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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.

My Gallifreyan isn't perfect, but this translates to "I Made It"

My Gallifreyan isn’t perfect, but this translates to “I Made It”

Thanks for all the love and support!

Good Morning

Sometimes it’s hard to say “good morning” to someone.

Sometimes it’s just simply not a good morning. And saying anything of that nature betrays the reality of what that morning actually is.

Four years ago, it wasn’t a good morning at all. I was woken up by my mother tapping at my bedroom door. And before I could yawn a “good morning” to her, she said “I think your grandma passed away last night while we were asleep.”

Good morning, indeed not.

Upon waking the whole family, gathered for Christmas and still shaking off the slumber, we discovered she was in fact deceased and set about making the necessary arrangements. My grandfather, stoic as he is, shook as he cried in a huddle with my mother and I.

Sometime shortly afterward, waiting for the coroner or something, I went to the fridge and immediately started pulling any cheese or vegetable that might go well in scrambled eggs. Even then, I kind of smirked at the self-realization that I was cooking because I was trying to cope. Something had to be ok this morning because absolutely nothing was ok. Something had to be normal, so I created the normal. I made my family breakfast.

Now, the sun is rising and my car is packed. My grandpa is checking my tire pressure. My mom is tossing a ball to our dog. I’m getting ready to leave and when I saw my parents this morning I said, “good morning.” But there’s something in everyone’s voice that’s kind of lying about that.

It’s a sad morning. It’s a nervous morning. It’s an exciting morning. My parents are going to miss me. My friends are going to miss me. I’m going to miss all of them. I’m still threatening to smuggle the family dog somewhere amongst my entire life that is packed into my car.

But I am also determined not to let the sadness and the homesickness stop me from leaving. I have a dream to chase and a life to live. Life is for the living. So away I go.

When my best friend joined the Peace Corps in May and was sworn in at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, I called her on the phone to find out how her pre-service training was going. She was so happy to hear my voice and I was happy to hear hers. Only a portion of the conversation was spent on Mongolian life and Peace Corps training. The majority of what we discussed were the kind of things we always talked about; relationships, feminist-twentysomething concerns, people we knew from high school, how good a bowl of macaroni and cheese was. She told me she was grateful for my call because it felt like everything was normal again. This was our “new normal.”

So begins my four-and-a-half day journey to a foreign land called California. Instead of waking up to the morning routine with my parents I will be making lots of Skype calls. I will be handwriting letters as well as texts to derby teammates in a rink I used to call home. I will be stopping to take pictures and meet people and document it all on my blog, calling home every night to check in, letting my family know I am safe. I will be sharing my new life with the world. This is my new normal.

The Route

I will be leaving within the hour from a small town called Pine Island, NY. Never heard of anyone famous from Pine Island? That’s ok, you will. I will be driving roughly 12 hours each day (stops included) from about 8am to 8pm.

My journey takes me through Pennsylvania, home to a number of wonderful people on skates but in particular, the Penn Jersey Roller Derby league, most all of whom I consider to be extended relatives in my ever-growing derby family. They are a part of derby history. I won’t be in Philly tonight, but I recommend my readers to check them out.

Next up I enter Ohio, following I-80 through Youngstown and Toledo. If you pass some weird chick with a bunch of stuff in her car on I-80 today, it’s probably me.

I sleep for the night in South Bend, IN.

Day 2 begins again, leaving Indiana on I-80 through Illinois. I hit 17 hours when I reach Iowa City. I-80, which apparently goes on forever, takes me through Omaha, NE, which is undoubtedly the funniest caller ID my phone has ever tried to mispronounce. I will close the day somewhere near Grand Island, NE.

Day 3 I set sail for an old friend in Glendale, CO. I-76 should get me there roughly around 2pm on the 29th and I will spend the rest of that day with one of the coolest girls who went to my high school, and bravely made her own move from our little small town several years ago.

Day 4 I will attempt to avoid the Rockies. Beautiful as they are, I’m not prepared to make this December journey any harder than it has to be. Instead I’m taking I-25 and making my way south to visit a friend of a friend who makes a wicked green chili in Albuquerque, NM. After refueling, I’ll venture westward another 5 hours or so and sleep for the night in Flagstaff, AZ.

Day 5 brings me to California when I pick up I-15. I’ll be passing through the San Bernadino and Los Angeles area before I finally reach my new home in Pasadena. I will most likely find a place to ring in the new year, three hours later than my parents, and sleep like a baby.

So that’s my approximate route. Aside from a couple of planned stops, this whole thing is really subject to change. Everyone knows Siri is a drunk who doesn’t know what she’s talking about and needs to go home. I’m also going to be attentive to the weather and road conditions so I may alter the course if need be. Feel free to comment if you think there’s some place cool I’ll be passing by on my way out there.

Time to get going. Good Morning everyone!

Blank Space

While I have recently become quite fond of Taylor Swift’s ode to relationships and self-awareness (blame my new roomie) this post has nothing to do with the song about long lists of Starbuck’s lovers.

Half of my last post, if I’m being completely honest, was typed up almost a week and a half ago. I just never made it past saving the draft. I was glad I waited on it when I got cast in the music video last week. It only added to the experience. But, almost as soon as I posted about my sudden confidence boost I became increasingly aware of a different emotional state setting in. For lack of a better word, I’m calling it blank space.

I’m sure it’s completely normal. I’ve read about it happening in a number of situations, many like my own where a big change is about to happen. Relationships are changing. Distance and removal from everything familiar. Challenges ahead. The unknown. Aliens?

I’ve been trying to spend time with as many friends and family as possible before the move. And I’ve gotten a lot of love and support from all around me, which is incredibly awesome. But I can’t help feeling this blankness when it comes to saying goodbyes, moments that would normally be highly emotional. I’m not crying, I’m not panicking, I’m not being completely reckless or irresponsible or lashing out. I just…am.

I think this temporary shut down of waterworks and extreme emotions is a coping mechanism. If I over-think it, I might get scared or overwhelmed. That’s because this is overwhelming. I have to try really hard not to stress out. Worrying solves exactly 0% of anything. It’s like any moment I could tip over into a flood of feels. I probably will when it comes time to leave. but damn it’s weird right now. It’s just surreal. The end of one thing is imminent, so is the beginning of another.

This is probably just the calm before the storm.

Five more days.

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