Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On the Road, kinda

If you’ve been ‘following’ me, you know I’ve been traveling. I have a reason and specific targets and so far, it’s been great. When I tell people what I’ve doing, they all smile and say, “Great!”

Or some sort of variation. The question that few ask but many want to:  are you traveling alone?

Yes, I am. And I think I understand not only the question but their concern. 62 year old woman, traveling to strange cities, all by herself? Especially a rather provincial mid-westerner?

I understand their concern. I also know that although I’m good with solo travel, it can pose some challenges. In the past, I traveled mostly with the hub so there were 4 sets of eyes along with 2 brains to keep everything in line.

Now here’s another ‘secret’ from my married life. Mike and I were very different in our travel attitude. I was more adventurous, more spontaneous than was he. I used to say that you could drop me in a strange place where they spoke English, with a solid credit card, and I would be just fine. I would find those things that I wanted to do, that I wanted to see, and get back to the plane or car on time.

Not so the hub. HE was uncomfortable going to a strange place the first time. This may be why we traveled so infrequently. He would stress if I planned a trip and then when we got there, it went better if I had an itinerary, addresses, etc. He would pack 3 times what he needed. He would check our time table compulsively.

On return trip, he was an old salt. A regular. Could talk to a cabbie like a pro. Knew just where we needed to go to do whatever. Gave directions to NEW people. SO, although we traveled to few places, we returned to those few places regularly.

And perhaps, as is true in many partnerships, because he was SO…what do you call it?...scheduled,  I moved to the extreme other side, glorying in a spontaneous “I think I’ll do this.”

I like spontaneity. I get juiced when I fly on a whim. But sometimes, a little forethought would have proven helpful as I reflect.

Once, I traveled to a writer’s conference in Palm Springs, California. I’ll mention the state for readers who are as provincial as I am. I flew into Los Angeles and decided that, for an adventure, I’d rent a car and drive the 100 or so miles to the conference. City driving is exciting, yes?

This was, by the way, in the days before everybody had cell phones. I certainly didn’t. Mike knew that I would be at a certain hotel for two days and that I would return to him a day later. Really, that’s all he concerned himself with and that was fine.

But I hadn’t told him about my driving plan. Nor had I told anyone that I decided (whim) to stay in Los Angeles a few hours before I headed east. Into the desert.

I passed Riverside on a really good, two-lane road. As I entered the desert, it became a 2 way, one-lane road. Hmmm. Might that have been a hint?

And then the sun set. The moon hid behind thick clouds. And THEN it got dark. Really dark. Fast. (For future travelers, there are no street lights in a desert.) Then, the wind began to blow. Sand started to dance across the road in swirls.

“Where is Palm Springs?"  I said out loud to no one as I was...have I mentioned?..alone.

Over to my right, I could see a glow that must be a city. There MUST be a turn off. Right? But not yet. I kept driving.

At this point, it hit me: no one on this planet knows where I am. No one. And I knew that Mike would not call to see if I arrived because we just didn’t do that. I would be missed if I did not arrive home on schedule.

THEN, momentarily, the moon peek through and I saw (SAW!) that I was very close to a sand dune on which there were many wind mills, looking like those monsters from The War of the Worlds.

I also saw something moving away from my headlights, quickly. Maybe a snake. Maybe a monster!

At that point, I assessed: ok, this was stupid. I probably shouldn’t have …..fill in with all the bad choices.

And then, there was a turn off. I turned off. I got to my hotel. I attended the conference. I drove back to LA in the bright sun light. Hey, those are just windmills.

And, I forgot, quite quickly, whatever lesson I should have learned.

I will say that traveling with my very careful husband put a crimp in my spontaneous ideas for adventure. It just didn’t happen.

So, here I am, traveling alone. No husband to curb my enthusiasm for adventure. Is THAT what friends mean when they question, with a concern, that I’m traveling alone?

So, let me assure you that God is watching over me.

My trip to Portland was planned and because my dinner guest had Sunday plans, I stayed over to meet him a Monday. This would give me lots of extra time to explore.

I googled a bit and saw that Timberline Lodge is 80 miles from Portland, on Mount Hood. If you've seen The Shining, you've seen the front of the lodge. Wouldn’t it be cool to drive out and get a picture? Also, as I don’t live around mountains, wouldn’t THAT be fun? So I reserved a rental car, recording the reservation with my other hard copy reservations.

I believe that God was trying to tell me something.

First, I forgot to pack Ms. Garman. I LOVE Ms. Garman. On my adventures, she has pointed me to the exact location I seek. Amazing. And isn’t it amazing that it’s easier to put one’s faith in a little electronic box than in the Creator of the Universe? (That’s a topic for another day.)

While in Las Vegas, I looked for the car reservation and could not find it. I’m still a hard copy girl so I had to flip through several of my little pocket notebooks. No dice.

 I knew I had reserved a Dodge so I checked to see which companies rent Dodges. Many. As I was arriving at the airport in the evening, the prospect of going desk to desk was bothersome. But not so off putting that I would not do it.

Then, God sat me next to a very nice man from Portland. He was returning from a business trip and was taking his daughter skiing the next day.

“Skiing?” asked I. “It’s 50 degrees in Portland.” (Such a travel planner!)

“Yes, but out on Mount Hood, they’ve got a foot of snow.”

“Way up on Mount Hood?” I asked.

“From the tree line. We always get an early snow around here.”

Quietly I drank my coffee. Then, “I am driving out to Timberland Lodge on the main road.”

“Really? What kind of car? An SUV?”

“No. Just some kind of Dodge,” I said.

“Let me show you something,” he said, poking at his phone.

He brought up a photo, just taken, of the Timberline. Covered in snow. (The Torrences would be going no where.)

“I don’t know. Maybe you should get someone to take you,” he suggested, not to dissuade me as I was a tourist and we are good for the economy and all.

Little tap on the head: no Garman. No reservation number. Lots of snow.  BAD IDEA, Lynne.

So, that adventure will have to wait.

God takes such good care of me.

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