As you may recall, I was really sick with an exhausting cold that I just could not shake for about three weeks prior to leaving; the week right before I was much better, but it left me feeling really behind and overwhelmed. I had the compulsion to clean and organize everything I own before I could even think about packing. All of my toiletries were sorted, I sent my mom home with two and a half garbage bags full of clothes, shoes and accessories for my niece and younger cousins and I completed organizational tasked that have been haunting me for literally two or three years!
I had wanted to have my car packed the night before we left, but of course that didn’t happen. Rather, I piled things in the kitchen, next to the garage door. I made a point to pack in things that could double as storage/furniture since I couldn’t take a dresser with me.
My materialistic life was consolidated to a 3x1x1 foot decorative trunk of about 15 pairs of footwear, a matching briefcase of documents, headshots, office stuff and stationary and a third matching horn-sized case with framed photos, small decorations and other sentimental things. Necessary toiletries and hair appliances were condensed to a super handy three drawer plastic storage thing (also about 3x1x1) that I had purchased for my last year of Miss Ohio (Am.). A couple Space Bags full of clothes went in my large trendy suitcase and a couple others were thrown in the car individually. A spare TV took up half the back seat and a wide cardboard box was filled with kitchen supplies. Four of my favorite tote bags carried things like books, my laptop and other small electronics.
Several things I had purchased for pageantry proved useful, like the plastic unit mentioned above; it’s currently my nightstand! My mom had gotten me a fishing tackle set in which four clear organizers slip into a sturdy plastic carrier with a handle. It’s been incredibly handy and all my jewelry, belts and other accessories are contained in a one foot square. Of course there were other miscellaneous odds and ends including small decorative boxes full of stuff and two small/medium rugs.
I don’t know if that all sounds like a lot to you, but sitting in my kitchen it really didn’t look like much. In fact, Loren and I joked that it was equivalent to what I’d take to Miss Ohio each year! However, once he started loading the car, that was pretty much all there was room for! I brought two house plants, but had to leave many items. To look in the bathroom cabinet or closet, you may not even notice someone had left. We didn’t have room for my electronic keyboard or time to appropriately pack several fragile things like my antique lamps, glass-framed diploma or Sandicast statue resembling my cat.
We left the house at noon on a Thursday, about three hours later than we had really wanted to, which I think is good considering families are often that tardy to just go on a vacation, and I was relocating across the country! Not to mention, we weren’t exactly on a tight schedule or check-in deadline.
Saying goodbye to our dog Niki and my cat Fuzzy was so awful, my eyes are welling up just thinking about it. I felt physically ill as I stood paralyzed in my kitchen, not wanting to get in the car. I’ve never outright said it, but I’m sure most of you inferred a long time ago that Loren and I live together. (Many of you probably think that’s wrong, but we never intend to legally wed and I’m not a pageant contestant anymore, so I no longer beat myself up about unrealistic standards and old fashion values.) I just stood there looking at the home we’d created together – the bistro set we picked out, the slate floors we chose together and are so proud of, the suede paint treatment in the living room which we cursed through all three steps of applying!… I’m not just a college student/pageant girl anymore; I had created a home with a man I will spend the rest of my life with and the act of leaving it was a nauseating out of body experience.
I don’t think my tears stopped until we were nearly to Illinois. I just kept thinking “What are you doing?!” I asked Loren, “Have you ever felt like you were doing something so stupid, yet you knew you had no choice but to do it?” I’m the luckiest woman in the world because his answer was “yes;” he understands and supports me.
Anyway, enough with the sad stuff…
We were fortunate enough not to hit rush hour traffic in neither Indianapolis or St. Louis. However, Missouri was rainy. It’s a good thing we hadn’t planned to stop at the Gateway Arch, because as you can see from the picture below, I don’t think there was much of a view from the top.
In fact, the main sites we saw were gas stations. I had packed a cooler with fruit, yogurt, sandwich “fixins’” and Gatoraid; our only sitdown meal the first day was a Steak ‘n Shake, which Loren never usually wants to go to. He drove for the first ten hours or so… I finally took the wheel as night fell on Oklahoma. Even if I had seen Oklahoma, I highly doubt its windy plains could make up for the jarringly negative impression its horrible roads left on me and my tires! I drove for a few hours while Loren tried to sleep, rather unsuccessfully. At a gas station he insisted on taking over again, but we ended up pulling off at the first rest stop we came to in Texas.
Like everyone we told, I was also a bit skeptical that we would really drive straight through to Tucson, Arizona, but at 3 a.m. it doesn’t make much economic sense to get a hotel. I had thought I’d be too scared and untrusting to sleep in the car at a rest stop, but when you’re that road-weary you don’t care, and that’s exactly was we did for a few hours.
As daylight broke over Texas, it pretty much looked like Ohio…! Although something that you don’t see in Ohio is the Lauren Nelson milk billboard. I would have expected it in Oklahoma, but I saw it with my own eyes, on the side of the road in Texas!
When I say Starbucks I’m sure a certain demographic of people come to mind, right? In a Starbucks somewhere in northern Texas I noticed two gentlemen in jeans, cowboy boots and casual button down shirts speaking about where they were headed for that day’s livestock auction… After they get their no fat, half caf, five splenda, carmel macchiato with whip, I’m sure! Cowboys aren’t in my Starbucks demographic, but I guess I overlooked the urban cowboy!
A few miles from the New Mexico boarder the scenery finally changed, we went over a hill and suddenly there were cactus and mesas. We had lunch at an Olive Garden in Albuquerque, New Mexico, paid for by a gift card I received from judging a community pageant, which I found during my pre-packing cleaning spree!
There certainly is a mystique to New Mexico – the skies were a gorgeous blue with perfect billowing clouds; the red rock, cactus, mesas and distant mountains are beautiful, but I have to honestly say the charm wears off real quick! We thought Oklahoma would be the big state to get through, but New Mexico would not end!
With things like Elephant Butte Lake State Park and a town called Truth and Consequences, the road signs did provide some comedic relief.
But then, our Garmin [navigation device] failed us miserably! We had been on endless double lane highways, seen above; then it told us to turn on a regular two lane road. “This isn’t right,” I immediately said. Against our better judgment, we decided it was an adventure, a fun journey and we’d see where the scenic route led us!
Yes, well, it ended up being much more scenic than we had bargained for!
After being on the road for about thirty minutes we found ourselves ascending a mountain on a curvy road. Not just a little curvy, but it turned into 25 mph S curves, followed by a 20 mph U curve, then another S curve; the speed limit slowed to 10 mph around the tightest corner and did not exceed 30 mph! We climbed and descended three times before making a final descent down the other side. We realized, there was not twenty feet of straight road, and though I couldn’t really get a picture to do it justice, most of the time there was a sheer drop to our left. The curves we so awful, at one point I realized it had taken us fifteen minutes to go three miles!
Loren is a car guy who likes a driving challenge, but after ten minutes this was not fun, even for him. Our doors were locked, but I was sure we were going to round a corner and my TV would go rolling out of my back seat and down the mountain. We both flinched around every blind corner, hoping an oncoming car was not in our lane. It took at least an hour to get through and poor Loren was totally fatigued by the time we reached the small at the foot of the mountain and I took the wheel again.
After that, I was dying to see Arizona! We had been in the car well over 24 hours and we were disenchanted with the scenery. At that point, even stumbling upon Area 51 probably wouldn’t have impressed me! I have to say, the ability to travel with someone is very telling about the relationship. While I am in no hurry to drive across the country again, being with Loren the whole time made it meaningful.
Thirty-two hours after leaving Toledo, Ohio we arrived in Tuscon, Arizona, having made a little over five hours worth of stops. We spent the night with a friend/former employee of Loren’s and his wife and two young sons. While it was cost effective, being in a house with a hyperactive four year old was not exactly restful! It didn’t matter though, Loren and I both slept like rocks. After lunch with the family Saturday afternoon we drove another eight hours to LA. (Yes, we literally pulled to the side of a busy highway to take the photo below!)
On the way we went through two border patrol checkpoints. They shook their heads as I took their picture, but both times we were waved right through. I suppose two white people in a Lexus with a packed backseat is not suspicious, but isn’t that racist? I mean, if illegal immigration is such an issue in this country, shouldn’t they check every trunk? The road we were on was not busy in the least, so it’s not like it would dramatically affect traffic…
Anyway, Sunday was Loren’s birthday; my new roommate, her boyfriend, a friend of his and Loren and I had lunch at an Italian restaurant on a dock in Marina Del Rae. The boyfriend and his friend are both here on work visas from Italy and my roommate also speaks the language and studied there, so it was a very fun experience. Loren and I both enjoy learning about other cultures.
We also went out for the night here in West Hollywood, which is “boys town” and had a great time. One of the trendiest gay bars is called The Abbey; I would love to get a job there as a bartender, but I don’t exactly fit the demographic!
For Loren’s birthday, I got a hotel Monday night on the beach in Santa Monica (much love to Priceline!). Although the water was freezing, we enjoyed the pier; we ate at Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company and were very romantically the only people on the pathetic little roller coaster!
The week went far too quickly and that Wednesday Loren had to fly home. I decided that LA traffic is really no big deal; by that I mean, if I could get myself from the airport back to the apartment, crying the whole way, I'll be fine on the roads out here!
Our last trip to LA together was a long weekend about a year and a half ago, during which it rained the whole time. We both hated it! Fortunately, the few days Loren spent here with me were really wonderful. He loved it and did not want to return to Ohio (for multiple reasons, obviously). My point is, the great few days we had made the reality of our future here much more exciting.
So you read all that? Really? Cool, thanks! I haven’t watched much TV at all since being here and my roommate’s not around a lot, so I usually spend my evenings writing. This will probably be the last personal entry I write on this blog; I’ve started another one to chronicle my experiences in LA. I only linked it in a post here for a week, because I need it to be anonymous. I want to remember all of this – it’s been crazy and exciting and overwhelming – and it’s only been three weeks!