Day 63- Clean Up Your Mess!

So now that we have added a gargantuan, clumsy and randomly smelly teenager into the mix, ( I love you CJ!) it has become even more imperative to have a strong set of rules in place. This is necessary to see that Asterix doesn’t go from feeling like a cozy little home and conveyance into a cell on wheels trapping and dragging all on board into the depths of hell.

In other words I’d rather not drive a moldy, sandy, sticky mess of random leftovers from wandering all over hill and dale and apparent chewing gum factories.

This sign is now taped to one of the cabinet shelves:

SECURING THE RIG:

  1. Is EVERYTHING in its place?
  2. All cabinets locked and closed?
  3. All loose articles of paper, clothing, maps & random junk stowed away? (I will start throwing shit out.)
  4. Are there any items that need special attention? (Eg. wet items, messy drawers that items were shoved into instead of neatly folded, filthy shoes, anything stinky, sticky or otherwise.…)
  5. Does it smell nice? We own two HUGE bottles of Febreeze for a reason!
  6. Pick that thing up!
  7. That one too!
  8. I mean it!!

A day after sharing these rules yesterday, I came out after the boys “secured the rig” to find approximately 3 reams worth of paper scattered, 15 maps left all over the front, wrappers from forbidden foods, enough sand to repopulate a whole beach and a certain odor of indeterminate origin that smelled like a cross between peanut butter, mildew and beer.

I took one look, (and whiff,) slammed the doors shut, came back into the motel room and in varying levels of pissed off vocals let them know about my mild disappointment. I then went and locked myself in the bathroom after hissing at them that “this shit had better get fixed.”

It was either that or to simply drive off and leave them in the room for an hour or two which also seemed like a totally reasonable response at the time.

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in four days at this point and am Beyond Cranky. I had already warned the boys the night before that the list was up, needed to be followed and I really, truly, desperately needed them to be at the top of their game.

I’m not sure why I’m so rarely able to accept shortcomings from my children without feeling like the Wrath of Mom MMXVI but damn, I go from reasonable human being to rabid lunatic within seconds when they mess up lately.

I know that things are not aided by the fact that one of our most recent adventures had us camping in a spot where the mosquito tribe had declared war on us and our delicate netting didn’t stand a chance. The A/C was also broken and without a generator we tried to sleep with the doors all flung open which did jack shit for the temp. It was soon 100 in the van and 95% humidity. There were tears. Finally we decided to make the tent. It was thundering. CJ took one look at the size of the thing and offered to go back into the rig.

The rest of the night was punctuated with random screaming and yelling while the war in the van intensified. Ducky crashed out while I nervously watched the lighting turn our tent varying shades of orange and wondered if the rain flap was going to hold up. Or the tent itself for that matter. I was angrily thinking to the future me that was going to find this a “great memory” to go jump off a cliff.

The next morning CJ’s war results were found in the form of dozens of tiny, bloody, squashed bodies all over the ceiling. But judging by the bites all over his feet and legs I’d say it was a draw.

He also said that he was telling his future self to go die in a fire. Yup, definitely my kid.

The three of us resembled national geographic pox victims, our legs and arms (and in Ducky’s case, tummy, back and face) covered to the point that there were more bites than skin. Top this off with the fact that we nearly all had terrible sunburns…

Yeah, not such a great night.

But the day before had been magical. We had reached the Atlantic and were playing in the waves, accompanied by millions of tiny fish and one intrepid little sting ray.

There were dolphins, crabs, and new birds along with blisteringly hot white sand to run across. We had nummy snacks and the dog stole some meat and cheese and didn’t look the least bit repentant. We laughed and played and feasted and rejoiced.

We clung to the memory of that day when dealing with the aftereffects of the night. I asked the boys the next day while coating everyone in calamine lotion if they were able to balance out the memories. “I think so.” Said one. “Yes!” said the other.

“What about you, Mom?”

Oh. That’s right. Me.

“I can still hear the waves crashing on the shore. I can remember the feeling of the swells lifting up my body and taste the sea-salt on my lips. I remember how you two laughed and played together as if all alone on the busy (but not quite crowded shore.) I told someone recently that our trip seems to be 85% trials and tribulations, 10% good days and 5% moments of earth-shattering glory. I think it was one of those 5% days. What about you?”

This time they both said Yes.

 

Day 60- The South

“So, how do you feel about the way things are going these days?”

I usually say when asked, (and believe me with a California plate, I am getting asked,) that I am tired of politics, tired of watching my country flounder and flail while people who have been taught to stay on their side of a fictitious fence sit and throw barbs at one another. Or if I’m pressed for time, “I don’t trust any of ‘em. Politicians are rarely out for the people and are usually out for themselves.”

This approach seems to be working thus far. But I still am aware of many a steely eye looking at me with an unpleasant glint reflecting a thought; “You know I could push you on this further, right?”  It’s only gone past the glance once, I stood my ground and walked away bored and unsettled. A waste of my time especially since I don’t believe in an afterlife; every moment of my life is all the more precious.

So many folk are out there yelling at each other and I’m over here wondering, “Hey, what’s this state like? Anybody got room for us? Want to talk about food? Going to Mars? Read any good books lately? What did you think about this one? Where have you travelled to? Did you like it?

‘Round here it’s all about God and guns. The radio stations consist of at least five varieties of folk singing their hearts out to or about Jesus. Not to mention the billboards selling God. And Guns.  And confederate flags.  I shit you not I have seen shops selling “starts & bars” right next to crosses and bullets. (I’m waiting for the Confederate flag cross-shaped ammo carrier because that would be like winning some sort of “Souther Trifecta” or something.)

I am decidedly ambivalent about guns though I was taken a little aback when the mechanic who was giving us a lift mentioned in conversation, “my gun goes with me everywhere,”  and I realized he was carrying. The very prosaic side I no doubt owe most of my survival to took this in stride. I shrugged in reply to this along with a non-answer along the lines of, “Well, if you feel the need, then that’s what’s going to happen” or some such. Honestly I wasn’t really that bothered. I suppose I should have been, but at that point all I cared about was getting the van moving again, getting a cold drink (it was 111 out) and finding a place to stay that wouldn’t break the bank.

The fuck-it factor was high that day. Has been ever since, really. Because it just keeps happening.

There was a  family we were hanging out in a random motel, kids in the pool, the adults sharing their beers and tips on sustainable living. We were getting along well and then they were very politely asking me if the gun on the nightstand (on top of the BIBLE, no less,) was offensive in any way. Thinking quickly of Ducky playing with their three children outside, I honestly replied, “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it might scare my boy a little.”

Nothing but the truth.

I have been around gun-culture before, back when one could walk into a bar in Arizona and throw one’s gun down on the table to talk about it’s fine points with others present. I have fired weapons, both at backwood fence posts, and at long distance targets on a rifle range.

The only thing Ducky knows about guns is what he sees in the movies and on TV. Not watching the news he only has the vaguest sort of clue that he lives in the only country in the world that regularly has mass shootings. I’m not sure he fully understands why he has grown up with “lock-down” drills. Earthquake drills are what I remember. But then again my mother grew up with a decidedly different “duck & cover” program.

If we move here, I will take him out to a range and show him what we live with. Not because I’m pro or con but because like the overly abundant mosquitoes, they seem to be something we are going to have to learn to live with. I’d rather he not freeze up in terror at his first sighting of one. He will learn the rules and if a family doesn’t seem to know them he will get his ass home.

Alive, hopefully.

There is also truth to the statement I just made to my friend this week, “The people we have met have nearly all been gun-toting, God-fearing, conservative rednecks who would drop everything to help us in an emergency.” But then again I took certain bumper stickers off and don’t say a lot to make waves. I fear what might happen if I did.

On the other hand, it sure is nice to walk around in an area where everyone says Hello with a wave and a smile. From the smallest backwood town, to campground to small gas station stop, I haven’t had anyone glance over or past me. There are friendly waves and smiles from porches and rusted out trucks. And they are genuine. It baffles me how people with hearts so filled with kindness and grace can turn so quickly into angry, desperate folk.

These people confound me.

But I sure do like ‘em.

Hopefully I won’t get shot.

Forever and ever, Amen.

(Says the non-theist, queer, ½ mexican, charity accepting, single mother from California. Heh.)

 

Day ???

I have decided I am quite possibly the worst travel blogger ever. I set out with the fantasy that I would be able to present wonderful word pictures of our travels replete with pithy observations and deep moments of wisdom.

In lieu of this, the ugly truth has revealed itself; I am simply not able to write anything after a long day on the road. I don’t even so much as glance at my laptop. Instead I hurl myself upon the bench seat in the van. I don’t even bother to convert it into a bed anymore. Or change. Or brush my teeth. I bathe with wet wipes. (And yet again I fortify my position of being single forever.)

Our days look something like this: Get up early. Or rather, plan to get up early. Then wake up and, depending on the position of the sun, either flap a bit or go into full blown panic mode. Continue freaking out while shovelling food at offspring while grabbing a plain, usually bitter cup of coffee for myself. (As this is usually from a campsite or truck stop, it’s often got undertones of bark, rubber, diesel and asphalt in varied combinations.)

We then drive for 2 hours with a reminder set warning us that the van will die at some point soon. Sometimes we time it right. More often than not, we sit at the side of the road snarling at one another in the hot sun until I either give in and call AAA, or we try our luck and start the process again.

After 12:30 we begin our routine of running the A/C for precious moments at a time, turning it off at the merest hint of a grade. By 2pm we have to cut it off completely. We can have A/C or drive. You have no doubt worked out our choice.

We keep mini spray bottles filled with chilled water, (well at least they were chilled back when our fridge was still working,) by our seats. At some point one of us will yell, “Mist!” as a plea for some small measure of relief. We spray, feel better for approximately 45 seconds and then chug from lukewarm bottles.  At one point we bought a small thermometer, curious to see exactly what our condition was. We have since hidden it away by unspoken mutual agreement. Apparently knowing that we were literally driving in 100 degree heat was too depressing to bear.

Our lunches depend on what stage of overheating we are at. If the van has us stranded we often end up with beef jerky, granola bars, apples and crackers . (There used to be cheese. I miss cheese. Oh My God. CHEESE.)  If we are at an unexpected but not completely dead stop, it’s PB&J. We have had a LOT of PB&J. I’m not sure if after this summer I will be able to even smell peanut butter again.

I don’t want to admit how often lunch has been Dairy Queen. This is most often funded by the copious amounts of spare change we keep discovering in the van. Not to mention on the ground at campsites and in motel rooms. I owe a huge thanks to all of you with loose pockets. I cannot for the life of me fathom how Ducky and I have both lost 15lbs while on a diet that has repeatedly consisted of sugar sticks, ice cream and light snacks. I guess that guy was right.

I know you’ve read that we also get to stay with friends. And I always think when pulling into a new driveway, “Oh, isn’t this wonderful? I’ll finally get to mail those postcards, check in with family, find out about my mail, post to the damn blog…”

But when I’m staying with my friends I don’t want to write I want to do.

I am aware that I sound like a recalcitrant child when I say this, but my older and sulkier inner teenager makes it all better by not giving a shit.

I have discovered a true way to reverse the aging process. Somewhere after all the driving the adult gets burned away and I am left with a brain committee of no one over 22.

If only my body would come along for the ride.

On that note, I have to say I like the muscle tone I’m developing on my arms. Due to a combination of driving, along with the hefting of bags, boxes and dog, I am rediscovering my strength. My skin is also a quiet joy. I have burned, peeled, tanned and repeated enough that my skin has taken on a soft, “god-dammit I forgot to use sunscreen AGAIN” glow. It looks good, though I have to put ideas of skin cancer out of my head.

The aforementioned weight loss is of course welcome, however since Ducky and I were the same size upon setting out, this means that our shared shorts are now WAY too big. Declan had a pair fall down on him while he was darting up some stairs and the perfect “Oh” of surprise on his face will be engraved in my memory until the day I die.

It’s a good thing I brought belts.