Wednesday, August 2, 2017

White Knuckle Driving and Meltdowns - Magic Mystery Road Trip Revelations Part 6

You never know what's going to crop up.
Here's a perfect little mushroom that popped up
next to the Magic Mosaic Table after the rains.
It was a portent of things to come.
Wednesday we left Florida and headed North. Sweet North and home towards my puppies and kitty, whom I had missed every single day. I don't like being away from them, even when we know they're in good hands, and every day I'd air-talk "Good morning Lil Bear, Benji, and Joey Max," to them. Every night at supper time I'd air-ask if they were flirting for their suppers. They flirt so pretty for about half an hour before feeding time. They have an internal clock for mealtimes and treat times that you could set your watch by. And every night at bedtime I'd tell them how many more sleeps 'til we arrived back in town to bring them home.

The day started out all right, we had blue skies, puffy clouds, and lots to see from the initial roadways.

I like roads that aren't closed off by trees so we can see stuff.
Fixer-upper for sure.
All alligators: Stay put!
From the signs along the roadway we learned there are "ponds," "lakes," and "puddles." Yes, "puddles." Some of these puddles are large enough to go boating in. HA!

Another lovely puddle. What is this, the territory of giants?
Though this day started out fine, half-way through I wasn't sure we were going to make it. Why?

Atlanta. (Cue scary, alarming music.)

This is okay. It is NOT Atlanta. 
I don't mind the two-lane roads. We practically bonded with the drivers around us since we were all going in the same direction for miles and miles. We passed them and they passed us. It was like a sort of game to see who could go the longest without a rest stop.

Beautiful atmospheric skies.
As we drove, we marveled at the beauty of the skies and how the white, sandy soils turned into colorful red clay, and then rich, dark growing soils as we got farther north.

As we neared Atlanta, the roads kept getting wider with more and more lanes, more vehicles, and lots of noise swooshing past us.

Eventually we found ourselves on a SEVEN lane highway, and that's just the side we were driving on, there were another six or seven lanes on the other side going in the other direction. FIVE HOURS of terrifying fear. TRUCKS everywhere barreling past and cars whipping in and out. We called those "little zippers." There were assholes and idiots (nod to George Carlin's hilarious take on driving), along with the occasional good driver. They had a lane going down the left that was the "passthrough" lane. It had only a solid white line dividing it (illegal to cross that line for any reason) from the rest of the traffic and vehicles driving in that lane were going speeds of about 70, whizzing past the rest of us who were fighting for space, for a little space between us and the vehicles ahead, a little space to the sides of us where I was sure the spikes on the front hubcaps of the trucks would shred our tires, they were so close, and a little space behind us so we wouldn't get rear-ended.

I pressed my back as far into the back of my seat as it would go, I held on with both hands to the sides of the inside of the car around me. I held my breath for about five hours. And I prayed. I was so scared.

Heck, I used to drive San Diego traffic, which is mostly 4 to six lanes in one direction, but the highways were so much better designed because the on and off ramps were loooooong. Going through Atlanta they're ridiculously short, so merging is a nightmare, and the drivers are so aggressive they don't leave mergers any room.

It felt like it lasted an eternity and I vowed NEVER to do that again. I'm of an age where if I don't want to, I don't have to in most situations, and this was going on the top of my list.

Heading into a huge band of stormclouds.
Oh please stay up there and don't send us a deluge!

We were about to get drenched!
We had RAIN. A deluge of it that also lasted for HOURS. I couldn't see the road and Rob and I couldn't understand how drivers in trucks and big SUVs could fly by at high speeds regardless of the waterfalls on their windshields. It was so bad that for a little while we pulled off the highway and waited for the big rain to pass. Wouldn't you know, that right across from the stop sign at the end of the exit we took was a beautiful little church. We pulled into the church parking lot and checked the weather on Rob's phone as several other highway drivers pulled in after us. It was a fair-sized storm but looked like the red parts of the radar were passing to the east and we could continue on our journey fairly soon, which we did.

When we arrived at our hotel several hours later than we'd estimated because of the snarly traffic through Atlanta and the rain, I pulled out my "Despair Therapy," that my husband had teased me about when I bought it off a little book rack in our hotel in Florida. Despair Therapy works very well when you're fighting depression or fear or the long road back from the valley of the shadow of death. I wrote about the strategies I had learned to use as I climbed that road back up from my daughter's death. The post is called Countering Pain with Pleasure. It may initially seem somewhat disrespectful, but it's just plain good medicine when your heart is hurting. I found I had to force myself to experience pleasure again after the passing of my daughter. I think experiencing pleasure takes a certain amount of trust, and trust gets shot to hell with some kinds of death, maybe pretty much all of them. It took over a year for me to even consider strategies for nurturing good feelings in myself again. Now it's much more a part of my life, and I'm so grateful.

Despair Therapy
It works like a charm.
Rob went to get some ice and while he was gone I started to cry. I was missing my daughter intensely and heading back home, knowing I wouldn't be able to call her was hurting. My nerves, having white knuckled it for so many hours, were stretched tight as a rubber band. It was all catching up with me and I felt just exhausted. Rob was doing amazing. I was so impressed with him I fell in love all over again. He's the greatest person to travel with, and an amazing driver. I'd have gone 300 miles out of my way to avoid that Atlanta traffic.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face so he wouldn't know I had cried. And here's what I saw:

I know, right?!
The little touches in hotels, book racks, and little messages of encouragement are deeply appreciated.

I'm not particularly religious, rather am more spiritually aligned, but I did look for the bible in every room, and it was always there. There's something comforting about that too.

We could see from the hotel room a maze of shopping centers clustered on all sides of the highways, and Rob pointed to the steakhouse restaurant just the other side of our hilly hotel entranceway. "Would you like to go to dinner there?" he asked.

"I can't," I said. I was trying not to cry. So relieved to have arrived at the hotel alive after the chaos of Atlanta traffic and the waterfall windshield driving. I was not about to get back in the car, though I love our car and she takes very good care of us.

"I see a Walmart over there. Can you get us some water and tea for the car tomorrow, and maybe pick up something to eat here in our room?"

"No problem. I'll be right back," he said.

When he left I watched out the window through the leftover rain as he drove down through our hilly hotel entranceway and across to the Walmart. Then I couldn't help crying really hard. God. Where was my courage? Where was my strength? What the heck was the matter with me?

He brought back comfort "food." I put food in quotation marks because this is as far from real food as we ever get. It comes in a cardboard box and little plastic thingies that you can microwave. We're very used to eating all organic and doing our own cooking, using food mostly from the produce sections of the grocery stores at home.

But I was so relieved not to have to drive anywhere that I was very, very grateful for the meatloaf, organic salad (score Rob), mashed potatoes, AND mac 'n cheese. Rob took care of all the cooking just like he does at home, but here in our hotel room he danced back and forth between the microwave and his "de-packaging" zone.

Comfort food xo
Cheers, phew!
He fixed us a welcome glass of wine and served me my dinner on one of those little trays they have in the hotels, and I munched happily and started to feel immeasurably better. And guess what was on the television! A whole string of Chevy Chase's vacation movies. Hilarious! Gift from Heaven! We ate and laughed and slept very well.

And here's the thing - Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelation Number 6 - Trust is a beautiful thing. And when we find ourselves feeling vulnerable because of various experiences we've been through, and our ability to trust is not so good, it's a huge blessing to have someone near us who can uplift us until we get to a place of strength. This was the "Jennifer emotional baggage" I'd been afraid of showing as we planned the trip. It was one of the reasons I dreaded it and didn't want to go. I wanted to be strong for Rob, and wasn't sure I could do that. I did pretty good through the emotional hard parts, but cracked a bit when we reached this safe haven. Uggers. Thank you so much, Rob, for your strength and unflappability.

I said to him, "How is it that you can drive through that traffic and be so calm? Doesn't it freak you out?"

"No, not at all," he said. "I just try to go the speed limit and drive predictably. And I let the aggressive ones go on ahead." He's amazing.

There was one time we had entered a very long construction zone where the traffic was being funneled from four lanes to one. The guy in the car ahead of us had kids in the back who were playing with a flashlight, which was dangerous as it was dark because of the storms and it was also getting late, so the light kept shining in Rob's eyes and he couldn't really block it. I said to him, "That guy shouldn't let his kids play with their flashlight like that, it's dangerous!"

But THEN the guy started making nasty finger gestures at us, and we realized there weren't any kids in his car, it was HIM messing with that flashlight. And all of a sudden he decided to have some fun with us and started BACKING UP on the highway. WTF?!

Rob honked our horn and started cursing and at the last minute the guy stopped backing up before he hit us and then shot flashlight beams into Rob's eyes again. I took a picture of his car with my phone and declared I was gonna call him in. I took several photos to make sure HE saw me taking them.

As traffic merged from the right, flashlight guy sat and sat, letting tons of cars in. He wasn't being nice, he was seeing how long he could make us wait before we lost our patience. My husband is a very patient man.

Well guess what heaven sent us. A BIG, HUGE, HONKIN' white truck with a burly guy driving it. He had hunting stickers all over the window, a very loud engine, and probably a nice shotgun in there with him somewhere.

I said to Rob, "You know what, honey? Why don't we be really nice and let this lovely white truck merge before us. We'll see if flashlight guy wants to play with him!"

So that's what we did, and flashlight guy behaved himself. He got off a few exits down and we said "Bye y'all! Good riddance!"

I was really ready to be home as soon as possible. I wanted my puppies and my kitty and my sweet little town and our swimming pool. But we had two more legs of this trip to go. The one on the next day held surprises of HUGE proportions for us both. It was one of those major milestone days in life. Completely unexpected. A gift.

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