Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Not a City Girl

I drove my lovely man friend to the airport yesterday. Today I am barely alive. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t had to get up at 6am. No, actually even that wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t gone to bed at an unmentionable time the night before. But what do you expect when you go on a carriage ride and a train ride and open presents and look at pictures and make hot chocolate from truffles and talk about everything- all in one night?! Opening presents was great fun and very lucrative for several members of my family, including me with a brand new (and badly needed) laptop from my dear dad!!! So exciting! Other big-news items were a GPS for my dad (cleverly wrapped so he had no idea it was in there) and a sewing machine for my mom.

So as it turned out, I got about 3 hours of sleep and then drove 3 hours to the Dallas airport. He nodded off while I fought sleep and a growing panic as I saw the gas gauge drop at least twice the normal rate. Would have been nice to know that the gas gauge has some serious malfunctions. Would have been nice to be able to practice unlocking the gas cap under conditions not hampered by time or finger-freezing temperatures and winds. We can’t always have our way. Thankfully (and shockingly), we found the airport without complications. There was a sad goodbye. Nine days is just too long to go without seeing someone you enjoy that much, not to mention the fact that he had been my source of sanity at home.

I was exhausted, but nevertheless I set off in search of friends in the area, friends I hadn’t seen in years. I confidently pulled out my Google Map of the route from the airport to the first friend’s house. …It was for the wrong airport. Bummer! Now I would have to wheedle my way through Dallas trying to reach Ft. Worth so I could reconnect with my map and it’s beautiful directions. It took hours. Ok, so it was only 2 hours, but still it took TWO HOURS for me to get from Dallas to Ft. Worth to a region I THOUGHT was close to my friend’s house. When I finally wearily stopped at a Taco Bell to ask for directions and a burrito, I only got a laugh. Apparently I was so far away from the street I was inquiring about that it was funny. Giving up for the time being, I crawled into the back seat of the car and fell asleep. Two or three hours later…

I woke up to the sound of boisterous Taco Bell patrons. Do burritos really give people that much energy?! Calling my friend to confirm her presence at home, I started off again on my search. Wow, I had been far away! After another hour (and many stops and turn-arounds and puzzled faces and frustrated words), I finally found my destination. Chatter, gossip, catching up- it was wonderful! I had been a full four years since I had seen the girl who’d been one of my closest friends through high school and the first part of college and it was magnificent to see her again! Guess what she had done since I’d seen her last: a) gotten married, b) moved three times, c) had a baby, or d) all of the above?! ALL OF THE ABOVE! Thankfully, her moves had finally brought her back to Texas where I could see her again. I felt so honored to meet her beautiful baby and friendly husband. And so much better now that I had reconnected to a friend that I never want to lose.

Long Lost Friend

I next had dinner with a friend I had gone to school with, oh, maybe six years ago, but had never really gotten to know. We had some wonderful vegan food before running around the frigid innards of Ft. Worth, bumping into female Santa Claus and reading random children’s books. It was a relief to have someone else drive me around. Getting lost is only fun for awhile. I tried to fool him, but I think he could tell that my energy was running low at that point (ok, I really didn’t try to pretend at all- oops!). After he dropped me off I went back and had another chat with the first friend (an hour before just wasn’t enough in which to fit two people’s last four years!).

At the last minute, I decided to drive down to Keene, another hour out of my way, to spend just a few minutes with a couple of friends whom I hadn’t seen since last Christmas. It was pretty late by the time I left Ft. Worth, but I knew that if I didn’t go I wouldn’t see them again until next Christmas and would probably regret missing my chance. I mean, sometimes people die. It’s morose but true and I don’t want to be haunted by the things I didn’t do when they were alive. Not that I thought they were going to die. Not that I thought about that at all, if we’re being honest. Truthfully, I think I just wanted to make the most out of my trip. I figured I might as well push to my limit. So I took off.

Miraculously, I got to Keene without getting lost (not counting the trouble I had getting out of Ft. Worth…)
Unfortunately, the directions I’d been given were missing at least three steps, so finding them once I was IN Keene was not so simple. Envy of my dad with his new GPS was growing. I spent only an hour with them, but it was a wonderful hour! Those people make me laugh so much. And they’re always on my side- how perfect! I was completely stressed over my family’s annoyance that I hadn’t come home early, but their hilarity relieved the tension for me. He is actually my sister’s ex-boyfriend and someone that I basically grew up with- have known him since I was fifteen. He’s been married now for three years and his wife is marvelous. I enjoy her more every time I see her. Their silliness (and a high-jumping dog) was the perfect ending to my hectic but wonderful day.

Oh, but it wasn’t over yet! I still had a three and a half hour drive home, which I started at 11PM. For a few hours, I was doing just fine- thinking about life, listening to Christmas music, talking out loud to myself. About an hour and a half before I got home, I started to get sleepy. I then embarked on a repertoire of stay-awake techniques that would surely impress the most creative trucker: talking on the phone, turning up the music, blasting the heat, blasting the air, pinching myself, slapping myself, country music, Spanish music, road rage, eating, drinking (juice, that is), screaming, singing, changing lanes, trying accents, car dancing…..

I finally made it home. It was so exciting for me to note that although I had driven from Jefferson to Dallas, to Ft. Worth, to Keene, to Jefferson, and gotten lost numerous times, making a total of 10 driving hours for the day, I had only spent about $35 on gas! I felt kind of like an adventurer who had conquered great things and made it home with virtually no losses. Not unlike the time I was lost hiking in the wilderness for hours in the total darkness without a flashlight…. heh… but that’s another story.

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December 22, 2008 Posted by | Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Break for Freedom

It was the big day and flying to Texas was the main item on the agenda. We meant to leave at 8am, but somehow it was 8:45 before we actually slid down the snow-packed street leading to the highway. FREEDOM! I was thrilled to be leaving the confines of my routine and headed out for one glorious vacation. Those thoughts were quickly replaced, however, by thoughts of time and how we might not have enough of it to get to the airport. Judging by the road we left town on, weather conditions were not going to support hurry. Much to my relief, the highway was mostly clear and continued to be so until no traces of winter white could be seen.

After about an hour, we suddenly realized that, because of the nature of our tickets, we could have just as easily flown out of Spokane instead of Seattle, saving us 2.5 hours of driving both ways. Argh! How stupid. We almost changed plans and headed to Spokane after all, but decided to stick with the original plan. Relegating myself to the long drive, I drifted off to sleep.

Waking momentarily, I glanced up and saw nothing but swirling white all around our car! That and a driver concentrating very intensely on the road. “It’s a blizzard!” he exclaimed, rather excitedly. More than anything else, this would be the kind of news to wake me up properly, but I must have been truly exhausted because after a mumbled “Oh wow” I promptly went back to sleeping. I obviously trusted him completely. Blizzard or no blizzard, sleep took priority.

Blizzard conditions lasted through my nap and I awoke again to a white world of uncleared snow, cars in the ditch, creeping trucks, and lowered speed limits. I was a little worried about getting there again, but it looked like we were still making good time, with my travel companion driving as fast as he safely could (and maybe a tad faster, the daredevil). It felt as if the car was constantly in a slide, though, so I opted to look at the sky instead of the road just to avoid panic. I called my mom to ask her to pray for our safety and timely arrival. I also tried calling my sister as I knew that she and her boyfriend would be traveling a little ahead of us to the airport and may be able to give us an idea of what lay ahead, but was unable to reach them.

About the time we reached the pass, three snowplows appeared ahead, going veeeerrrry slooooooow. Uh-oh. We were creeping along at 20mph and the clock was ticking. A line of vehicles piled up behind us. I guess we should have been grateful for the semi-clear wake they left, but we just impatiently wanted to pass them up and get on our way. Thankfully, we were eventually able to pass one, then two, then all three snowplows. Of course, then the road was worse with big ruts that kept throwing the car around. I’m lucky though that I was with a born-and-raised north Idaho boy. He did an excellent job manhandling that snow and we picked up the pace again. I finally got a hold of my sister and she told us that after the pass the snow would soon turn to rain and then, once we got to Seattle, it would be clear. “Yeah right!” I thought, “There’s no way this can completely clear up!” Soon, however, the snow became rain and, as we neared Seattle, we could see blue sky ahead.

We were nearing the city and had enough time, so I began to relax. My ex-boyfriend (I don’t really want to keep referring to him that way but I’m doing it for the sake of anonymity). Anyway, he has always told me that he thinks you can learn a lot about a person and how you interact with them by traveling together. For all the years we’ve known each other, we haven’t actually done that much traveling together, aside from the occasional local trip and a few excursions to Canada. Because of this, he was really curious to see how things would go this Christmas. I actually was quite sure that I wouldn’t learn a lot that was new. I was wrong. Apparently, I spaz out when traveling and he stays perfectly calm. When we took a highway he wasn’t quite sure was right for getting to the airport, I began to freak out a bit and wonder why we hadn’t found out for sure how to get there ahead of time. When he stopped for directions (yes, some men do ask), I sat in the car, nervous about how long he was taking. “Yep, it’s the right way!” he said upon returning and I felt better…. Until I started to think about parking and how we might have to park and take a shuttle and how much time would that take?!? Mr. Calm might have had similar thoughts, but he didn’t voice his panic and somehow it made me feel that he didn’t realize the graveness of this situation. The entire world could cave in!

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but (per my direction) promptly headed into the wrong parking area ($26/day), asked about cheaper parking, and windingly made our way back out to search for such. After a failed attempt to smoothly choose one of the first options we saw, he decided to get out and walk around to ask. What?! Walk?! There was no time for that! But I patiently sat (fuming) while he parking a million miles from the front door and got out.

Our plane left at 3:45PM and I knew that we had to check our luggage at least 45 minutes before that. Angry that we were cutting it so close, I sternly told God that I wanted to be at the airport by 2:45. It was a little after 2:30. I wasn’t sure about demanding things like that from God, but in my defense I was really worried. He returned back to the car having decided on a place to park for $9 a day, so after moving to some back lot, we lugged our suitcases down to the front. “How often does the shuttle leave?” I quizzed my trusty companion.

“Whenever we’re ready” he replied, and I began to feel better. He, meanwhile, was chuckling at my anxiety. He must have thought it greatly entertaining to see me all atwitter with worry. As we pulled into the airport (at 2:40), he looked at me with amusement, “Feel better now?” He said he knew all along that we were going to get there on time and hadn’t been worried at all. What?! Why am I the one freaking out?!

After checking luggage, making it through security (my belt didn’t set off the buzzer- yay!- but taking off my tall boots and putting them in the little bucket was kind of a pain), and finding our gate, I began to relax. Why was I even worried? Obviously, I stressed for nothing, but I guess I just wanted this trip to go smoothly. He and I laughed about my uptightness as opposed to his calm and happily chatted about how wonderful it was that we were headed to Texas together. That is, until we hit our next snag… My ticket was technically a companion ticket, which meant that I was standby status…. And the flight was FULL! Apparently, at least ten people had decided last minute to also fly from Seattle to Albuquerque to Dallas. Not only that, but there were about 5 other people also waiting for standby spots. It was not looking good! I began to despair once again. Pessimist that I was that day, I said “See, I knew something was going to go wrong with this trip!”

My traveling guru, true to nature, was thinking about food at a time like this. It was probably good that he stuffed that extra large (and really delicious) burrito down me because I did feel better after eating it. It is just like him to pay attention our basic needs while I’m worrying about other things like “AM I GOING TO MAKE IT ON THE FLIGHT?!” We sat and made a plan. If I didn’t get on the plane, he wouldn’t either (his ticket was not standby), and we would wait for tomorrow and both get on another flight. Because we then wouldn’t be in Dallas that night when my parents came to pick us up, we would rent a car and drive to Jefferson the next afternoon. The plan was good, but I still preferred the original.

As the time to fly came closer (and the flight was delayed) we hung around the desk hoping for one tiny little “me” spot. Everyone had boarded. I had called my mom by this time and told her the latest bad news “Please pray that I make it on!”

And then. The blessed words: “Linda Troyer!” (They had written my name down wrong) I looked at my friend in amazement “Really?! Did they really just call my name?”

“Yep, you’re on!”

I fairly danced down the tunnel and into the plane, “I can’t believe it! I actually got on!”

“I knew you would. I wasn’t worried.” What?

I called my mom and excitedly told her. “Oh, really?!” she was happy, “ Good! We just prayed for you, like 2 minutes ago.”

“Mama! That’s just the time they called my name!” Sometimes I wonder at my lack of ability to trust in God. Maybe I can learn a little bit from my friend’s calm willingness to just take what comes and “go with it” when things don’t go exactly according to plan. I could also learn from the number of times God has answered my prayers, even the “demanding” ones.

Two flights later we were in Dallas being greeted by my parents, sister and sister’s boyfriend. They were all a little agitated already from getting lost finding that airport we flew into and the apparently intolerable sound of the windshield wiper scraping the entire time. A suggestion of things to come? I didn’t care. My friend and I were happier than ever and ready to enjoy a wonderful weekend in Texas.

After arriving in Texas...

After arriving in Texas, enjoying a delicious 1:00am breakfast...

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas or Bust- Day 3

3PM central time in Dallas, TX. My bus was two hours late getting in, causing me to miss my connection. The next bus leaves at 7:15PM. Here I sit for another four hours with a measly meal voucher as a consolation prize. I won’t get to Marshall until at least 10PM, at which time my poor parents will have to come pick me up. I’m beginning to lose my faith in Greyhound. The low price of the tickets represents what we evidently don’t pay for. That is, timeliness, customer courtesy, and creature comfort. The lack of comfort I expected. The other missing components are a little more disappointing. Horror stories from fellow travelers don’t help at all. Greyhound employees making people cry, security guards breaking their promises. The man in line ahead of me was missing the viewing at the funeral of his fifteen-day-old daughter. By the time he gets there, the funeral home will be closed. One employee even freely admitted that the bus I arrived on is late every day. Why is this problem allowed to continue? Public transport in Europe is so much more reliable and efficient. Buses and trains are almost always on time. I wish I could just fly back next month instead of risking another fiendish bus trip, but I love knowing that I paid my way here for once. Is it worth it? I ask myself.

The man with the big head just tried talking to me. He’s probably harmless and I’m probably rude for being cool towards him, but please, don’t look me up and down like that.

We travelers have to help each other out, and somehow the opportunity to help out a fellow human being in need, especially when you can completely empathize with their plight, makes the ordeal 3% closer to being worth it. Amarillo, Texas had the most ghetto bus station I’d seen after traveling halfway across the United States. I held that annoying faucet down for a young girl so she could clean out her baby’s bottle in the filthy bathroom; I gave a middle-aged woman the rest of my tampons. Here in Dallas, stuck together until 7:15PM, I loaned a blond guy my phone for a couple minutes. He’s spent the summer working at Yellowstone and now he’s trying to get back home to Mississippi. I loaned my purple pen to a frustrated man on the pay phone. And when my bags fell over, oh about a million times, perfect strangers helped me pick them up.

But how do you know when someone really needs help and when they’re just preying on your sympathies? A man approaches with a sad story about how he and his girlfriend are stuck here until 8PM. They’ve already gotten a sandwich with their meal vouchers from Greyhound but now they’re starving again. Could I possibly help them get a meal? He’s so sorry to approach me like this. As I’m searching for my voucher, security hauls him out the door. Hmmm.

Everywhere there is an outlet there will also be a traveler huddled there charging their electronics. I am one such huddled by a set of pay phones. It’s an interesting place to be. I’ve heard a lot of frustrated calls to loved ones letting them know they’ll be a “little late”. I heard a very lengthy call during which a woman talked of God’s will concerning some kind of move and about taking a job and what it said in some “letter”. Just now a beautiful young woman cried on the phone telling her friend about a boyfriend who dumped her as he also dumped her at the bus station. “He said, ‘Don’t ever contact me again and… go with God.’ Do you know how much that hurts? He broke my heart.”

Leaving Dallas (finally!) a guy named Whitney* in probably his early twenties sat down beside me. His ethnicity was difficult to determine, but to me he looked to be an African/Asian mix. He had an Asian’s eyes, but darker skin and a black man’s hair. He wore slouchy pants, a black and white shirt with a random pattern consisting of paisley, spades, and skulls and crossbones, and his long black hair was in ten plaited braids. He wore a brand new cap with playing cards embroidered onto it (the tag was still on).

He asked my name and where I was from. His next question: “So you don’t smoke weed stuff do you?”

“No…not at all.”

“So what do you think of people who do?” he asked. I was a little unsure of my answer, but I did end up telling him I thought smoking weed was stupid. Thankfully he laughed. I asked him why he did it and his answer was typical: to relax. He’s been hooked on the drug since he was nine and he needs it to sleep and to have an appetite.

Anyway, after the weed conversation, I found out that this guy was moving to Longview, TX because there were some people there who want to help him get his life straightened out. He plans to get a job at a plant (“whatever that is,” he said) and get his GED. I was so excited for him! He’s lived in Dallas for 8 years, “stuck in the ‘hood”, and he’s finally getting out. Whitney felt a little scared as we drove through miles and miles of what seemed like nothing to him. Every little town we stopped in he said, “Oh, this isn’t Longview, is it?” He’s off the bus now and beginning his new life. He’s looking forward to seeing trees and crickets. I can’t help but be a little afraid for him, knowing that without a strong will to make a change, he can just continue the life he’s always lived, only in a different place. I very much hope, however, that Whitney found his turning point today.

I finally reached Marshall, TX at midnight. My parents drove up at exactly the same time J

*named changed for protection

August 3, 2007 Posted by | United States | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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