Sunday, October 14, 2012

#28 Happiness Of The Long Distance Driver

I've been back a week. It's time I face reality, write perhaps the final entry with this blog name and move on to what proves to be the next step in my journey. Lots of thoughts are whirling around in my head. I have been practically inert for 7 days (except for a thorough cleaning of the loft's refrigerator, which was necessary for my health). I am delighted to be back in the warm arms of my family. This week I jump back into seeing friends and tending to business, but I need to say a few words about the therapeutic aspects of long distance driving.
My Cali friends already know of my penchant for driving. For years, I would hop into my car at the mere mention of a show or Diva appearing in LA or SD, and hit Highway 5 running. Well, perhaps that's the wrong word, but my speeds were legendary, as were the number of tickets I acquired. The acquisition of my Prius made the decision to drive all over the region even easier, with the almost 60 mpg gas tank. I expanded to Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, but the joy never wained. Pack a ton of CDs, some snacks and a bag of TootsiePops, and I was gone!
So, with 2 years of not even entering an auto (oh, one taxi, but I didn't pay), my recurring visits to Traffic School were a blip in my memory. Would I be even able to remember how to start a car? Would I get a ticket in New Jersey (or worse Texas, where they take you to the slammer)? Would I get killed by some crazed person when I stopped in a rest area or talked to a stranger? Would I run out of money as the gas prices rose as I got closer and closer to California? Would I make it to my appointed stops on time? So much to factor in.
I drove, rather than "leaving on a jet plane", because of "stuff", and I had a relative who works for Hertz.  Loved the huge discount, and I easily packed up that mini-van with the 20 boxes, 2 appliances, a huge duffel, and even had a snooze space in the back row of seats for those long haul days. I am a genius when it comes to packing and configuring, if I do say so myself, and why's true. Not one inch of wasted space. Of course, there was no room for passengers. No hitchhikers would be picked up along the way. JUST KIDDING I only did that once, in Chicago and boy was that a good story, but I digress.
So, at 7, Sunday evening, I gave my apartment keys to the mean Russian "Super" Mary, and drove over the GWBridge into New Jersey, following the sun. Not much daylight left, but I did give a wistful glance over my left shoulder, back over the Hudson River and bid NYC good-by.....for a while.
First, let me complain about tolls! Damn, I hated shelling out money every new highway system. I need to total up the fees, but they were certainly eating away at my food cash. I had clever remarks to make to the tollbooth takers. Some even laughed and asked why I was so cheerful. Guess that's unheard of on long haul drives, but I was in a good frame of mind. I had already cried my eyes out on 6th Avenue and Minetta Lane on Thursday, so I was over that emotional hurdle. Dinner and Brunch with friends only served to strengthen my relationships. Oh, I hesitate to mention my drunken Subway ride home Saturday night, but it was a glorious send off at Junior's, so never mind.
I drove all night on adrenalin. When the sun rose, I was leaving Pennsylvania. Boy, that is a pretty state on it's western side. Lush forests which were turning into the Fall colors. Stunning. I made quick work of Ohio and Indiana and made it to River Forest, Illinois for my first stop. A quick sleep and check-in with a very sick friend and then off Oklahoma; more friends, some cows, a real bed, great dinner and lots of laughing. I pick my friends well. There was the nerve wracking task of driving through Bush2's state, with Texas Rangers hiding at every crossroads. I was very careful about my heavy right foot. No bad occurrences and one great one. I decided to treat myself to a tiny out of the way one horse town BBQ joint in Childress, TX. I mean one horse. I love sampling BBQ on my drives. This place was cooking the brisket outside, in the parking lot, in a ChooChooTrain smoker and had a home made sauce that Bobby Flay would want to serve. I wanted to stay and live with those people, but I had the long haul to Arizona up next. Coming down from the high country at sunrise,  to the basin where Phoenix is was just magnificent. It was a lonely country road for most of the way and was part dessert, part forest/mountain landscape, a very steep windy road and ended in the hot city: 6,700 ft (57 degrees that night) to 1,117 ft (85 degrees that afternoon). Lunch with another friend and then on to Tucson for my first appointed round of MORE THEATER.
Yes, I had tickets to see Kendra Kassebaum in Next To Normal. That was worth all sorts of stress and long hours. She was delighted to see me, and we had a nice talk before I was buckled up again and on the dark and southernmost road in the US to San Diego for another long night drive. Border guards and check points all over the place. You could see the "WALL" to the left trying to keep  people out, but it was a joke. I was worried I'd hit someone who might have wandered on to the highway. Driving that stretch was interesting and as the lonely auto, I had the good sense to follow the truckers and rely on their knowledge of that unfamiliar road. That was the most unpleasant drive of the entire trip. Oh, also aggravating when the Cali Agricultural guard took my oranges. I got them in WholeFoods in Columbus Circle you jerk!
When I got to San Diego, I met up with The TWickies for my next theater event. Yes, I drive 3000 miles to see my Divas. (Kendra got a big kick out of that line). We did a great lunch together, and I also snuck in a wedding reception for a SD friend's daughter before the show. No, I don't ever stop! Teal Wicks was staring in Jekyll & Hyde for my last "theater" in the foreseeable future. I'll be tied to home for a while and that was a great way to end my theatrical indulgence. Perfect, in fact, when you factor in her warmth and the love she generates. Her family was there. My theater family was there. It was a wonderful evening, that I re-lived in my mind as I drove up Highway 5 the next day. No, I did not get a ticket on The Grapevine! I did stop in Fresno to have lunch with a friend. She asked what I was interested in brainer...Mexican! There are no good Mexican places in NYC. Just ask my Texan friends, who are still searching back there.
I got to Oakland on time. Not even really tired. Delighted to see my pictures up on the wall of the loft where I will be living for the next 6 months for sure. It felt good to be surrounded by loved images. That leads me to think I have one or two more issues to contemplate about my 2 years in New York, so I renege on that threat about no more blog.
Suffice it to say, I loved my cross country trek. It was a wonderful way to transition from coast to coast. I saw friends I hadn't seen in ages (although there were some I missed along the way who are probably miffed with me). Got the chance to think, observe and sing my way through 12 states. Aren't I the luckiest?