I Made It
You’ll have to forgive me for the delay in this post, which I imagine isn’t hard considering how long a week I’ve had, and the fact that I’ve been obviously preoccupied with moving myself into my new place. I almost forgot amid the flurry of texts and calls to friends and family that I should update my blog to let the rest of you who are following my journey know that I have in fact, made it safely to my destination.
The trip itself was really only about three and a half days time, with a one day layover in Colorado with a friend added in. Four and a half days of wide open road, some limited visibility, strange hotels and a million new experiences bursting into being all at once.
The first day was fairly easy. I stopped by my old job before hitting the highway to grab some breakfast and say farewell to my former coworkers. The mountains and forests of Pennsylvania gently eased me out of the land of everything familiar and hours later into Ohio, the first of many states to which I’d never been. It was in Ohio that I realized the landscape of this country was getting rather flat, but I didn’t care. I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about my new freedom and the sightseeing I was about to do. My destination for the evening was in Indiana, but since I’d left almost an hour and a half later than I’d planned to that morning, I was doubtful as to where I would actually end up. Much of my route for the first two days involved I-80, which seemed to go on forever. I didn’t pay a toll however until I got to Ohio and into Indiana. This is when I realized I was going to be on a toll-portion of I-80 for God only knows how long and that pulling off to find a hotel might be slightly more of an inconvenience than I accounted for. I was approaching my checkpoint, but still had several exits to pass before my toll was up according to the ticket I’d been given. I vowed to push on until I came to a complete break in toll roads, which made more sense to me than getting off, paying a toll, then getting back on in the morning. I was happily surprised when I found myself just over the border of Illinois at the break and several hours ahead of my itinerary for my perseverance.
Day two was just about as easy as the first, but this time my goal had changed. I’d been planning to visit Katie, an old friend in the suburbs of Denver, CO on the 29th, but was told that a snow storm on the way might complicate my travels that day. Suddenly, I was determined to reach her that night to avoid the following day’s inclement weather and spend more time with her. Already ahead of schedule I reached Katie’s home around 9pm, not before passing through Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, each of which was interesting in its own right. Illinois was flatter than Ohio, but once outside the more populated parts it turned to sprawling fields and bluer skies. Iowa was trying to one-up the fields of Illinois, complete with those giant white windmills I’d only before seen in commercials on television for wind power. Everything was uniquely beautiful, and then I hit Nebraska. Now, I mean this not to be entirely offensive but I thought New Jersey drivers were the worst until I got to NE. Apparently, the Cornhusker State has been perfecting the classic Garden State Sweep across multiple lanes of traffic. I was amazed and a little unnerved as I traversed the freeway and observed so many twitchy, careless moves. It also seemed that the further into the southwest I traveled, fewer people yielded the left lane to quicker cars. I turned my radio on to discover as I passed through miles of semi-deserted territory that this was quickly becoming a land of country music stations. Vacillating for hours between Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean, I finally realized I was in Colorado when I heard an advert for a marijuana dispensary.
The day spent with Katie was the first real sightseeing I did along the trip. She and her boyfriend Matt took me to the Denver Botanic Gardens where we observed the Blossoms of Light display; thousands of colorful lights were all over the snowscape property. It was dreadfully cold out, but completely worth it to see what looked simply like magic. Lights shone on the snowy paths between trees and across ponds. Other bulbs glowed beneath the cover of snow on the tops of bushes. We finished the tour with a hot chocolate and headed a little further into town for some famed VooDoo Donuts. She graciously fed me a lovely dinner at home, played Mexican Train after our meal and before I knew it, it was time for bed.
The snow had stopped falling by day four when I set out on the road to leave Colorado, but the weather was still pretty treacherous. When I got in my car I discovered several cans of seltzer had busted apart and frozen carbonated water clusters hung on my belongings in the backseat. This, I thought, was the beginning of a very long day and it was. I couldn’t do more than 30mph on the highway out of Denver without fishtailing. The weight of my heavily laden car was already dangerous, but now I had to contend with semi-plowed roads covered in sandy slush. Unlike New York, Colorado refuses to use salt because of the damage it does to cars, which was my first lesson in Colorado snow-driving. I’d also run out of wiper fluid, which presented another danger as the kickback from other vehicles caused my windshield to cloud up and I was forced to stop frequently and clean off the muck in the frigid cold. The worst part of the drive was this several-hours long stretch from the outskirts of Denver into the mountains. Instead of fog, a thick veil of gray-white cloud hung like a wall in my view. The road was clearly visible, but the mountains I was headed for were shrouded and the snowy desert around them provided no breaks in the monotony. I’d read blogs and talked to friends who’d pulled off long drives like mine before and they all warned me this would happen. It truly is maddening to drive through such a vast expanse of nothingness. I was anxious that my car wouldn’t hold up or that I’d have an accident. I was freezing and crabby, not having eaten much despite having a ton of snacks in my car. I just didn’t want to take my hands off the wheel, not to mention I’d developed some awful toothache. Just when I thought I’d had enough, I crossed over into New Mexico and it was a completely different world. The clouds that now hung on the mountains behind me were fluffy and thick atop one of the most beautiful backdrops I’ve ever seen. The 3 o’clock sun painted them so boldly against the blue sky and the sands of the surrounding, dusty terrain. In Albuquerque I stopped at the Standard Diner, and gratefully devoured a bowl of macaroni and cheese with the green chile everyone had been talking about. I washed it down with some craft Mexican cola, then took off for my new destination of Phoenix.
Originally, my route had set me up to drive down into Flagstaff, Arizona to sleep for the night. But, as Katie pointed out before I left, the area of Flagstaff was also mountainous and the weather forecast predicted snow for Flagstaff at the same time I would be trying to pass through. I diverted myself a little further then to Phoenix where the weather was milder and I would be able to spend the night with no problem, or so I thought. I was tired when I reached Phoenix since my body was still really running on Eastern Standard Time and I’d been driving longer than my planned 12 hours. I imagine that the areas of New Mexico and Arizona that I passed through on the way must have been gorgeous, but the dark of night covered them from me. I checked into a Motel 6 off the freeway which, I might add was my worst mistake of the trip. I don’t know whether or not any of you believe in ghosts but I do. And upon entering my room I got a really bad feeling. I told myself not to worry, that I was just tired and creeped out because I needed sleep. The bathroom was like a scary high school locker room, with no actual shower but a showerhead over a patch of sunken, dirty tiles and a drain. Afraid to sleep with the lights off, I checked the sheets before hopping into bed. They weren’t great, some holes here and there, but otherwise seemed safe. I slept fitfully, and upon waking discovered my biggest horror. The corner of the sheets had pulled up and away from the mattress under my pillow and I pulled them down to discover the worst bloodstains EVER. There must’ve been some half-hearted attempts to wash them out, but there was no mistaking the pools of filth all over. They spilled, poured down the side of the mattress where I’d lain and I noticed another pool of dark stains on the carpet beneath the drippy splotch. I grabbed my stuff as quickly as I could and got the hell out of there. Never again. I still shudder to think about it.
Thankfully, things improved quickly on day four and a half as I hopped in my car and set sail for my final destination, Pasadena! I saw real live cactus plants growing tall along the highway into California. The cloudy skies gave way to blue once again and I stopped for gas in Coachella. The traffic heading into the Pasadena area from the highway was bearable, although I discovered Californians also have a penchant for changing lanes pretty quickly. I reached my new home around noon and marveled as I spent the next few hours unpacking, how I ever fit my entire life’s worth of stuff into this Honda, and how I got it all here in one piece. I must’ve been driving a clown car. It’s funny how the neighborhood reminded me of one very similar to a portion of my hometown called Wickham Village. Just blocks away from Old Town were close-knit clusters of unique and beautiful homes, all tucked between masses of palm trees. My neighbors seemed friendly and my apartment is perfect. I took a much needed shower, threw on a dress and ventured out to a nearby bar to grab a bite and call my friends in New York just in time for their ball-drop at midnight. Happy New Year indeed.
The next couple of days I’m able to unpack and organize myself as I please. My roommate is away with friends until tomorrow night, so I’m still looking forward to meeting him. Yesterday I went shopping and tried to start getting my bearings. I walked down the sidewalk by some shops and I couldn’t hide my smile; everything is still so surreal. I just felt really alive and really, truly happy. Of course I’m still full of questions and working up the nerve to make this whole thing work, but the exhilaration overcomes the fear of being on my own. I’m in love with my life and I’m hoping it only gets better.
Thanks for all the love and support!
Posted on January 2, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged arizona, botanic garden, california, colorado, denver, destination, driving, gallifreyan, ghosts, haunted hotel, illinois, indiana, lights, moving, nebraska, new mexico, New Year, ohio, pennsylvania, road trip, sightseeing, snow, travel, weird. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.