Friday, July 21, 2017

Long, Strange Trip

Since I moved into my own place last June, here in Vallejo, California, I haven't entered anything in this blog . But I have been writing.  And finally, I have the fortitude and distance to read what i wrote when i first began this adventure. 

In the beginning, I envisioned myself writing and posting blog entries every day, and adding photos of interesting places. Since I didn't, I thought I could catch up entering once I moved to my own place. But I didn't because I was so busy building a new life out here, and it often felt that I was just surviving. 

I had no idea how mentally strenuous driving around the US would be. Usually, my brain was on overload at the end of a day of driving that all i wanted to do was have dinner and sleep. So my posts were sporadic, but I did keep writing mostly every day, with pen in my compositions books. 

For fifteen years, I lived in an idyllic town in Florida, on the Atlantic Coast.  People pay lots of money to travel to and live in this haven.  My parents had a place here since the early 70s, and it was a great place to vacation.  For me, living there was a different story. 

I moved there when my mom was a month away from dying from pancreatic cancer.  Then I watched my dad’s slow descent into dementia, and his death, followed a few years later by the beloved poodle my mom begged for before she died. She got it for my dad, and this black fluff ball kept my dad going for eleven more years.After taking care of my parents and my dog, and after losing them, I had to leave this tropical paradise, which was full of sad memories, to find out if there was life after grief. 

It's been said that man plans, and the gods laugh. When I was planning what ended up being a 7,800 mile road trip around the USA, I knew it was going to change my life. I wanted it to change my life.  I was looking for a place where I would thrive. I had no idea what a big change it would turn out to be.

In my imagination, before I departed, I was going to be like Cheryl Strayed, who documented her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, except I am thirty years older than she was when she did her hike. And I would be driving a car, staying in hotels along the way when I wasn’t car camping. On this journey, I had a vision heavily influenced by Pinterest. I was going to put a mattress in the back of my Honda CR-V, and string tiny white lights inside. I dreamed of camping by lakes and glaciers, as I photographed wild life. 

It turned out that, no matter how efficiently organized the journey is, there were so many unknowns along the way. I experienced things, good and bad, that had never occurred to me.  In doing so, I lost much of the fear and anxiety that had been a hallmark of my life.

Even though it sounds like it was cushier than hiking a thousand miles, there were many obstacles along the way. It was a much more grueling experience than I ever imagined. That is because, until this adventure, I led a very sheltered life.  

Before this trip, I had never been west of Youngstown, Ohio, except for fly-in and -out business trips to Chicago, Colorado, Texas, and California. Although I am independent and perfectly at home being alone, after a few days on the road with no human contact, except for restaurant servers and baristas, I often wondered about my sanity.

And then there were my physical and mental issues. I had surgery for kidney cancer the year after my mom died and of course, lots of depression due to so many circumstances. among other things, followed by a stroke in 2013, almost a year to the day of my dad’s death. 

Despite these issues, two years after my stroke, and a month after I had to put my sweet dog down, I knew I had to get away. If I stayed in Vero Beach, I would go under from grief, sinking into my bed where paramedics would find my decaying body. 

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