Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

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Day Six – Home At Last

Alright, I know this is a day late but I was just too tired to blog last night.

Day six started off pretty well. I’d had some sleep. R.J. digging in the litter box woke me up and I had to go move him out. But other than that, I slept. Pachelbel woke me up earlier than I planned but hey, it was my last day on the road so getting an earlier start couldn’t hurt.

The first thing I had to do before I could leave town was get gas. Luckily someone in California had told me that you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas in Oregon. I find this really odd in our self-serve society but hey, what ever keeps me warm and dry in my car is a good thing. Turns out, there’s a $500 fine for everyone involved if someone is caught pumping their own gas. In Texas, it’s just a given that people do everything themselves. We’d get a might pissy if told we couldn’t do something ourselves, lol. So, anyway, this really nice young man pumped my gas. I feel so old calling him a nice young man but he couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17. What the hell, maybe I am getting old, lol.

I took her outside so she could pee and it was still cold and rainy. Now, I was in a weird state when I packed for this part of my journey. I had already packed all my clothes except for some t-shirts and shorts when it dawned on me it wasn’t going to be 80 degrees the whole time. So, I opened up a box and pulled out some pants and a pair of sweats. Why grabbing a sweater or a jacket didn’t occur to me, I have no idea but it didn’t. So, yesterday morning when I went out to walk Pachelbel I was in a short sleeve t-shirt and sweat pants. I was quickly damp from the drizzle and very cold by the time Pachelbel had done her business. Getting everybody out to the car was easier than before because I had finally had the bright idea of putting them in the same carrier instead of carrying around two big carriers. Why this didn’t occur to me before the last day of my trip is probably the same reason I was freezing my ass off. My brain was pretty much mush.

It rained pretty much the entire day. Sometimes, it was coming down in sheets so thick, I could barely see the road in front of me. Once or twice, I COULDN’T see the road. I found myself sitting up close to the windshield hoping that would help me see the road better. Yeah, that extra foot made everything just so much clearer, lol. Most of the time, though, it was just a drizzle. The truly astounding part was the rainbows. I saw more rainbows in one day than I think I’ve seen in 10 years. There were rainbows on the mountains and rainbows between my car and the one in front. I felt like I could just reach out and touch them, they were so close. It was amazing. I took it as a sign that I was headed down the right path.

When I hit the Washington state line, I still had 150 or so miles to go. That was probably the longest 150 miles of my life. It just seemed to go on and on and on. Finally, the real countdown began. 40 miles, 30, 20, 10. I was so close, I could taste it. It was at this point that I missed my exit off I5. I totally flaked. Yep, I watched it go by on my right with no hope of making it. Luckily, I was able to make a u-turn at the next exit but still it added 10 minutes to my journey which honestly at that moment felt like an hour, lol. After getting turned around, I was 10 minutes from my house. As I pulled onto the street, I started whooping and Pachelbel whooped with me. I pulled into the driveway and Rhonda ran out to meet us. It was wonderful! I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. I bet I hugged her five times in as many minutes. I knew I had missed her but damn, I hadn’t realized how much until I saw her again. We both agreed that doing that again was a bad idea.

The book continues but a page has turned and this chapter of my journey has ended. What began six weeks ago, for me, has come to an end. I never realized how long and how short six weeks could be. It seemed to take forever before I saw Rhonda again and then again, it seems like only last week I still had two weeks left at work. I learned a lot about myself during that time. I really can get everything done that needs doing. I may wait to the last minute, but I get it done. I can drive 2600 miles with three cats and a dog and not go crazy. Podcasts are the most wonderful things on Earth! I am stubborn as the day is long and I will not be defeated by anything. Rhonda is the most amazing woman I have ever known and I don’t ever want to be apart from her for that long again. And most importantly: It’s not hot in Seattle!!!!!

Day Five – The Bad News First

The critters were pretty good last night. Pachelbel barked at some noisy neighbors once, Sparky didn’t meow at all, and R.J. behaved himself. The phone rang at 7am. The number was 999-999-9999. This is like the third or fourth time I’ve gotten a call from that number and it’s always really early. I answered it and it was a voice mail recording: “You’ve reached (number I can’t remember), leave a message after the beep.” There was no beep or I would definitely have left a message. Then my friend Mary, who was at dinner last night, called and I was pretty rude to her. Sorry, Mary!

When I got back in the car after checking out, my mom had called. My great aunt Kathleen died this morning. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a while back and was given six months to a year to live. She was doing fairly well until a few weeks ago when it finally became necessary to put her in the nursing home. After that, she started failing fast. So, this morning she passed on. She was 85 years old and had a good life. Her husband, my uncle Fred, died back in 1981. I was sad that she has gone but I’m glad she didn’t linger in pain and miserable for a long time. Most likely her funeral will be in a few days. I wish I could go but I’m just not going to be able to. After all this traveling, I just can’t get on a plane and do some more. I have reached my limit. My mom understands. We’ll all miss Aunt Kathleen but she’s in a better place now and no longer in pain.

After talking to mom, I hit the road. I had considered just driving straight through to Seattle. It’s about 12 hours or so. After just a few hours of driving, though, I knew I wouldn’t be doing that. I was just too tired and restless to go that far. Plus, it wouldn’t be fair to the critters, making them go through that just for my own sake.

Oregon is a beautiful state! The mountains were huge and some were covered in snow. All the leaves are changing so I had a feast of color for my eyes the whole way here. The road was pretty hilly and I saw more of those runaway truck ramps. The funny thing with these though is that they don’t ramp up so the truck can slow down with gravity. It’s just a big shoulder that ends in a big pile of earth. I’m not sure where the benefit to the driver is in that. He may not hurt the rest of us but he’s gonna damage the hell out of himself. See, we just don’t have that problem in Texas. None of our mountains are big enough for that. Something else that just tickled me were the signs for snow chains. I was advised several times that the right shoulder was for putting on your chains only. There were also signs along the road that were turned so you couldn’t read them until you were past them but they said: “Snow chains required.” Yet another thing that is totally new to me. I don’t even know what snow chains look like. I have an idea but I’ve never seen them in real life. The thought that I’m going to be living near a place like that just floors me. How different from everything I’ve known this will be.

About 30 minutes outside Sacramento, I hit some bad weather and it followed me the whole way. It poured down rain so hard I could hardly see for a while then it was just a steady rain. At some point along the way, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. A giant rainbow splashed across the mountains right in front of me. It was breathtakingly beautiful. As if that were the eye of the storm, the clouds moved back in and it continued to rain the rest of the way. I made it to Grants Pass and realized how much the temperature difference was when I got out of my car. I am so not used to cold weather. In fact, I started to only bring shorts and t-shirts on this trip. I finally got a clue and realized it wouldn’t be 85 degrees the whole way and packed some pants. I still have no coat though, or even a sweat shirt. Our stuff isn’t supposed to be in Seattle until sometime between the 22nd and 27th. I’m gonna have to make a Goodwill run just to find something to stay warm.

I’m happy this is the last night. Tomorrow I’ll be sleeping in my own, albeit new, bed with my wife in my own house. It’s been six weeks since I’ve seen her. I miss her like crazy. Plus I’m ready to start my new life. And I’m sure the critters will be happy to be out of the car for good. Although they’ve been real troopers. I didn’t expect traveling with them would be as relatively easy as it has been.

Alright, off to bed.

Day Four – They Drove How Far Just to See Me?

The nights are becoming progressively better. Last night, Sparky didn’t meow at all. But R.J. was doing his best to dig to China in the litter box. Now that in itself isn’t so bad but he would take 20 minutes to do it. I was really sleepy but it took forever to fall asleep. Then, R.J. woke me up at 8:30 and I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I took Pachelbel for a walk and got some coffee. I was packed up and pulling out by 11am.

Today was a short day, only about four and a half hours. I have to say, California drivers are some of the rudest drivers I have ever seen. If I hadn’t had my critters, I’d have slammed on my brakes and let the assholes buy me a new car. I mean, come on, is it really necessary to shove the front of your car up the ass end of mine? I’ll move over as soon as I can.

The real kicker came when an 18 wheeler either didn’t see me or didn’t care and almost rammed me into the divider. He just came right over into my lane even though I was occupying it at the time. I slammed on my brakes. The harness I bought for Pachelbel proved its worth. The poor kitties got smushed up against the door of their carriers. I was able to avoid the tail end of the trailer but not by much. The really funny part of this is that it was a truck hauling chickens. I can see the headlines now: Texas Vegetarian Plucked by Chicken Truck. Well, luckily that bullet was dodged.

So, my friends began showing up at the hotel shortly after I arrived. Some of them drove up to three hours just to see me. I was so excited to get together with them. Some I haven’t seen in over a year and a half. It’s amazing how easy it is to just pick up where we left off. We had a great time over dinner and I got to meet some people I hadn’t met in person before. It was a lot of fun. The critters got lots of loving so they were happy.

Tomorrow is day five, off to Grants Pass, OR. I’m almost there. Just one more night after tonight and then I’ll be in Seattle. I can’t wait!!

Alright, off to bed. Maybe R.J. will avoid China tonight.

Days Two and Three – Picking Up the Conversation

After my last post, I turned off my computer and climbed into bed. Let me preface this by saying I love true crime shows. My favorite is Cold Case Files. Just before I left Texas, I watched an episode about a man who killed women staying in the hotel in which he worked. Really not a good idea to watch something like that just before I left on a long trip. So, I woke up at least three times in the night and had to make sure the door was locked. Between that and Sparky meowing off and on for hours, I didn’t get much sleep.

In the morning, I loaded up the critters and headed off to Mesa. The trip was uneventful. I continue to be surprised at how well the pets are doing. The cats just hang out in their carriers. Shadow meows a bit but not much. Mostly, they just hang out and sleep.

I listened to 60 Minutes podcasts and got to Mesa around 5ish. I’ve been looking forward to this leg of the journey for a long time because I finally got to meet Elsieaustin. We’ve been emailing and IMing and talking on the phone for months. We’ve had these intense discussions about, well, everything. So we finally got to meet in person. She was just as wonderful as I thought she’d be. After spending a long time hauling my two very large cat carriers, complete with cats, my dog, and all my stuff into her apartment, we settled into a conversation that felt like we were just picking up where we left off from our last one. We talked about Xena, the XOC, writing, stories, and a bunch more stuff. Before I knew it, it was 11pm and time to get ready for bed.

I was pleasantly surprised that Sparky only meowed a little bit in the night and I slept really good. We sat and talked some more over coffee since she was going into work late. It was really nice just getting to visit. She suggested we carry the cats down in our arms this time instead of the carriers and that made it so much easier. The very last animal was R.J. the cat. We looked everywhere for him but just couldn’t find him. Finally, there he was under the bathroom sink all nestled in amongst the rolls of toilet paper and cotton balls. He’s so funny. Back at the car, me and Elsie said our goodbyes. It was a really awesome evening/morning and I’m really glad we got to spend some time together. Hmmm, the Carol Burnett song just burst into my head.

I’m so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh and sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say so long

I’m really, really sleepy. Can you tell? :D

After leaving Elsie’s house, I just drove and drove and then drove some more. I was on I10 for over a 1000 miles and the vast majority of it was a rollicking gallop through nothing, nothing, and more nothing. I think I was in that drive trance when I realized I was about to miss my exit for I5. I sped across three lanes of traffic but I made it. I was so glad I hadn’t missed it because I probably would have hit Malibu before I realized something wasn’t right.

I expected to get caught in LA traffic but surprisingly, I didn’t. In fact, there was very little traffic at all. Not once did I hit the bumper to bumper I was expecting. The landscape FINALLY started to change too! I was very excited about that. I had mountains to look at and a city to see. Well, I think it was mountains and a city. The haze that squatted over the entire region made it hard to tell. At some point along the way, I hit some major wind action and had to white knuckle the steering wheel. I’ve gotten too many speeding tickets and honestly my days of speeding are over so everybody and their grandma on her moped were whizzing by me at dizzying speeds. But they were all real friendly and gave me a little wave as they zipped around me. At least, that’s what I choose to believe they were doing.

I saw something today I’ve never seen before. Not in 39 years of living. Runaway truck ramps. These are ramps that go up so that if a truck loses its brakes while going down the hill, it can stop. I had no idea that trucks were that prone to running away. Makes you a little afraid to get in front of them. And there were lots of trucks. It seemed that they were limited to the right two lanes so I stayed in one of the left two lanes. Of course, since I wasn’t speeding, that gave everybody plenty of opportunities to wave at me as they blew by.

After what seemed like 20 years, I finally pulled into the La Quinta parking lot. Today was a nine hour day. Day one was also a nine hour day. It’s amazing how much longer nine hours can seem on day three of a six day trip as opposed to day one. My room’s on the second floor but luckily it’s right near the elevator so getting everyone up to my room was a piece of cake. The IHOP is conveniently located right next door so I had breakfast for dinner. It was fantastically good. It’s not easy eating on a road trip when you’re vegetarian. I can’t just pull into Dairy Queen and order a veggie burger. I am in California but even this granola state isn’t that granola yet. Although come to think of it, it may be. I didn’t actually stop anywhere to look. My friend Bri tells me between here and Sacramento is a great place to get fruit and nuts.

Tomorrow is a short day, only about five hours. I’m hooking up with a bunch of my recovery friends in Sacramento. We’re gonna meet for dinner and hang out. I haven’t seen them in at least nine months, some of them it’s been over a year, so I’m really excited. A couple are even driving three hours just to see me. I feel special. :D

I’m truly exhausted now but I still need to walk Pachelbel before I turn in. R.J. is eating the dog’s food, Sparky is sitting on the table looking terrified, and Shadow is eating and threatening to snot all over the wall. I was hoping her allergies would be better here but apparently they won’t be. Ah well, what’s a bit of snot amongst loved ones?

Day One – West Texas Wasteland

Well, day one is coming to a close. It was actually easier than I expected. Except the leaving my mom this morning. That wasn’t easier. It’s been a really long time, over 15 years, since I moved from the state. Back then I was too fucked up to feel anything about it. Today, I know what I’ll be missing. I love my parents very much and I’m gonna miss them like crazy. But, I’ll be back to visit and there’s always the Internet and phone calls. Hell, we might even be talking more. So, after the painful goodbyes I was ready to go.

Actually first, I had to load up the cats. I got my car set up with two big carriers that take up the whole back seat. I got the two black kitties, Shadow and Sparky, in one and R.J. in the other. Pachelbel was sitting in the front seat with me. I had taken the whole brood to the vet on Thursday and he told me to give them Benadryl for motion sickness or if they needed some sedation. Shadow, the old lady, tends to get motion sick so I gave her some Benadryl. Well, I tried to give her some. She foamed at the mouth for a while and then threw it up. So much for the Benadryl. Oh well. I got them all loaded up, I got Pachelbel hooked up with her seat belt harness and off I went.

All went well until I took a wrong turn and ended up in Menard instead of Junction. It was a thirty mile mistake. But, I took a shortcut and only got about 45 minutes behind. Once I hit I10 in Junction, I had 444 miles of absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. No towns, no houses, no gas stations. Nothing. Well, there was the occasional gas station. There’d have to be. But those were usually about 60-70 miles apart. What was really interesting though was watching the land shift from the familiar hill country that I grew up with to the stark, barren mountains of west Texas.

I stopped about every hour and a half or so to let Pachelbel pee and stretch my legs. I also got gas every chance I got in case the next gas station was too far away, lol. The only scary one was in Kent. It was nothing but a falling down building with truly questionable restrooms. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. Pachelbel likes to smell everything she can reach before she pees so we did a lot of walking around.

I got to El Paso about 7pm or so. I gained an hour along the way so it was actually 8pm my time. I left home at 10am so it was a 10 hour trip. It would have probably taken 9 if I hadn’t taken that wrong turn. Oh well. It was a pretty drive at least.

So, now I’m kicked back at the La Quinta. They are a pet friendly hotel that doesn’t charge extra for the pets. A big winner in my book. I’m stuffed full of pizza and now I think it’s time to go to bed.

Tomorrow I’m headed to Mesa where I’ll be hooking up with Elsieaustin! Yay!!! I just hope she’s ready for me and the brood to stay the night.

Speaking of the brood, here they are. RJ is at the head of the bed, Shadow is in the middle, Sparky is at the foot, and Pachelbel is on the floor:

Traveling to Seattle