Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Roots and Wings

"Roots hold me close; wings set me free;" - Spirit of Life, song #123

For far too long, I felt entrenched where I was.  And then I took this trip.  Far from feeling entrenched, now I feel completely uprooted and out in the atmosphere somewhere, really in need of grounding.  Whenever that happens, I call my aunt, Lulu, who I have written about.  Or I call or talk to, in person, other people who are rooted in reality, but not total killjoys.  The last thing I need right now are people who outline all the things that could happen to me on this adventure, as though I had not thought them all through myself, umpteen times as I have driven west.

Sometimes, especially when I come over a hill like the one by my cousin's house, my stomach feels like it is in my throat, and a i get a huge surge of joy, as a new vista unfolds in front of me.  I feel like i could take flight, and that is when i realize how scary a feeling it is. The exhilaration and the fear are all wrapped up into one bundle, and my job is to constantly talk myself out of the fear, so that i can feel the exhilaration.

But sometimes it almost feels like too much to bear.  My heart feels like it is going to explode when I see another incredible mountain range, and I have been crying big, gloppy tears of joy for a lot of this ride.  I am trying to build up my happiness and joy tolerance each day, and, more often than not, I am able handle a bit more each day, like the bright sun in the eyes of someone who has been in the dark for too long. emerging has to be gradual, or else i'll get the bends.

More often than not, I actually listen to the kind voices that fill my head and car lately.  But every now and then, the peace and serenity bother me and i need to kill my own joy. So i conjure up the same self-sabotaging thought patterns that have held me in place for so long, and pick off all the emotional scabs.

The more practice i get, listening to the kind voices, the easier it gets to do so. Those are the voices that are going to get me safely through the switchbacks.

Monday, October 26, 2015


This is The French Laundry (     , a place I have heard and read about ever since it began.  Foodies I know speak of it, with a reverence usually reserved for saints.  My parents loved this place.  As soon as I saw the turn off for Yountville, off of the Silverado Trail in glorious wine country, I veered right and made the pilgrimage to the mecca of gastronomic delight.  

I know it is incredibly hedonistic, but i have always aspired to having a meal at The French Laundry, even it is just to see what all the fuss is about.  It is exhorbitantly and expensively out of my reach at the moment, but some day soon, I will realize this goal.

I was a little surprised at the scale of the town, even though I had read all the details in several different publications.  It just all looked so normal.  There were no glowing apparitions of Thomas Keller appearing off of the balcony, which disappointed me a little.  

Since it was past lunch time, instead of drooling and making a nuisance of myself in front of the restaurant, I made my way down to the Yountville Deli, a few blocks down.  The sun was shining as tourists lined up at Bouchon Bakery, waiting for their chance to pore over the macaron choices in the case.  

The Yountville Deli ( is attached to the Oakville Grocery.  I had a very nice turkey and cheese sandwich, with a nice pesto sauce, but I am afraid my taste buds were expecting something a bit more exciting.  I had meant to order roast beef, instead of roast turkey, but I was in a devotee's fog from being so close to my culinary dream.

The artwork below sits on a corner in Yountville, and is titled "Abundance," which, along with "Grace" seems to be a recurring theme on this trip.  

I laugh every time it happens, but I keep finding pennies.  And then this in a high school parking lot in Napa, where I pulled in.  

Loved this display of public art in Yountville.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Wanderlust: a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Around the World in Eighty Days - Trailer

My dad took me to see this movie when i was seven years old, and it made a lasting impression on me.  My parents already were filled with wanderlust and traveled as much as they could to Europe, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.  We went to see this movie at the Fort Hill Theater in Yonkers, New York, on a school night, because my mom was traveling somewhere with her sisters, who were all rabid travelers.

The movie made enough of an impression on me that nearly a half a century later, I struck out on my own adventure, seeing the USA in a year.  It's been almost four months since i started out, and I am so glad i took the first step.  I love waking up in the morning in a new place, wondering what to see and do first.  I love the fact that if i don't like a place, i can keep moving.

I've been exploring the Napa Valley over the past week, and my dad is definitely in the seat beside me, pointing things out and I can hear his voice sometimes.

"Chlo, look to the left.  AMF," he said, into my ear.

"AMF, dad?"

"Another fucking mountain," replied my funny dad.

In addition to my parents, I have brought along a cast of characters from my past, including critical bosses, controlling boyfriends, and other negative nellies.  The Badlands of South Dakota was where I let most of them out, but a few have managed to let themselves back into the car.  These are the ones I have to watch, since they are voices that lead me down the bad roads, both in reality and in my mind.  It is essential that I follow the light, and stay alert for those voices in the car telling me to veer off the road into negativity.

San Francisco
Photo taken at Indian Rock Park
Berkeley,  California

Photo title: Fata Morgana

The good news is that I have also brought along many positive voices of  family and friends in Vero and all along the way, who have been so incredibly loving and supportive of me and taking this trip.  They get to stay in the car.  And they talk louder.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Even Keeled Relations

This is my Aunt Lulu, with her grandson, Paul Marinoni​.

Lulu is the person I call when I'm overwhelmed. She is calm and practical. She checks in with me regularly, and remembers me on holidays.

The other morning I called, from Shoshoni, WY, to check in with her. She asked me if I was in jail. I laughed, and told her I wasn't.

The next day, I called her from just over the Idaho border, because I had just driven through some treacherous territory, so I stopped at a corner store outside of Teton national Park.

Feeling funny from the altitude, and freaked out so far from familiarity, I called Lulu, and, after ascertaining again that I wasn't in jail, she told me about one of the trips out west she took, with my uncle Ed and their five young children.

My cousin, Edward Blute​, was trying to get his dad's attention, when Lulu noticed that Ed, who was driving the RV down a treacherous pass, was silently breaking out in a cold sweat. Everyone stayed silent as he maneuvered the big rig down an almost straight down incline. It helped me so much to hear that I wasn't the only one who didn't know they had a fear of heights until I was going down a steep mountain grade.

That's the way Lulu is, full of perspective. She has helped me put blinders on when necessary, like the other day, when I needed to get through the mountains.  She has also helped me to broaden my vision in really dark times, like those last months of my dad's illness, to see that it wouldn't be dark forever.

She has encouraged me to take this trip since I came up with this crazy idea. And she always lets me know that there's a place for me when I'm done traveling.

When Lulu finds pennies, she knows it's her mother, sending messages of abundance. A day has not gone by on this journey where I haven't found a penny, and I always think of Lulu and my grandmother.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Here I am, in California, and everything is so different.  The air, the view, the people, me.  Looking in the bathroom mirror this morning, I even looked different to myself.  

The biggest change is that I am excited about a new day.  It gives me goose bumps to write that, because a year ago, I was really going under.  Every morning was a disappointment.  I cried when I was awake.  I didn't care if I died.  

But here I am, reveling in my life, making connections, looking forward to a new day when i wake up, and smiling as I fall asleep.  I get such a thrill when i look at my atlas, seeing where I have traveled.  All those happy hormones, like oxytocin and dopamine, are starting to bubble to the surface again.  

Yesterday, Chris took me to Fairfield to see his parents, Vince and Jean. It was so much fun to see the amazing whippets and to see my Aunt Jean in her element with them.  

Today I tasted my first in-n-out burger, something i had on my California bucket list.  It was good, but Five Guys burgers and fries are better.  However, they probably aren't as freshly prepared. 

Monday, October 19, 2015


Monday, October 19

What a relief it was waking up this morning here at Chris and Nancy's.  For the past two nights, I've slept well, my teeth are brushed, my body and clothes are clean, and I've spent time with humans and animals, so i am feeling my center again.  

I went exploring this morning, looking for socks, and I ended up in Napa and Sonoma, not too far from here. I didn't stop, but i did ogle the hills and all of my favorite vineyards.  

what i really needed was breakfast, so i found my way into downtown Vallejo, and to the Good Day Cafe, where i ate a really scrumptious mushroom and hot sausage omelette, and got inspired by the rack of cards.  

I sat for awhile and made a list of all the things that I no longer take for granted (numbered, but in no particular order)

1. People who are genuinely concerned about my well being; 2. clean clothes, towels, and sheets; 3. clean floors; 4. wireless internet; 5. good water pressure; 6. cooking for people; 7. Vegging on the couch, watching football with people; 8. Dog parks; 9. Peaceful backyards; 10. Good coffee; 11. Half 'n Half; 12. steamed milk; 13. good brakes; 14. cheap gas; 15. cell service; 16. healthy food; 17. water; 18. even-keeled families; 19. my phone; 20. my car; 21. my health; 22. my (and others') sense of humor, adventure, fun, compassion.

This is Lily, Chelsea's cat, who is staying with Chris and Nancy, while Chelsea sails the Hawaiian seas.

Lucy waiting for me to come to bed

Fears I've Conquered on this Trip:

1. Heights
2. Strange people
3. Strange places
4. Being alone
5. Being homeless 
6. Appearing crazy (work in progress) 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

California, Here I Am

Sunday, October 18

I cannot believe i am here. i drove into California late yesterday afternoon, and called my friend, Nancy Banks, one of the few people i know who has driven around the country like i am doing, and gets the vastness and what it is like to drive through it.  Although i have a really extensive vocabulary, i am having a really hard time describing the feeling of finally being in places i have heard about, read about, and seen in pictures.  

My car has been full of different people on this trip.  Yesterday, I felt my dad sitting next to me as I drove into California.  He loved California, and one of the things he really wanted to do with me before he died was to do a road trip like this one.  We never got to it, because one of us was always sick.  So i am doing it now.

Chris, my cousin, gave me the route through the northwest, and i am so glad he did.  The beauty has been mind and heart expanding. I am so not the person i was when i left Vero three months ago.  I am more clear and less depressed.  I have had to face fears I did not know I even had. Many truths have surfaced, sometimes hitting me so hard i have had to pull the car over.

My co-pilot is often a recalcitrant fourteen year old princess, who is a major hypochondriac.  She is often snappy with me, especially when she needs food, water, a bathroom, and a bed.  We are working on her attitude.  

Chris walking Lucy and Lucky    Dog park - Vallejo, California 

Dog park

I got to Chris and Nancy's around 8. We chatted, and they introduced me to Lucky and Lucy, their dogs, and Lily and Oscar, their cats.  We all finally turned in around 11, and i slept the whole night.  They have assured me that I can stay as long as i need to, which is good, because i really need to regroup - get some writing jobs, clean out my car, take care of my bod, and be vertical for a while.  

Being a house guest has really opened my mind about how much space i really need. It has been really good for me to recalibrate my social skills.  My hosts have been so generous, opening their homes and including me in their day-to-day lives.  After living alone, or with my dad, which was no place to maintain my social skills, i felt like i really had lost my ability to interact with adults.  Little by little, they seem to be coming back.  
It is good to be around people.  I have found this out by being as far out on lonely ledges as one can be.  I am not the misanthrope I thought I was.  

The backyard is the perfect spot to recover from the road.  It is green and quiet, and the wood fence makes me feel safe and contained.  Lucy is asleep beside my, giving me an added sense of stability.  


This morning we went to the Mexican grocery store, so Chris could get tortillas, and then we went to the Safeway where Chris and Nancy met 25 years ago in aisle 5. I got dates, bacon, and Gouda, so that i could make the Odd Duck delectables that i had in Milwaukee. 

After putting a load of laundry in, i relaxed in the backyard, thinking about our family on the east coast, at the first annual Ed Blute Memorial Golf Tournament, where it was snowing.  Megan, Chris' daughter, and her boyfriend, Chris, came over, and we spent the afternoon watching the 49ers, eating barbacoa beef tacos and salad.  

California has always seemed like such an unattainable dream that it was not even on my radar, and now i am here.  What a gift I have been given.  This time, I promise I will not squander it.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I woke up and still had a huge pain in my neck.  It took me a while to get out of Roseburg, weighed down by the grief still fresh in the town.  This is the town where ANOTHER shooting took place a few weeks ago.  I can only imagine the post traumatic stress the people who live in this town are wrestling with. As usual, the rest of us have moved on.

Am I losing my nerve?  It feels like it sometimes, especially when i am in pain. Being alone so much leaves my mind free to contemplate all kinds of horrible health scenarios, and i talk myself into the fact that i am probably dying, that this trip is my swan song.

So i have to wrestle my own mind back to the here and now, and remind myself that there is a lot of life to live, and I have to figure out ways to sustain this amazing endeavor.  The secret is to stay on the rails, no matter what happens. It is not an option to lose my nerve, unless i want to end up back in Florida, watching tv and cursing the heat.

Stopped for lunch at a local place called Patti's Kitchen, in Goldville, Oregon. It was very inviting, with friendly servers. I had an incredibly delicious quesadilla and hung out at the counter, sitting on the comfortable stool, missing the Kountry Kitchen in Vero Beach.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Roseburg, Oregon

Jane had told me about Grant's Pass as an option for staying overnight on my way to San Francisco. Unfortunately, I had to pull over early yesterday, because i was getting messages from my body that it needed to be exercised, stretched out, rested, and fed some nourishing food.  So i got a room at the Super 8, through Priceline, and pulled in around 5:00, after i stopped at a grocery store for melon, bananas, seltzer water, and dark chocolate.  Home for the night.  But i did not sleep well again.  this morning i woke up with a neck spasm.

This place has a hot tub and pool, and I took a soak before settling in for the evening.

Lately, I feel like i am losing my nerve.  The idea of settling down somewhere for a while is really appealling, but i am not sure where.  The switchbacks threw me off completely.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until i remembered how car sick i get and how i don't like roller coasters.

I am also feeling really isolated, as i drive through here on my way to Chris and Nancy's house.  Maybe it is the sadness and grief pulling me down.

Whatever it is, I feel a little crazy, and not the good kind.  In the past few days, there have been times when i have been concerned about my sanity.  And the number of homeless people in the northwest has been very disconcerting.  At the moment, here is not a lot of difference between me and them.

I am in need of direction, along with more strength and stamina.  Made myself a cup of tea and settled into bed, amidst my own quilt and pillows, for some added TLC.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Vancouver, Washington

Got to Vancouver, Washington late this afternoon, and was welcomed warmly by my dear friend, Jane Vanvig, her husband, John, and their herder, Gertie.

It is so wonderful to see Jane after all these years.  Jane and John moved from Washington, DC, to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1999, and Jane came back to visit DC in 2001, right before I moved to Vero Beach, so it has been a while since we have seen each other in person, but it was like no time had passed.

We drank wine and caught up, laughing a lot, and then watched the debates. Jane made the most delicious chicken dumpling soup, and sweet Gertie kept an eye on me.  Finally, I went to bed in John's office, sleeping soundly until i suddenly woke up in seizing pain.  My left was cramping, and i had been dreaming that i was going over a steep waterfall.  I stumbled loudly to the kitchen, waking John, who fed me aspirin and water. an hour later, the pain was still there and i was afraid to go back to sleep.  Finally, I managed to.

The next morning, we went to the dog park, a huge space with a nice walking path and lots of friendly dogs and people. My calf was still like a rock, but i felt so good walking in a pack with Jane and John, as Gertie did her job, herding us along the path.

John had to get some work done, so Jane took me on a ride downtown and through the different neighborhoods.  We went to the library, which looks like a cool bookstore, and she took me up to the fifth floor roof top deck.  We drove through Fort Vancouver, and had lunch at a cute, new place called Bleu Door Bakery (, where i had the most delicious beef lentil soup, along with a delectable toasted ham and cheese sandwich smeared with tomato bacon jam.  The coffee was excellent and the decor adorable, with lots of mismatched chandeliers and empty picture frames painted fun, bright colors.

After lunch, we crossed the street to check out Main Street Marijuana, a dispensary located in what used to be a jewelry store, maybe. Walking in feels so conventional, until you remember that the display cases are filled with pot, and it is all legal.  The decor is really whimsical and trippy, especiallyl the large white global light fixtures.

When we got home, Jane set me up in the den with a heating pad and tiger balm.  I hung out on the couch all afternoon, and had a great time watching the news shows with Jane and John.

Last night, we met Lois, a good friend, and had dinner at the Vancouver Brickhouse (, and talked about politics, moving to new places, and travel.  We walked Lois back to her place, a cute apartment a block away from the library and the swimming pool, and stepped inside to meet Parker, her dachsund.

This morning, we drank delicious coffee on the patio, laughing and talking about crazy families, not ours, of course.

I am so blessed , and so grateful that i am alive, and able to do this trip.  It has made me realize how important it is to maintain connections and friendships.

The sun is rising over John and Jane's serene backyard, and i need to get showered and get my act together before they return from the dog park. 

It has been such a delight to spend time with like-minded, broad-minded people who pay attention to current events. Jane and John are both civic minded and regular contributors to the opinion page of the local newspaper.

You can tell that they're good people because Gertie, their black herding dog, loves and trusts them. 

I have Jane to thank for bringing so much into my life. She inspired me to go to massage school. On this visit, she introduced me to the idea of being way too up inside myself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Yesterday, after lunch, i decided to drive to Astoria, a beach town that looked intriguing on my map.  In order to get there, i drove through more hauntingly beautiful and very remote seascapes, especially the tidal pools.  It was raining and foggy, and by the time I got there, I was spooked and did not find what i was looking for, which was a friendly looking bar and place to sleep. So i kept driving until i reached Portland.  There's a reason you're not supposed to arrive in a strange city after dark, and last night, after really questioning my sanity, i really got it.

When i got to Portland, I finally found that welcoming bar, and it had a late night happy hour menu.  I ordered a honey margarita and smoked prime rib with mashed redskin potatoes.  Sitting there, i realized i had spent way too much time alone yesterday.  On the way out to the beach, i was feeling so out there that i called my good friend, Laura Kachaylo, in Florida.  I really miss her, and i was feeling so out on the edge, which is an exhilarating feeling, until it isn't.  Laura is calm and encouraging, and pointed out to me that i was about as far out there, away from Vero Beach as i could be.  But her sweet voice made it ok.

Sometimes, the enormity of what i am doing sinks in, and when it does, i have to breathe really deep and focus on what is right in front of me - the music, the road, and my knees.  thinking about the past or the future makes me hyperventilate.

As the sun rises over Portland, I am sitting in a cozy coffee place called the Bipartisan Cafe, just what i thought a portland coffee place would be like - reclaimed wood floors, mismatched tables and chairs, and really good latte in a huge, brown cup.

I have to keep reminding myself that i cannot see and do everything on this trip. This is a huge smorgasbord, and I can choose things and go back for others later, I hope.  I keep bargaining with God regarding my mortality.  Now that I see that what is out here in the world, I am not ready to leave it anytime soon.


I found a delightful place to do laundry and get a great cup of coffee.  It's called Spin, and it is located in a huge industrial space that has been scoured, scrubbed, and polished.  The atttendant is helpful, and the place is bright and cheerful. In addition to the cafe, where they serve all kinds of tasty things to eat, as well as coffee, latte, wine, and beer, there is an upstairs loft, where you can stretch out on a comfy couch, or play pinball, while waiting for your duds. People were working on computers and tablets at the folding tables and really good music was playing on the sound system. 

While i washed my down coat and some other things, i drank a lattle and ate a pear pumpkin hand pie that was so flaky and delicious i felt my inner ruth reichl sing.

What a life! I drove by an elementary school this morning and was transported back, but only for a minute, to what i would be doing this morning if i was still teaching. that is why i am staying right in the moment.  

Monday, October 12, 2015


I can hardly believe it. I made it to Seattle! The Emerald City! This trip has been just as magical and mystical as Dorothy's journey to Oz. It has been a psychedelic inner vision quest, spiritual pilgrimage, joy ride, and my heart has been cracked open to the wonder of this world. I worried that there was no room left in my brain to take in anything else.

Now, I wake up and think, "what adventure am i going to have today and how do i make it happen?"  This is a far better place than wondering if i am going to ever get the use of my right side back.

Yesterday, as i crossed into Washington state,  i could barely breathe again, as i saw more mountains, one of which was Mt. Rainier.  The sun was setting and the tops of the mountains were glowing pink against a blue sky full of foggy clouds.

I checked into a motel with an underground parking garage, and tried to get a decent night's sleep, except that i woke up at 4, and decided not to fight the insomnia.  After a shower, i went downstairs to see what was happening at the free breakfast.  it was so unappetizing and i remembered that i am a person who does not care to be around crowds in the morning. 

The morning was overcast, which is, I've heard, how it is most of the year.  After living in the Florida sun for so long, i welcome the chill and fog.  Seattle is gorgeous on this fall day, with lots of brilliant yellow, orange, and russet leaves.


I checked out the different neighborhoods in Seattle, and found a really good cup of coffee at a kiosk called Tuk-Town Espresso.  The owner made me the most delicious latte, with puffy steamed milk, a bit of white chocolate, and a pinch of pumpkin, but i could still enjoy the robust espresso. 

I stopped in Little Saigon for lunch at a place that felt like i was sitting in someone's kitchen.  the woman who owned it made me the most delicious crepe filled with seafood and vegetables.