Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Are We There Yet, Mommy?

I woke up annoyed. Annoyed that I had gotten lost twice, and now had NO idea how to find I-80 west, annoyed that I had left my hoodie in the hotel in Peoria so I was chilly all night and slept badly, and annoyed by how crap I packed in my car. When I went out after breakfast to rearrange bags to make room for the kitties, I found a 75’ roll of aluminum foil. Why? Was I planning to build a McGyver bomb or retrieve messages from space? I gave the roll to the young woman at the front desk, who gave me excellent directions back to the freeway.

The cats were fairly compliant all day. This change of scenery and constant driving is stressful for all three of us. Plus all the crap I have to haul in and out of the hotel. It takes two trips with one of those luggage carts. One for them and their accessories, one for my stuff. They’ve both adapted pretty well. Pablo uses the box inside the hotel, but poor old Henry has a small one inside his crate, which occasionally he uses. A few times during the drive I noticed foul odors, but they were bovine. The expensive cat litter is working.

Today’s drive was smooth, even though my car noticed the higher elevation. Every time I had to slow down for construction it took a long time to get my RPMs back up to 75. In Wyoming the speed limit is 80.

Around lunch time I stopped at a Shell station in Kearney, Nebraska. I’ve never liked self- serve. I’m kind of like Cindy Sterling with lawnmowers at the gas pump. I find one which has an easy method and stick to it. The pump at this Shell station had instructions about as clear as mud, so I went inside to get help. The woman behind the counter was rude and condescending, and I thought, “I don't have to buy my gas here,” and I ended up glad hadn’t.

One exit away was a town called Odessa, and a sign advertised Shepp Brothers as having “the cleanest roadside restrooms in Nebraska.”  Their pumps were easy to work, and when I went inside to pay I entered a wonderland. Lucky for me my car is full or I would have gone on a shopping spree of scarves, clothes and purses. They also had groceries, so my lunch was two packets of cheese, a bag of Kettle chips and a banana. And the restroom was clean. I’ve traveled quite a bit but I’ve never seen a toilet that had a bidet function. One might expect such a toilet in a fancy French hotel but not a roadside establishment.

After getting lost in Lincoln, tonight’s dinner was in a Subway across the parking lot from my hotel in Cheyenne. I had a tuna salad sandwich on wheat with spinach and cucumbers. This hotel is right off the freeway, so setting out in the morning will be easy. I found another hoodie in my car to keep me warm in the AC. Right now Pablo is sleeping on it, but the room hasn't cooled off fully.

I have no idea what tie it is. My PC says 8:24, the room clock says 8:35 , and my phone tells me it’s 6:25.
And now time for my nightly glass of wine and select my next stop on the map.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lost in Lincoln Nebraska

After a night of thundering rain, the kitties and I woke to sunshine in Peoria. Neither of them was happy to be placed in their respective carriers, but they resigned themselves to another long drive with few protestations.

It occurred to me as I drove how different this trip was since my last westward journey by car. At that time I drove an un-air-conditioned 1973 Chevy Nova without a radio. Young and stupid, I drove for twelve to sixteen hour stretches, with only a couple of overnight motel stops. When my brother and I crossed back to Ohio on that same trip, he and I took turns driving straight through with only fuel and meal stops. I recall we stopped for coffee somewhere in Canada in the middle of the night and I fell asleep at the table.

My comfort levels have changed, and so has technology in cars. Other than my car being cramped, the ride is more comfortable and the book on CD has kept me focused. I made a couple of water stops along the way and Henry was grateful. Pablo pouted and refused to drink on my presence. At a Phillips 66 during a fuel stop I ate a hot dog I bought. It's definitely hard to eat healthy fare on the road when you can’t sit down for a meal.

The Midwest is largely flat, but Iowa has a couple of distinguishing characteristics. Every few miles, I noticed windmills, looming like large white mechanical birds. The second oddity is the red colored freeway lanes heading west. The eastbound lanes have the normal gray hue, but for about thirty miles the west bound lanes are a terracotta red.

Other than in construction zones and within cities, most of the way the speed limit was 70 mph. When I crossed into Nebraska, the speed limit increased to 75, and even as I drove 77-79, cars flew past me. At one point a sheriff’s car tailgated me until I sped up to 83 to let him pass. His lights weren't flashing, so I wondered why he was in such a hurry. I was also relieved he didn't ticket me.

Overall I made good time until I hit Lincoln T rush journey, going the wrong way on I-180. I finally stopped at a muffler place, parked, and called the hotel. I was clear on the west side of town and I needed to be around fifty blocks east of there. This put me right in the downtown, and if it weren't for the cats, who were both crying by now, I would have stopped and checked out one of the cafes I spotted along the way. I found the hotel, but I have idea how I will find 80 West again in the morning.

It was much easier unloading the cats and my luggage. I may not be so lucky tomorrow, though. I turned on the 6 o clock news when I dropped cats and bags in the room and the prediction is more rain.

I tried to find Panera for dinner, but the desk clerk's directions were vague, so I ended up at a mall, eating lousy spaghetti and meatballs. I should have stopped at the nearby Olive garden, but I'm on a new city and wanted to try something new.

I couldn't find the street going back to my hotel until after I passed it, but I spotted a Barnes and Noble. I browsed for a bit, but did not want to add ONE more thing to my pigsty of a car, so I left empty handed. I headed back to the hotel, but that section of the road was one way. So how the hell was I supposed to find the place? Many of the streets in Lincoln have Names like O or R Street that intersect with numbered streets. I drove endlessly in circles until I found the hotel by accident. As Elizabeth says, lost is the new black, so I am tres stylish today.

Now enjoying my nightly glass of red and some pistachios and almonds I found in my purse.

Tomorrow, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Traveling With Felines Is Not the Cat’s Meow.


Day one of On the Road (with cats.) I had hoped to be on the road at nine, but of course I didn't set out until nearly noon. I overestimated how much I could pack in a in a Honda Civic, especially with two cats. Their crates take up more than half the back seat, and everything I packed would not fit, so I had to make last minute decisions on what to leave a lot of cap behind. I wanted to be able to see out of the back. The cats were the last things I packed in the car. Neither was happy. My car looked like an episode of hoarders.

As soon as I backed out of the driveway, I noticed my phone needed to be charged, but my car charger was stuck under about 600 pounds of luggage. At least the weather cooperated. In Ohio, anyway. More on that later.

The boys were both chatty as we headed out of town. Just west of Gratiot, I noticed Pablo had wangled himself out of his carrier. He stopped meowing, but he kept moving, and just outside of Dayton he started crawling around near the steering wheel, so I pulled off and stopped at a Wendy's. I reinserted poor Pablo back in his crate and turned it so its front window faced the door. There are two side flaps without zippers so he had plenty of air and he could still glare at me.

It had been years since I'd eaten a fast food burger. The bun tasted yeasty like beer. I wished I’d had a beer right them. But I ordered Diet Coke (Cindy S will understand why I submitted to the chemicals. It was a Diet Coke moment.

Pablo stayed put, but he and Henry cried all the way to the Indiana border. As I passed under the Thanks for Visiting Ohio sign near Richmond, Indiana I got a little weepy myself. Even though I grew up moving across states and countries, I have spent most of my life in Ohio.

Even though my car was loaded to the gills, I didn't need to stop for gas until I reached Danville, Illinois. The cats had quieted down, but they both gave me looks of derision.

State by state the weather varied. Ohio was sunny and cool, Indiana cloudy, and Illinois varied from windy, light rain, occasional clearing, drenching rain, and just as I pulled up to my hotel in Peoria, there was a giant bolt of lightning and the sky opened up. If I had gone to the right hotel in the first place and not wasted twenty minutes I could have avoided the rain.

I also wasted about a half hour going the wrong way on 465 outside Indianapolis. Also, construction slowed me down, so the six and a half hour plan turned into more than eight hours of travel.

There were some high notes. For dinner, I ate a Mediterranean omelet at Perkins restaurant.I'm listening to a good book on CD: The Thirteenth Tale. The first book I tried listening to, a Michael Connelly, was boring, so I gave the CDs to the nice desk clerk and asked her to pass it on.

My car is way too loaded down, and I think of the scene in Wild where Cheryl Stayed loaded so much in her backpack she fell backward. If it stops raining, I might repack my car so the boys and I aren't suffocating. Tonight I threw way the socks, blouse and underwear I was wearing.

I have four more days like this ahead of me. I'm so glad I brought wine, and at least it's not snowing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Life in Boxes.

The past few weeks I’ve been pitching, sorting, donating, selling and packing my accumulation of possessions. The cross country move to Seattle commences this Sunday.

According to all those organizing freaks you see on TV, when assessing an object, you need to ask, “Do you love it? Do you use it?” If the answer is no, it goes. I’d like to say I could say that about ALL my books, but alas, I had to pare those down. I kept what I felt sentimental about (A Monet coffee table book my father gave me for Christmas a few years before he died, and my Jansen’s History of Art from my art school days,) books I couldn't replace in a million years (Living In Dacca, and some out of print books I scavenged from library weeding,) and of course many, many poetry books. Still, as much as it broke my heart, I pared down my many volumes of Pablo Neruda and Billy Collins to an essential few. I am hoping to replace some books once I get to Seattle where they still have brick and mortar bookstores. Contemporary fiction can also be replenished, though I did keep Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murkami.

Most of my DVDs and CDs joined books I sold to Half Price Books, and 90% of my journals saw the shredder. Rereading my entries from the 80’s and 90’s and early 00’s made me realize 1.) I’m not that interesting, and 2.) I sure whine a lot. I kept the diary I wrote in 6th grade before we moved overseas where I listed what we ate for dinner. I also kept my 8th grade diary where I had a crush on a different boy every week.

I donated my long underwear and winter pajamas to Goodwill. I will need flannel PJs this winter but I will buy new ones, and since the weather doesn't dip below zero there I can probably survive without long johns.

The couple who bought my house is newly married, and they said anything I wanted to leave they would find a use for. I’ve sold much of my furniture to friends, so in a way my stuff is now part of my extended family. The only furniture I am taking are two director’s chairs and a small folding brass table (my living room suite) and an inflatable bed (my bedroom suite.) I don't how large of a place I will have, so it’s easier to start with a clean slate.

When I set out this Sunday, I will be like a college kid leaving home for the first time, except this teenager is sixty years old, and bringing two cats. (The rest of what I am keeping will be shipped once I have an address.) Technically, I am not only unemployed (retired) I am also homeless. But luckily I’ve budgeted for living in an Extended Stay hotel until I either buy a condo or rent one. I do have family out in the Pacific Northwest I could stay with, but I having two cats will render me the houseguest from hell.

At lunch the other day a friend asked if I’m scared about the driving. “That’s a long ass way,” he said. “I’d be scared to death.” I’ve made several cross country drives before. Granted I was younger, and only once was alone. What concerns me more than the drive this time around is traveling with animals. Pablo is pretty chill and will likely sleep his way to Seattle, but Henry is the world’s most annoying cat on a good day. He will likely narrate the entire journey in whatever language he speaks.

Summer is hot, so whenever I stop to gas up the car, buy lunch, or pee, I need to keep my furry friends cool. Two years ago when I lost power for nine days during a heat wave, I had bought two battery operated fans, so when I am out of the car I will run the fans on the cats as I buy my lunch to go. I have a gallon of water to keep in the car, and each night I can replenish at hotels.

And how bad will my car smell if one of them uses the litter box on the road?

Those are small concerns. Giving up possessions and driving a long way will feel effortless compared to leaving behind the many wonderful people I’ve known and loved in my forty plus years in Ohio.

Facebook will help me stay in touch with people, and many friends have said they will visit me in Seattle, yet I know it’s not the same as being there. I grew up moving. Every three or four years my family packed up and moved to a new city, state, or country, so a cross country move is not new, but leaving people behind is never easy.

I’ll miss how the baristas at Starbucks sometimes have my drink ready before I pay, and how the counter people and cooks at Giacomos know my regular sandwich and soup choices. I’ll miss knowing the ebb and flow of this small city and where things are located without using a map.

Those of you closest to me know I will miss you the most.

A new adventure awaits, and over the next few weeks I plan to share installment of my journey through my blog.

Back to packing……

Happy Trails