat this, and put a shiny bow on it, talking about “better places” and other sanctimonious bullshit. My friend is dead and though I’m thrilled there is no more suffering for him, I am a gaping wound of pain. So I will feel my way through this.

I’m so tired.

I’m so pissed.

I’m so… Sad.

How can I be back here again and how do I get to tomorrow?

Day 65- The Storm

Everything is damp. Towels and bathing suits that were put out to dry yesterday are still sopping. And by sopping I mean able to be wrung out, with visible rivulets of water.  The floor under our bare feet has a gritty wet feel and even my bedding seems to have a strangely moist affect. The place smells like wet dog (Princess really needs a bath,) fish and yogurt. Don’t ask me why about the last one, I have no idea.  

I’m having fantasies of spraying everything within reach with anti-fungal spray and calling it a day.

We were supposed to go out and have fun at the beach this morning. I was promised white sandy beaches and seas of turquoise with 85 degree water. Instead we are trapped inside our cabin- which the management kindly didn’t kick us out of in spite of certain reservation complications – watching sheets of rain pour down. The storm took its sweet time to get here and now is shaking us with every loud roar of thunder. It feels like it’s coming from up under the floorboards. Ducky is cowering under his blankets and CJ and I are trying to respect his feelings while mouthing “Oh Wow!” at each other with silent grins.

We have seen quite a few southern thunderstorms but this was different having come of the sea. It slowly and majestically rolled across the gulf last night delighting storm watchers with a fantastic light show. It was way off in the distance but I didn’t really understand how far away it was or how long it was going to take to arrive.

Last night was heavenly. After accepting an invitation from a lovely couple from New Orleans to come over for dinner, we enjoyed good food and excellent company from folk who don’t hold much for standing on ceremony; our kind of people.

We joked and laughed all evening (Ducky holding forth with his most “on-stage” personality,) after which I put the boys to bed and then succumbed to the siren call of the storm.

I crossed the dock which was a grey slash across a rippled mass of obsidian.  I thought to myself, “So that’s what they mean when they say, ‘jet black waters.’” I felt a moment of primordial fear and shoved it to the back of my awareness. Still, crossing seemed to take far longer than usual. There was a pair of young boys fishing their profiles eerily lit with the flashes from across the bay. The edge of the dock had two benches which no one sat in, the five of us simply sat out and stared. Cell phones were taken out, and after several minutes of earnest tries to obtain ‘decent’ photos or video, devices were gently shoved back in purses or pockets with semi-relieved sighs.

It was an experience to have, not record. At least not with anything but memory.

I returned to the cabin around 1am, the boys soundly sleeping and my mind swirling. After reading until 2, I found myself rudely awoken at 5 by the sound of crashing thunder.

So now we sit, surrounded by our wet things and try to endure. I don’t know what the day will bring.

I wanted to go to the beach.