Slow the Subaru tires, there’s an address a-comin’!

I can ballpark it — the miles driven in the last six weeks.

Around 4,000. Or 6,440 km for those in the metric world.

Some 4,000 miles in six weeks. That’s an average of 100 miles (161 km) a day. And 1/3 of the yearly average! In six weeks!

Four states — Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, then back to Arizona for more new adventures.

And now I come to rest. For a while.

It’s been a mixed bag of a road trip. As a trip among many, many as an adult across the continental United States, Japan, Asia and Europe, it’s about the worst.

Not that others haven’t been without their discomforts, trials, tribulations, challenges and woes. Most certainly being without money in the final days in Europe and riding the rails Destination: Anywhere as a ticket to sleep  — gotta love that Eurail pass! — had its discomforts.

But then again, I was like in my early 20s! Sleeping on hard or rugged surfaces at 23 is a helluva LOT different — read: easier — than at 57!

Discomfort’s hardly a foreign concept to me. As a girl with a lotta grit and will of steel when circumstances dictate, I’m not bad-mouthing a lifestyle of sleeping on the ground or in the back of a car. Mine’s a Subaru and even with the seats down, cargo space is tight for even this small frame. Like I’ve said, Subarus are GREAT cars but they’re not designed for big people. 🙂

So, six weeks and 4,000 miles later, coming to a stop — for a while — means first getting up off the ground and/or out of a car that’s transportation by day and sleeping quarters by night.

Sleeping on an ACTUAL bed — which I hope to God is comfortable in my upcoming rental room! Showering daily. WHOOO HOOOOO! Brushing my teeth in a sink with a faucet with running water … rather than swishing with a brush and toothpaste, rinsing with a swig from a water bottle and spitting onto the dirt of a primitive* campsite.

*Primitive = dispersed dirt camping. No services, no water, no fees.

Coming to a stop — for a while — means having an address again. One of the harder aspects of being homeless, for me, is having no address. I get anxious when I can’t receive mail — the important stuff, I mean, like bills, bank statements, notices from powers that be. I can’t imagine an IRS agent being too compassionate as I plead for my life, explaining that I really and truly wasn’t ignoring some IMPORTANT NOTICE PRINTED IN RED CAPS. I was, simply, on the road without domicile for weeks or months.

I’m scheduled to move into my rental room today. When it happens, I’ll know it to be true. It’ll be the first time I’ve stayed put and had a consistent shelter (that isn’t my Subaru, that is) and shower and other luxuries of Western civilized living in quite a while.

A LOT of experiences, some terrific,some nightmarish, have been crammed into these six weeks and 4,000 miles on the road. Returning to a civilized routine and steady domicile are, in their way, a challenge. It’s the flip side of the coin — the other side being homelessness and the lifestyle of  a nomad, which is a very much a part of who I am too.

A new chapter begins the minute I move into the rental room and inform the post office (and others) of my new address! Best I can liken it to is a girl having her first period. ‘Tis the birth of a fresh chapter. Can’t wait to see what settling in Prescott, Arizona, brings as the Subaru and I go “off road” for a while!

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Monster Jam in the woods and other divine interventions

{dead battery story continued}

Time takes a turn when you’ve got somewhere to be and a drained car battery that says “uh-uh.”

I weigh which option is most likely time best spent in the time remaining before my appointment. Walk a remote forest road with few campers for someone with jumper cables.

Or call Triple A. On a Sunday. And have a blast explaining my location.

Fortunately, my Garmin (GPS for anyone unfamiliar), which like my cell phone is old and quickly drained of its battery life, had enough life that I could establish my coordinates. The best I could offer AAA.

I opt to walk in search of a camp “neighbor” with jumper cables.

You couldn’t say I stumbled upon potential. I mean, does anyone really “stumble” upon a humongous beast of an RV parked on a narrow forest road?

Perhaps they feel compelled to park there, blocking the road, to drink in the scenery. Or not grapple with the challenge of turning a humongous beast of an RV (did I mention it’s humongous?) out of a super narrow space. Or perhaps the driver’s sleeping.

Guess which. Surprise! The driver’s sleeping.

So informs the blonde babe with two tykes when I arrive at their doorstep — wow, there’s a concept, a doorstep in the primitive wilds! — in search of jumper cables. Sensing my plight, she overcomes her reluctance to awaken her husband.

“No, he says no jumper cables,” she tells me. “But I’m not sure. We just bought this humongous RV.” Okay, she doesn’t really say “humongous.”

I pass another camp that’s occupied, as evidenced by their bikes and tent and stuff, but no one’s there.

So Triple A it is.

Every minute and every word counts when your phone battery drains faster than a keg at a frat party.

So I hasten the dialogue before I’ve got two dead batteries on my hand. “Well, you see Triple A ma’am, I’m at the end of this dirt road in the mountains in Prescott, Arizona. Landmarks? No, no McDonald’s. There are a lotta trees, brush and bushes though. In fact, I thought I might meet Edward Scissorhands this morning. What? Never mind.”

So I’m explaining the situation, giving her my GPS coordinates, trying to remember the name of the nearest main paved road when out of the blue, a big — not humongous, just big — dark pickup truck swings my way like it’s on the way to a fire and stops on a dime nose-to-nose with my Subaru.

Two scruffy dudes pushing middle age or past jump out.

Okay, maybe it’s the female in me. Or my keen awareness that bad things happen in life. Or acute sensitivities and street smarts as a woman (and not a very big one at that) traveling solo out in the boonies. All of the above and my primal ears shoot up.

“Hold on, some guys just drove up,” I tell Triple A lady.

“You need a jump?” asks Scruffy Dude 1.

“I do! And you are?”

“We’re campers up the road. That humongous RV is blocking us.” Okay, once again, he doesn’t actually say “humongous.”

“The guy with the RV told us you need a jump. Pop your hood.”

And boom! boom! boom! 1-2-3. Just like that, Scruffy Dudes attach the cables like they’d done it 100 times in their sleep.

“Now start ‘er up.”

She’s alive!!

Then boom! boom! boom! Fast as they got there, they’re off, turning corners around the humongous RV that suddenly appears negotiating its U-turn — it’s like a monster jam in my primitive sector of the woods! — my profuse expressions of gratitude and thank you’s and God bless you! trailing like their dirt cloud.

Simultaneously, I’m conversing now with Brian, the Triple A truck driver who’s taken the place of the clerk. I provide a play-by-play action report, not wanting to lose him until it’s certain the car’s good to go.

That achieved, I tell Triple A Brian the same thing I’m telling you and any others hearing this story:

I’ve got camping angels watching over me.

For anyone curious, I make it in time to my appointment.

But not before a final encounter with the man with the humongous RV. “We just bought it. It’s full of stuff. I’m sure it has jumper cables and they’re in there somewhere.”

And not before a closing pass by the site with the two Scruffy Dudes. {wave wave wave and hollering out the window} “Thank you again soooo much! God bless you!”

And, too, for the record, a humongous thanks to the RV recreationists. They may not have been able to locate their jumper cables but they were the conduit to giving my girl her go.

 

Edward Scissorhands, is that you?

I’ve got two camping angels watching over me.

+ + +

Saturday morning at the dispersed campsite in the Prescott National Forest in Arizona. Dispersed camping, for those unfamiliar, is primitive campsites. Only dirt, no facilities or services, typically free. Roughin’ it fo’ real.

I’m snoozing in the back of my Subaru. My current lifestyle and mode of sleeping — if it can be called that. With back seats down, even my short stature (and petite frame) exceed the cargo space. Subarus are GREAT cars but not designed for big folks.

Between my makeshift blackout curtains — unhemmed black fabric from Walmart — and a coupla hours of lost sleep to a hard chill and hard sleeping surface, I’m actually slumbering well past daybreak!

Then clicky clicky clicky buzzzzzz buzzzz buzzzzzz.

I’m awakened by the sound of …. what? A forest ranger trimming bushes around my camp spot with an electric saw?

Emerging from my warm mummy bag in the rear and folding myself origami-style into the front cabin, I investigate, peering past the window’s sunshade. No one’s visible. And certainly no one with a buzzy gardening tool.

And why would a ranger concern himself with bushes or branches anyway? It’s a national forest for god’s sake! It’s not like the Forest Service employs Edward Scissorhands to come shape vegetation.

Clicky clicky clicky buzzz buzzzzzz buzzzzzz buzzzzzzzzzzz.

Where IS that sound coming from!?!?

Oh. No. Could it be?

Ear to the ground — rather, air — I glance at the steering wheel. The key’s right where I left it dangling last night: In the ignition. When car-camping, I keep it there for a number of practical reasons. With everything turned off.

That’s the usual state of affairs anyway in the many many many nights of sleeping in Subaru Suite.

Clicky clicky clicky buzzzzz buzzzz buzzzzzzzzzzz.

The dots are connecting. Expecting the worst, I rotate the key. Right. Nothing but the sound of a battery gone dead.

Because best I can figure, and unbeknownst to me, when I’d turned the key to unlock the doors for a late-night pee break — friendly reminder: Drink NOTHING three hours before tucking yourself into a sleeping bag! — I hadn’t returned it quite to its full off position, leaving the battery to drain.

So here I am. In a national forest. On a dirt forest road. At the very end of that road. Of course. Some 5 miles from civilization proper.

Thank god there’s still some charge on my old iPhone battery! It’s not like the other night when I accidentally left the phone on to listen to “Coast to Coast,” only to awaken to a phone battery with zero charge.

More importantly, thank goodness the phone picks up some signal out here in the boonies. Kudos to Verizon. They truly have the best coverage. I travel a LOT and to remote destinations and know of what I speak. I’m a walking — well, driving — advertisement for Verizon.

Note: I am not being paid for this endorsement.

However, the puddle of juice in the iPhone battery isn’t my first thought.

It’s: Dead car battery. Electric windows and doors. Windows shut tight to keep out the chilly mountain air. CAN I GET OUT?

Visions out of a horror movie erupt. I can see it now. Me screaming at the top of my lungs from behind a pane of glass in a gigantic forest … at the dead end of a dirt road … shouting for someone, anyone who may or may not be within earshot of a girl inside a sealed vehicle.

Absolutely no one knows I’m here. It’s too soon to think about being trapped for days and days. Too soon to think about the cabin depleted of oxygen. Too soon to think about authorities stumbling upon me, body stilled, contorted face plastered against a window that wouldn’t open … them rifling through my wallet and phone to identify me.

Or is it?

With bated breath, I tap the electric passenger door button. VOILA! Air and light of day come flooding in! I’m saved! I’m free!

Only two explanations are possible for electric doors that open despite a zonked battery. Either I failed to lock the doors during that pee break in the wee hours, no pun intended — a misstep to my favor. Or the Subbie’s got a safety mechanism enabling doors to open in an electrical failure. I’ll have to google that.

Just not at this very minute. Hardly wise use of threadbare electronic resources. I’ve got more pressing matters. Like how to get the car from Stop to Go.

In short order too. I’ve got an appointment with Judy to view her rental room.

… to be continued …

 

 

 

 

 

 

one day in a new town. one job fair. one pink pullover, unwrinkled.

You know ’em if you’re one of the 92 million Americans who are unemployed — yes, that many! — and you’re a serious job hunter.

The job fair. Where employers {cough} gather in a hotel conference room to recruit {cough, cough} employees {uh huh} for open positions {cough, cough, keel over} or potential positions {that’ll never materialize}.

As one who’s been without work, once for a three-year stretch during the pitch-black chapter in Washington state, and a participant at more than one of these job fairs, I can speak with authority and experience.

They’re not job fairs. On second thought, they are. They’re events where the chance of landing a job is fair — to none.

I bring this up because Yavapai College is hosting a job fair in my new town, unofficially. That means I don’t have a domicile. I’m looking for a place to live, a room to rent. In the meantime, I sleep in my car in the nearby mountains. (It’s just too dang cool still to set up a tent. I’m soooo full of stories! Like homelessness. What experiences and insights I could provide readers if only I’d get serious and disciplined about writing every day!)

Anyway. Job fair today. In the town where I live, unofficially.

At the local college. A reasonable number of companies are participating. Does that mean they’re hiring? N.O. More than likely it means they’re getting their names out there. Advertising their presence. Not a bad thing.

However, for job seekers, especially those like myself who know what it is to crawl naked across burning coals embedded with nails — pointy side up — for a life-saving chance for work THAT WOULD NEVER COME, these fairs can just fuel the disappointment, discouragement and despair of looking for jobs that doesn’t exist and meeting with companies who tell you upfront, “we’re not hiring but we’ll keep your resume on file.”

Shoot me now.

Don’t misread. I’m not predicting that today’s fair will be like all the others — excursions into hopelessness and despair that only add weight to an already overburdened heavy heavy heart. An unemployed heart.

Experience has taught me well and, on this topic, taught the distinction between a job fair with companies who are actively hiring — like they did back 20 years ago — and companies gathered to promote their presence and/or gather up a buncha resumes that’ll get jammed into a file cabinet, never to be viewed again until a massive spring-cleaning recycling project in five years.

So why go? Circles back to company presence. A couple participants are in my career proper — communications — and specifically broadcasting, more specifically radio. Which is a passion and I’d give about anything to get back into that field!

There’s no harm in me knowing about them and them knowing about me — a mutual introduction, basically. It’s something positive I can do for myself as I endeavor to gain footing in a new town, a new community and, indeed, a new chapter.

And fortunately I have the pullover sweater for it!!

Yes, ONE sweater, one pale pink sweater bought for $1 at a thrift store in the small mountain town of Payson, AZ, about a week ago because it was cold and I had no heavy clothing in the car.

One UNWRINKLED pink pullover! The bulk of my clothes remains packed — stacked and hence wrinkled — inside a big duffel bag in a storage unit.

One simple pale pink pullover concealing a T-shirt will gussie me up for the job fair!

Yeah, I’s got stories awright! And this story of one simple pink pullover and one job fair that may or may not have one simple job to offer is still {ahem} unfolding …

 

Slumber, Thou Art My Blisszzzzz!

Oh the sweet difference slumber maketh!

I had last night for the first time in months a sound sleep! (The first sound sleep not brought on by a drug, I should say.)

Slumber uninterrupted by searing neck pain, inflammation and/or stiffness or the wrong pillow or a hideously soft mattress or a rock-hard surface of the ground or tight quarters of a car. Too, slumber uninterrupted by any — or all — of the top five worries of the times, an overwrought state of emotions, inner turmoils, angst or relentless rehashing of mistakes I’ve made that I truly and deeply regret.

It was, in four words: The Sounds of Slumber. {push play on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence”}

I could speculate on the reasons I slept as I did. A reasonably comfortable mattress. The right pillow. Overexhaustion catching up to me. Overdue crashing. My own space with basic amenities (read: a Motel 6 room). The unpleasantries and aggressiveness and CROWDS of California, a key leg in this journey, in my rear-view mirror at last. Being back on Arizona soil.  

Like stars aligning to bring good to someone, these singular elements, combined into a whole, worked to provide six rare hours of undisturbed, solid and sound sleep! That’s called synergy!

To those who sleep soundly, or reasonably so, a post triumphing one night of solid slumber might seem ridiculous. Those folks take sleep for granted. They’ve not experienced the effects of long-term sleep deprivation or the consequences of 24-hour hour chronic/acute pain and/or disability that shuts off the natural sleep cycles. 

Regular sleep and sound sleep are more important than most people are aware or recognize. Nothing reveals or teaches that better than its absence. I’ve always known the value and importance of sleep so this wasn’t a lesson I needed in the School of Life. What is the ongoing lesson is learning to relax Super Stoicism and Endurance to Survive and seek — and receive — self-care when it is needed. Difficult challenges for me indeed.

Anyways, as I was writing, oh the sweet difference slumber maketh! When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t all draggy and stiff and uncomfortable and wishing I could sleep through the day to make up for all the sleep I didn’t get through the night!

My eyes flew open, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated and ready for the day! This is a first since late last year, when this whole neck injury-bad bed-no sleeping nightmare began. I felt terrific!

Unfortunately, tonight I trade it in for the current lifestyle of sleeping on the ground or in the car. Sigh.

Sweet dreams are made of this {hit play on Eurythemics tune}: Sound sleep. And then we awaken to realities of sleeping on hard desert ground or in the back of a car. Dreams come crashing down under the hammer and blunt forces of realities. 

For this day, however, for this moment, I savor this sweetness of a night’s sound slumber! ‘Tis bliss! Blissssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….

 

a pancake-ing balloon of a blog post

Weeks on the road and barely words written on the blog or journal.

That’s not normal or good. Hundreds of miles crossed from Arizona through Nevada through Southern California through Northern California and back to Southern Cal and what have I got to show for it? More miles than words written, that’s what!

This hasn’t been easy or flowy travel, neither has it been inspirational. There have been positive aspects for sure, namely seeing old friends. Overall, however, it’s felt sluggish, disjointed, stressful and made uncomfortable by this goddamn neck injury. It’s been crippling; analogy: a bird dragging around a fractured wing. It’s depressing, the chronic pain and discomfort. Not to mention the number it’s done on my sleep!

Eh. I could go on and on. Not to downplay the severity of the situation but talking about it is only making withdraw and shut down and not communicate. I’m fighting the blahs and the blues and the disinclination to write anything, anything at all. Yeah, it’s an act of will just to be here writing anything at all.

This is hardly inspiring prose! Uplifting? Ha! You’d see more lift hefting a half gallon of milk outta the fridge! Anyways, the problem with NOT writing at all (be it blog or journal) for me is The Snowball Effect. One day of not writing and feeling badly about it leads to the next and to the next and to the next and the next.

And then all of a sudden a whole lot of experiences and moments that were worthy of pen and paper (or laptop and keyboard) have fallen into the past … and past tense … never to be again. Cast into the wind by indifference … apathy … boredom … depression … an overall malaise. The Blahs and the Blues are dangerous, even deadly, for creative sorts.

And when they snowball (as they have in my case lately) and creativity ISN’T happening, then, well, um, let’s just say that for me, keeping myself beneath the covers for extended periods of time is easier than actually telling myself “enough!” and pulling back the cover to breathe in the fresh air.

Blankets over the head, while comforting, also turn the air stuffy and stale. After a while, I just gotta remember to breathe again and come out from under.

Anyways, I really have no great words of wisdom tonight. No desire to catch up and record various tales of travel or anything else. I just felt it was important to break the stalemate of inaction and apathy that’s weighed on me and silenced me these past weeks and put SOMETHING on “computer paper” (aka this blog). Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have more to say. Waiting for the mood to write is never really a good thing. Words don’t get written that way and consequently it takes little for things to go to hell in a small hand basket.

In the words of Pink Floyd, wish I had something more to say. Least I put a chink in the armor of non-writing tonight; that’s something. Even if this post is as inspiring as watching paint dry and as aspiring as the pffffffftttt of a pancake-ing* balloon.

*Yes, that’s a word. Now! 😉