Tag Archives: Washington State

The Hot and Cold Land

I left North Platte in a dark mood. I didn’t have friends to leave. But it was still a lonely move. I drove down first for the interview. And I met my new boss.
In Lubbock I stayed in the hotel. During the visit I met my editor. And the editor-in-chief. They were friendly. And it felt like it was a good move for me. Like it was the right move for me. Before coming back I called about a place to live. And met a nice woman about an apartment. It was a two bedroom in duplex. The unit was old and run down. But it was cheap.

Driving back to Nebraska I went through Colorado. It was out of the way. But my main goal was my storage unit in Wyoming. And I love Colorado. In Wyoming I had to wait for the storage office to open. I’d had the unit so long I’d lost the key. But there was a key in the office. Because past me knew the way future me would keep track of keys.

All my things were stuffed in my car. My poor cat could barely move for hours. It wasn’t a long drive. But much longer than I would have liked to have been trapped without a bathroom. But my poor kitty was good. Getting into Lubbock it was late. I went into the empty apartment and slept on the cold hard floor with my kitty.

But soon I found a place to get a mattress. And the next day I was moved into our new home. It was big, too big for me alone. But for the time being it worked for me. The job started soon after I got to town. My job was going to be working the night shift. The hours were never really the problem.

It had been a while since I did real reporting. And I had some doubts of myself. But within a few days I was running again. A couple of the first stories were a fire and an traffic accident. They were not major stories, but I had the night cop and fire beat. In some ways it was a boring job. I spent hours waiting and listening for something on the radio. And then it would happen and I would have to figure out what and where.

I also had a blog hosted on the newspaper site. I remember early on having a hard period. Depression was deep and dark for me as winter started. I was alone in a town which I didn’t know. And no one got me. It was the same as Nebraska. But I felt even more alone. Because I didn’t have Sage. The relationship with my editor started good. But went wrong at some point. I didn’t have a friend at work.

There were two main problems with the job itself over time. One was the stories were not important. And I know news value is so fluid. But I went to so many stories with so little value. A traffic accident with no injuries. The news editor wanted anything the TV news station covered. One time they had a story about a pedestrian getting hit by a car. I hadn’t been on when it happened. When I did follow-up it turned out the pedestrian wasn’t badly hurt. Though an ambulance was called, it wasn’t needed.

There were a few bad accidents. And a few times I joined other news crews covering events. One night I got to an accident scene before most the police. And before the rest of the media. I got there soon enough to be on the inside of the yellow tape. It was a bad accident: someone died. Just one of a couple accidents on a bad night. Another time I was listening to the radio about a shooting. I went to the area and waited in my car. But then I realized I was sitting across the street from the house. I moved.

But I have never cared about fender-benders. These are stories for the radio and maybe TV news. Because those are the instant mediums. Yes, we could and did post online. But few people stuck in traffic will think to read the newspaper website. Even after they’ve gotten home, the instinct is to turn on the TV. And the next day in the paper, few people even care.

The other problem was no one would talk to me. It was hard to obtain the basic information for a story. On the scene the officers who could give me information avoided me at times. One night I spent a long time waiting for someone to give me information. The person came and left and it was only when I asked much later did they tell me. I felt like I was wasting my time, talents and energy. I wasn’t happy with the job and my bosses weren’t happy with my performance. I was later told I was almost fired.

But I was moved to a different spot in the paper. I lost some pay because of the move. But I kept my job. The best part of this job was it was covering small towns. As a journalist I have always loved the idea of covering small town news. The hard part was the driving. Though the paper covered my mileage. This money came with my paycheck. One week I had to tell my news editor I could only cover one event in person. She wasn’t happy. She pointed out I would get paid for the mileage. But I told her it wouldn’t help my current shortage. But I did some great stories.

One was about a company laying off workers. It was a large employer in a small town. Another was about the Lesser Prairie Chicken. And one about a judge who had died. I still love local news. It is what I miss the most. The small businesses. The firehouses and schools. Another story was about a sign. One school district had put up a huge sign. In the middle of the neighboring district.

At the core of the issue was school choice. Parents could take their kids to any school. But where the kids went, so did funding. The sign was put up by a small district. The district the sign was placed it felt it was an ad. An attempt to pull money from their schools. In Nebraska this was also an issue. One school would send buses to the boundary of the other. Where the kids go, so does the money.

Towards the end I got a roommate. I had hoped it would help me. She was an artist. And she was a good person. But also a bit crazy. One day she broke into the apartment. She was next door when I came and went. I had locked her out by mistake. And didn’t understand I was coming to open the door. But it was a lot of issues. At one point she accused me of working for the police.

At the end I couldn’t think of a good reason to stay. My job sucked. There had been a meeting with my boss not long before. The office environment was loud. It was a space hard to heat and cool. This meant in the summer they would place large fans in the office. It created a noise which drove me insane.

During the winter it was too cold. There was a no hat policy in the office. But, it also applied to scarfs. I’ve never been a person to call in to work. I would rather be at work and making money. Even if I have sick time, which I did at this job. But it got to the point where I would wake up in the morning. I would look at my phone. If it was too cold I would just call in to work: I’m not coming in.

One of the last stories I did was meeting the secretary of agriculture. He was visiting a small farmer and I was invited to go along. I was the only reporter invited. But I couldn’t drive myself. If I went, I would have to ride with staffers of the secretary. I thought I had made this clear. But my editor called me and tried to get me to return to the office. I explained I couldn’t. She wasn’t happy. But I think I was giving up at this time. And I didn’t care.

The office itself was in turmoil. The News Editor which hired me left, with one of the executive editors. Several of the reporters had left thier jobs. The new News Editor was leaving soon before I gave my notice. It was a dramatic change in the office. One like I have never known. The fill-in News Editor was a person with whom I didn’t get along.

And then I went to Roswell. I guess the trip was more than just taking a break from town. More than getting away. I knew my time in Texas was getting short. And I wanted to visit the famous UFO town since it was so close. It was an amazing trip. I met a strange girl who had been living at Walmart. She was young.

One morning I met her at the store. She was with a guy. We walked across to the mall. And then the two of them went to his place. Later I saw her downtown, she came and sat next to me. “Can you get pregnant by swallowing,” she asked me. I was shocked, but yes, she was asking me about oral sex.

Aside from the UFO museum, which was neat. There was a small free zoo in town. I went during my visit, because it was free. And it made me never want to visit a zoo again. I’m sorry to those who enjoys zoos. But I don’t enjoy seeing animals in cages: no matter the size. A cage is a cage. There was also some great natural areas just outside the town. While in Roswell I talked to my friend Michelle.

Come to live with us in Washington, she said. I could live with her for free. I love her deeply as a friend. I love the Northwest. And I was unhappy where I was living and working. It wasn’t a hard choice.

The Second Trip

Some moments are ripe for change. For me it was the time to leave. My work was closing. The restaurant was set for a remodel. They tore it down. And started from scratch.

My friend Sean wanted to take a trip. I had shared stories about my first trip. And he had done some traveling too. The plan was to go east for the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Pennsylvania.

At first he was asking his girlfriend to come on the trip. And she refused. But then we all watched The Matrix. Then she agreed to go along. But my friend changed his tune. I’m not sure why, but he got upset. She did not join us on the trip. I wonder how things would have been different if she had gone.

We hitched out of Portland on I-84. Eastward we went through Eastern Washington. I’m not sure why, but we traveled through Spokane. If you forget how to pronounce the city name, remember it does rhyme with cocaine.

In Spokane we were spanging at a store. A man came out and talked to us for a while. Said we were doing it all wrong. If we wanted to learn about the world. Get a job he suggest – but not in a mean tone. He said we would learn more working, than traveling. Sean later pointed out we would never had heard his ideas. If we had never traveled to Spokane.

After Spokane our next stop was Missoula. We met some younger people. And they let us spend the night at their apartment. One of the girls I had a crush on. And I was flirting with her, maybe not aggressively. But the next thing I know she is making out with Sean. It upset me. There were and are few women I am attracted to on a real level. She was one of them. Sean later told me he didn’t know I was flirting with her. And I believe he wouldn’t have done something to hurt me. Just our ideas of things were different.

Heading east we got a ride with a crazy couple. I recall stopping in Buffalo, Wyoming. We would all take a walk for a while. She would call a hotline and say she was an abused woman. Then someone would come out and give her gas and money. I didn’t like her taking advantage of services meant to help people. Though she claimed there was a small kernel of truth to her story.

The plan with me and Sean was for us to go to Boulder. I loved Boulder during my last visit. And I wanted to stop again. Also as we got closer I was looking forward to being away from the couple. But then the three of them came to me. They had made plans for us to go all the way to Pennsylvania together. Great, I thought.

At one point the heat was getting to all of us. We pulled off the interstate to go to a lake. But there was a usage fee and none of us had the money. Driving back we crossed through Glendo, Wyoming. They were having a town fair. I pointed out we would be missing a rare event if we didn’t stop. So we stopped.

I ended up singing karaoke with some local teen girls. The only song I recall is, “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…” And Sean won the Watermelon Eating Competition. The guy in the couple said at one point some local boys were giving me the eye. Because I was singing with their girls. But he took off his shirt, showing some mean tattoos I guess. He made it clear he was with me, and they tamed down.

In North Platte, Nebraska, she went to the hospital. Me and Sean walked downtown. Found a pizza place. Got some out of the trash and started back. There was a house with a trampoline in front. I asked if we could jump on it, as a joke. They said we could. But it didn’t feel comfortable, or fun.

From Nebraska we went south. They had to do something in Kansas. While I don’t think brake repair was what they planned. It became unavoidable. The whole van should shake and the brakes made a loud grinding noise. My guess is they had to replace more than brakes. This is where we finally parted ways.

We had to walk through town to find a place to hitch a ride. Doing so we passed some cops at a convenient store. They stopped us a couple blocks later. They asked if we had any weed. No, we told them the truth.

“Then why did we smell weed when you walked by,” they asked.

We explained we hadn’t bathed in a while. Sometimes body odor can smell like weed.

“Nope, we know what weed smells like,” they insisted.

We suggest it was the sage we had burned in the van. Again they insisted they knew the smell of weed. They had to let us go. We asked for directions to Missouri. They informed us they didn’t know how to get to Missouri. So we headed off down the road. They also told us not to hitch-hike. We got lucky and found a ride from a woman at a gas station.

In Saint Louis, Missouri we got a ride with a airport shuttle. The man drove like he was crazy. But it was kind of fun. We made a stop at the Gateway Arch. You can pay to take a ride up into the arch. But neither one of us wanted to spend the money. So we got back on the road. We were hitch-hiking in East Saint Louis, and the sun was going down.

“I think we need to get out of here before dark,” I told Sean. It was a place about which I had not heard good things.

We got lucky on two counts. We got a ride before dark. And our ride took us all the way to Chicago. Then took us on a tour of the city. Finally we got dropped off in Indiana. From there to the gathering was a short trip.

At the gathering I lost Sean right away. And didn’t see him until almost the last day. He was in a rush to go. I said just wait. I wanted to dig a spring. Then I wanted to eat. I had shared our plans with a few people. One of which came up to me. We wanted to go to Niagara Falls. And he had found someone who could give us a ride. The amazing Pam.

We got a ride from the gathering from Pam to the falls. Then she said we should meet her friend Laura. Pam took us to Syracuse, New York. There we met Laura, who is also amazing. Hanging out with Laura and Pam they suggested we meet Shaylyn. She lived in Ogdensburg, New York. Right across the river from Canada. So, up to the far north we went. This is real Upstate New York.

We spent three days in Ogdensburg. And a day in Potsdam, New York. There was a festival in Potsdam. Before going I was singing a line from Into the Woods, over and over. “We’re going to go to the festival, and dance with the prince.”

Laura’s uncle lived in Potsdam. We went to his house. He was building it himself with trees from his land. When the time came to go to the festival Sean stayed behind. It was just me and the girls. There was music, and the street was closed. We were dancing. They said I must be the prince.

I am still friends with Shaylyn, Laura and Pam. In fact they are more like sisters.

Pam gave us a ride to the ferry for Burlington. We crossed the river and spent a couple days. One night we met some girls at a park. We chatted for a while. Then they wanted to buy us some food. We went to the store, and we were walking around. I picked an olive out of the bulk bin and ate it.

“You can’t do that, it’s stealing,” one of the girls freaked. “Here we can buy some.”

I did it again with something else. And she reacted the same. I’ve always viewed it as a sample. As long as you don’t press your luck.

The other thing I recall about Burlington was the pizza. Some people let us spend the night at their place. There was a flier for $1 pizza. It was too good to be true, right? But it wasn’t. We called and ordered a few. They weren’t great pizza. The quality was comparable to Little Caesar’s. Their story was they had an oven and liked to make pizza.

It was in Burlington I parted ways with Sean. There had been problems. He sat on my bag at one point and drenched my socks in a waterproofing chemical. Which made my feet break out in a rash. He would drink all his water, and then want to drink mine. And the girl issue from Missoula. It was better we part ways.

I went to Cambridge for a couple weeks. Another place I loved from my first trip. And I loved it the second time too. I even camped in the same park. For money I did Tarot card readings on the street. I made a friend, and we chatted about philosophy. He remarked how well read I was for my age. I love the Harvard Square area.

But the time came to go home. In the fastest time ever I made it back in about three days. The only problem I had was in Ohio. We were on the interstate and it was getting dark. I told him to drop me off on I-80. But I dozed off. And woke up on a freeway. When I asked he said we weren’t on I-80 anymore. So I told him to drop me off at the next exit.

Getting out I started walking through Shaker Heights. I found a pizza place and got a free pizza. A young man on a bike asked for some. I told him sure, but he didn’t eat pork. It was a pepperoni pizza, but I was picking the meat off. Me neither I explained and told him what I was doing. He did help me with directions and gave me some money for the bus.

At the bus stop another man wanted some pizza. I was getting sick of it already and was ready for someone to eat it. He ate it, and then called me away from my bag a little. He thanked me and said he was homeless. I told him I understood. He asked for money and I told him all I had was $1 for the bus. When the bus came he grabbed my bag and wouldn’t let it go. The bus almost left without me. I banged on the door and told her the story. I gave him the $1 and rode the bus for free.

From Ohio to Chicago, then Minneapolis where my friend from college James lived. I got there at night, and connected with him the next day. When I said I crossed the country in three days, I didn’t count the time with James. He also gave he a hair cut. Then he dropped me off headed west.

In North Dakota the mosquitoes were so bad I had to sleep inside. There was a truck stop with a movie theater. So I slept in one of the chairs. No one noticed me in there, or said anything. The movies were Little Big Foot and a psycho movie about a woman with an unknown stalker.

From there I got a ride with a guy in a U-Haul. He took me all the way into Montana. Even staid the night in a hotel with him. And he took me out to dinner. From Montana I went south through Idaho. Then across Eastern Oregon. From Hermiston, I got a ride all the way to Portland. I was home.

Back in Portland I got a letter from the girls in New York. They had plans, and invited me to join.

The First Trip

My first trip started in Santa Cruz.

The plan was to meet M in Eugene. Then we would attend the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Eastern Oregon.

After the gathering I got sick. I think it was food I ate. Hitch-hiking back we stopped in Willits California. I sat on the curb. And threw up in the gutter. It was cold and wet. And I didn’t feel good.

We got back to Santa Cruz the next day. After a short while we got a ride Seattle with James. In Seattle we stayed with her friends. But we didn’t stay long. We hitch-hiked east from the city. We wanted to go to Lewiston/Clarkston. Two towns across from each other on the Idaho/Washington border.

We headed across the desert heat. M wanted to stay on the interstate. But my idea was a more direct route. Almost right away I could see I was wrong. We got dropped off on a road with little traffic. Washington is the Evergreen State. But not the eastern half.

There were a couple small towns. We made it to one about nightfall. I’m not sure where we camped. The next day we were making little progress. Sometimes on the road, under the sun you can find shade. Even a post can help. A sign creates shade. In the dry landscape out there I thought I was going to die. There was no shade. No moisture.

I remember wondering around feeling out of my mind. Thinking there might be shade in a ditch, or under a leaf. One of the towns was Othello. And we decided to never go to a place with the word “hell” in the name. The highway was number 26. And I still don’t like the number.

At last we got a ride. All the way to our destination. The first day in town we went to a food bank. M went to talk to them and I waited. When they came out he asked us if we were homeless. A question which in most cases results in no food at a food bank. This is because Food Banks don’t stock the foods homeless people need. And homeless people tend to not be able to use the foods they provide.

So a bit nervous, I confirmed we were homeless. To our surprise he put us up in a hotel for three nights. We didn’t have plans to stay, or look for work. We made it clear. But he wanted to help us anyway. It was a good three days. The town itself felt friendly. It had the same feel of a lot of middle American towns.

We did look for work. I still had my ID. But after three days we hitched a ride east. Next stop Missoula. We got a ride from a good guy. But we were hungry. And when we stopped for him to get lunch we ate the whole basket of free crackers. We had no money.

In Missoula I lost my ID. It was rough. We spanged at a store for a while. A woman invited us over for breakfast. And we ate at the shelter. The shelter there felt like ones I have been to in Roseville, California or Santa Cruz, or anywhere. Missoula is a neat town. One place I could see myself living.

We headed out after a few days. Feeling a little more lost. But headed east. It had started to rain, so we left. We went through Wyoming. In Casper someone stopped and offered us a ride to the shelter. When we tried to hitch-hike in town the police stopped. They were friendly. Asked us not to hitch-hike in town. And also offered us a ride to the shelter. The next stop was Boulder, Colorado.

We were there for a while. Took all our things out and dried them in the sun. This became a ritual on our trip. Rain, sun, dry, wet. We spanged on Pearl Street. Slept in a corner by the library. We were happy. Once we asked a cop for money on accident. When we apologized, he replied, “what I’m human too.” He gave us some change. But the rains came and our trip moved along east.

We developed a motto. “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

Across the great plains was a straight shot. We got at least one ride from a trucker out of Limon, Colorado. There really isn’t anything else in Limon.

We stopped next in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another friendly town. But not one we stayed at long. This is where our brief shoplifting career started. We went to the store and then slipped things under the garden fence. Outside we retrieved the items. It was an easy scam. And it fooled me into thinking we could get away with stealing.

Ann Arbor is a college town. It had the same feel as Berkeley and Santa Cruz – and Arcata. I recall going to Food Not Bombs. This organization sets up in a couple different cities. It is like the socialist answer to the Christian soup kitchen. They give food and provide political materials.

From Ann Arbor we continued east. We stopped along the freeway in Ohio. It was a spot where the I-80 and I-90 ran close and paralell. M couldn’t sleep, but she managed to sneak us into a hotel room in the morning. She had found a hotel with a key drop for departing guests. When someone exited she grabbed key and we went into the room. She was good at these things.

When we were going through Portland we slept on Jantzen Beach. She went to a hotel and found left-overs from room service. Then brought them back for us.

After Ohio went passed through Pennsylvania and stopped in Ithaca, New York. We tried our tricks at K-Mart, but they were wise to us. Then I was bold enough to think I could walk out with the bag. It didn’t work. I’m not sure what we were trying to steal. But I store security took me to the office.

The police came and put me in handcuffs. I was upset. Worried about M. I remember crying. They took me to the jail. And fingerprinted me. A judge was going to come and talk to me. The judge wanted to know about M. Did we know anyone? Would anyone be taking care of her? She could see we were alone. And she made me a deal. If I promised to stay until Monday, and then report to court I could spend the weekend with M. And not go to jail.

We thought about running. But the wiser choice was to stay. We knew we would be at a bigger risk if we got stopped again. And homeless people get stopped by the police often.

The weekend was good. Another town. They were beginning to feel the same. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song: “every town is the same to me, with their movies and their factories.”

At court on Monday the prosecution pressed charges for disorderly conduct. I wasn’t charged with stealing. The judge released me on a conditional discharge. And it was one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in my life. I could go, but if at any point in the next year I got a ticket for anything – jaywalking – I would spend 15 days in jail. M and I made our way to the city limits as fast as we could go.

But what a smart move. If I had gone to jail the city would have been paying the bill. And M would have been alone on the street. I believe she knew given the conditions we would leave town. So she saved the city money, and encouraged us to leave with one step.

From there we continued east. The goal was Cambridge,¬†Massachusetts. But along the way we had trouble. Just outside the city is a beltway freeway. All the roads were tollways. We got dropped off at a tollbooth between one freeway and another. And we couldn’t get a ride.

We tried to walk off the freeway, but got stopped. The police drove up behind us and yelled, “get the fuck off the freeway.” We told him we were lost and asked for help. We told him we wanted to get off the freeway, but didn’t know how. He told us to go back to where we were at the tollbooth. Which we did.

In the end we got a ride. But it was the wrong direction. And it was raining again. The ride dropped us in Worcester. We tried to sleep under some trees but we got wet. We sat under the roof of a gas station.

In the morning the lady who opened it was friendly. She gave us some food and hot chocolate. Our things were piled by the door. Once someone looked at them strange. “Their mine, got a problem?” the lady said. She let us sleep in her car for a couple hours. We needed the sleep. Then before we left she gave us some donuts.

M had no sweatshirt because it had gotten soaked. I took mine off and gave it to her. We started to walk to a smaller highway to catch a ride. Someone offered us a ride but M didn’t trust them. Then a guy driving by stopped and gave me a jacket. Later we made it to the on-ramp, the same car stopped again. And M said she didn’t trust them again. So we had to spend the night in Worcester again. It was still raining.

There was a garage or shop of some kind near the road. We walked around back where there were a couple old cars. One truck had the door unlocked. So M and I slipped in and slept on the seat. I felt more in love with her than ever. She was on the side closest to the seat. She was so warm and soft. And I had the stick from the clutch in my back half the night. But we slept and stayed dry. It was a bit of a risky move.

The next day we saw the car from the previous day. We just let it drive past us. In the end we got a ride to where we wanted to go. Cambridge is a cool area. We hung out in the park. And Harvard Square of course. And read at the bookstore. I have M roses. She put them under the shelf and left them. I guess we couldn’t have taken them with us.

In the park we met some odd people. One guy said he once blew a blood alcohol level higher than .50. This means he added, his blood was more than half alcohol. I don’t know if it could even be true. But I did see them mixing ingredients in a bottle to leave in a hole. They were making their own alcohol.

We slept at a park with a fountain. I recall it waking me up when it sprung to life every morning. We went to a Catholic service. It was a good time. We even ventured into Boston. Walking along the street we saw an amazing church. A sign mentioned tours. So we asked for one, and got one. It was so grand and large. We walked around the sanctuary. Then when it was time to leave, the door out seemed so small.

We dried out things here, well mostly. Then it rained and we started for home. In Rhone Island I recall checking one of my notebooks. It had been damp the whole trip. It was so upsetting I just pitched it into a tree.

“There are important things in there,” M told me. At the time I didn’t believe it was true. But now I wish I still had the notebook.

We hadn’t made it far before we stopped to get food. We stashed our things in the bushes and went to a restaurant. We kept a small bag with us. When we returned everything we had left was gone. This meant we now had no blankets. And it was starting to get colder. We wondered for a while confused about what to do next.

Then we met some odd junkies who said they were going to Utah. The woman was friendly. The guy wasn’t so open. They gave us a ride through New York City. We hopped it would be a ride all the way. But they guy kicked us out in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy four people in one car.

So we were out again. No blankets. We tried to sleep. When you get so cold you want to stay close. But also to roll up tight. And you can’t do both at the same time. I know I slept little.

The next day a lady gave us a ride. It was a good long ride all the way to Ohio. I was in the front, and M was in the back. This is normally a safer situation for M. But this case was odd. I was talking to the lady. Then trying to talk to M. But at one point she sat back and I knew she was upset. I figured we could discuss it later.

The lady gave us some blankets. She dropped us off at a gas station. As we got out she came and gave me a big deep hug. And turned and just patted M’s back. I knew I was in trouble.

“Fuck me or buy me a hamburger,” she told me. Turns out I hadn’t noticed what was going on in the car. Every time M tried to talk the lady turned up the music. I was flirting with the lady. Not in the hopes of scoring with her, I was with and loved M. But in a more natural relaxed way.

While still in Ohio the police came while we were hitch-hiking at a tollbooth. He suggested a path to another exit, with more traffic. But it wasn’t passable, so he gave us a ride. We told him about the cop in Massachusetts. “No wonder they get shot all the time,” was his reply.

Crossing Ohio we actually got a short ride from another friendly officer.

In Indiana we stopped in Gary. The truckers got us scared to go outside. They said we would get shot and killed. The road had left us with little energy. So we believed the hype. Instead of going out we curled in the bottom of a phone booth in the building. It has a lock. I locked the door and we slept there. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.

The next day we got a ride from a trucker. All the way to Reno, Nevada.

It was the first time I crossed the salt flats. Waking up in the middle of them is odd. You know it is summer. And it is warm. But it looks like the ground is covered in snow.

From Reno, to Sacramento, to Berkeley. I believe M took the bus home from Berkeley. And I went home to Santa Cruz alone. More alone than ever.

This trip may be the highlight of my life. I learned so much about the country. Some places were smaller than I imagined. And some places were bigger. We live in an amazing country. And it is full of amazing people. Every where we stopped people were friendly and helpful.

This trip emboldened me to take on risks later in life. And it still does.

I remember…

I remember.

The day I knew it was time to move. It was in Roswell, New Mexico. I sat on the park bench as the sun went down. A couple hundred miles away in Lubbock, Texas was my home. I had lived in Lubbock for almost a year.

A year of hot and cold. There were few good moments in my year in Lubbock. But I remember Roswell. Something in me told me it was time to move. I didn’t want to return to Lubbock.

As soon as I got back to town I called my landlord. It felt optimistic. And I remember feeling like my life would be better. I would move. I would get a better job. I would write. Make money. Be happy.

I remember packing up a trailer. And the pain in the ass it was to back up. Almost a two weeks before it was time to go I packed my things. I remember wanting to leave. The heat and the cold. And my crazy roommate.

Do you want to have sex with me? She came in one night and asked me. I did not. And she didn’t seem to want to just accept my answer. Why not she asked.

But as I pulled out of town it was all in the dust. Me, my blue car, my kitty and all my things in a trailer. The drive ahead of me. I remember feeling excited for something new. Something different. Even though I was going back to a place I had been before.

It is a small town in Colorado I remember the most. Salida is an art town in the mountains. And it was an art night when I drove through. A beautiful little town. It made me want to stay. But I recalled the cold winters and snow of Colorado. Besides where I was going would be home. I remember thinking it would be home.

After stopping to visit a friend. And taking time to discover another mountain town I remember driving into Wyoming. The next stop on my agenda was Yellowstone. One of the scenic wonders I had yet to visit.

I remember Yellowstone. It was a special place. And the Grand Tetons. Someone once told me tetons comes from a word which means breasts. The French named them.

After a couple hours in Yellowstone I was ready to continue. I remember wanting to stop in Bozeman and Missoula Montana. For the whole trip I slept in my car. I remember waking up to the beauty of nature outside my window. It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold. The road is so free. In my heart I sometime wonder if the road it my only home.

Bozeman is where I did laundry. And I shopped at a small co-op in Missoula. How did you find us, the clerk asked me. Google Maps. Small towns like Missoula and Bozeman make me miss the days I remember in a small town growing up. I feel so alone in the city. But I have lived in small towns recently and I remember feeling alone in them too.

All I remember of the last couple years is feeling alone. Through the hot and cold.

I remember driving through Idaho. There was a dead deer in the road. I had to drive so it would pass under my car. But it hit my exhaust and broke it. The next morning in a Walmart parking lot I discovered the damage.

Sometimes the universe looks kindly on me. This was one of those moments. In the parking lot was someone who knew how to weld. All he needed was some equipment. They called around and found a shop. We drove over to the shop and he was able to fix my exhaust. I paid him, but the shop owner took no money from me or my handyman savior. The whole ordeal cost me less than $100.

I remember getting back on the road. I knew it wasn’t far. My plan was to drive along the north side of the Columbia. Interstate 84 runs along the southside, it is faster. But I wanted to see the river. To be able to stop and take pictures. I remember some bikers I met along the way.

They were hitch-hiking and I stopped to offer what help I could. They wanted a ride, with their bikes. They said the wind was too much for them to ride through. Not having the space I had t refuse. But I suggested riding at night would be easier.

You see I told them, the land heats the air and it rises. Then air from the ocean, which is cooler, comes rushing to fill the vacuum. But at night, the air above the land will be cooler.

The sun was beating down. The river was full of wind boarders. I remember driving along the curves of the road. My camera battery was dead so I didn’t stop much. And every mile I got closer to Vancouver I remember feeling excited about the life to come.

In Vancouver I would reconnect with old friends. I would make new friends. I would get a good job. I would make money. I would be happy. I remember being so hopeful. So eager for it all to begin.

I remember sending text messages to a friend. I am on my way. I remember thinking I would see her soon. It would be the next day, or maybe the same day. After all the miles. She didn’t live so much further for me to go see her.

I remember driving through Washougal for the first time. Turning onto Interstate 205, and then Route 500. And I must have done something wrong because I ended up at the mall.

When I got to my new home, my friend opened the door with a smile. She has the same stunning beauty of the actress from Portlandia. “Put a bird on it,” I told her.

At last I was here. I remember feeling relived. Almost feeling happy. Her children and some neighbor kids helped me unload and move my things into the room. And then I settled into life in Vancouver.

 

(Post Script: This was written as part of an exercise from a new writing book I bought: Room to Write, Ronni Goldberg. I will post more as I work through the book. The exercise was to write something based on memory. I know I have already been posting a lot of memory stuff. I wanted this to be different, so I choose something recent.)