The Short Way Round

So it begins! A journey of noteworthy proportions. Roughly 12,000 miles (give or take), some definite stops along the way but no actual timeline and loads of flexibility.

Day one: Los Angeles to Portland. Close to 1,000 miles or 15 hours of driving. This is the longest distance to cover without stopping. I have done it as a straight shot before. Several times, as a matter of fact.

My mom had suggested I spend the night with Krasi and Iliya in Sacramento. I say “no” with a hint of agitation in my voice because I am certain this is not the last time I’ll hear about it.

I start off the morning by going to the endocrinologist. I haven’t had my thyroid checked in way too long and all the Alzheimer’s books I am reading are emphasizing how it is really important to pay attention to one’s health. There are several areas of interest in particular and in my family I have history of dementia, cancer, diabetes and thyroid dysfunction — all things that remind me that my own thyroid has always been a concern for my doctors. So I start caring, even if begrudgingly.

The appointment goes well. There’s never much to say on a first visit. I am to give blood and then we’ll talk some more. I’m supposed to get out of there, pick up my camera and head out. The way I see it — I could be on the road by 10am at the latest.

I get back to my mom’s place expecting the camera to have arrived. It hasn’t. My mom is on the phone, speaking Bulgarian. Odd!! She goes “oh, she just got here,” which leads me to believe I know the person she’s talking to. Then it dawns on me — she’s talking with Krasi and Iliya. My mom quickly gets off the phone noticing the storm clouds gathering above my head. I don’t need to interrogate her. She confirms that she just asked them if I could spend the night.

- “I’m not spending the night in Sacramento, mom!”

She doesn’t seem bothered by my statement. I decide not to argue. She can’t make me do it. Later on she’ll just find out that I made it to Portland safely and that will be the end of it. I typically stay up until 1am anyway.

FedEx has similarly decided to test my patience. So I try to make the most of my idle time and call my brother. Victor actually answers (I love it when I figure out the time difference correctly). We chat for about an hour. I get super excited and we start daydreaming about what we are going to do together next. Talking to him makes missing him easier.

In the meantime, I get a text from Naomi. She has been throwing up all morning. If that’s not an attack then I don’t know what is. I pray for her and tell her I’ll call her when I get on the road.

When FedEx finally shows up, I’m doing math in my head. I think I might need to pull over a couple of hours shy of Portland and take a nap. No need to be a hero.

I get in the car. I am quickly reminded that my phone stopped connecting to the sound system recently and I’m bummed because I have my road trip play list ready to go. I search for a tooth pick believing that maybe there is simply too much dust in my phone jack hole thingy. Well, it’s kind of fun but it doesn’t produce the desired result. I decide to start driving anyway. I’m just so ready to go at this point. Maybe I need the extra “quiet time.” Nothing can dampen my spirits. Yet! Twenty minutes into the drive, the check engine light comes on.

I text Callista and pray “God, I know this is false alarm but I don’t like the check engine light being on. Could you please turn it off?” I keep driving until at one point I realize that my temperature gage is practically past the red area. Crap! I don’t know what to do so I pull over. All the doubts flood my mind — did I not get it right? Am I not supposed to do this?

I come to the realization that I am parked in front of someone’s home. What’s more — a car pulls up and parks behind me. I walk over the the driver’s window and with a pitiful voice (I’m sure) ask the nicely dressed lady if she knows anything about cars. I doubt she does but I’m looking for reassurance at this point. She says she doesn’t but her husband is a mechanic so she calls him. She takes a picture of what my car looks like under the hood and sends it to him. I feel reassured but not because of her kindness but because I feel that I couldn’t have picked a better place to have a roadside emergency and papa knew that. The guy tells me that it’s nothing serious but the radiator cap in my car is missing. He says I need a cap if I don’t want the engine to explode while I’m driving. I don’t want the engine to explode while I’m driving. I call my mom and then AAA. The tow truck shows up while I’m still talking to my mom. The driver wonders if I’m Polish. It turns out he’s Armenian. Our shared Slavic background and the fact that I’m a missionary makes all the difference in the world to him. He suggests that instead of taking me to the Toyota dealership he can give me a cap for free as he has a mini junk yard as a part of the tow truck office. I consider where I am — the United States — this type of behavior is generally frowned upon in the more civilized countries but I decide to go with my gut and go for it anyway. His name is Andrew and he makes me think of the stereotypical Eastern European guy. Warm cultured and helpful who either knows how to fix everything mechanical or at least thinks he does. I choose the believe the former abou this guy. He gets a new radiator cap and tells me he’ll check all my car’s fluids before I go since I have a long ways to go. In one go, he fixes the check engine light, looks at all my fluids and fixes my radio. I can’t believe it. He doesn’t even write down my AAA number even though I offer it a couple of times. When he’s all done I asked if I could pray for him and his coworkers. He agrees and says he believes in God. In fact, he has just moved his business to this new location 3 weeks ago. I pray that God will bless his business but also that he would hold Andrew fast to him.

All of this takes too long though. When I get back on the road, I realize there is no way I’ll make it to Portland at a reasonable hour. I check what time I’ll drive by Sacramento and it looks like I’ll be there around 11pm. As good a time as any to stop.

As I’m planning it all out I notice a pungent smell in the car. Wait… Did I? No!! I think I’d know if I farted. But where is this coming from? Even though I can’t see outside because it’s pitch dark, I reckon I’m by the cow farms. My mind wants to draw a parallel with a Bible verse but my nose has other ideas and the words “pass out” become somehow relevant.

At last, relief! I call my mom to tell her what happened (not about the smell permeating my car) and at the end of the conversation I mention that maybe I should stay at Krasi and Iliya’s house. My mom doesn’t seem surprised. Oddly enough, I am not irritated by her reaction.

Once I’m off the phone I feel like I can finally be in the moment. Forget my road trip playlist, bring on the Bethel! Jen Johnson comes on. That one spontaneous song always reminds me of good times with Molly. I find myself sinking in.

I switch to the Newsboys and I’m overwhelmed by this feeling. I can easily recognize it. It’s an adrenaline rush. Kind of like when someone scares you real good and your heart wants to jump outside of your chest. Well, my blood was pumping alright. The car was flying forward. It was all happening now.

My nose scrunched up again. What in the world is that? Deviled eggs? Even if I was driving by a chicken farm, why would the eggs smell cooked? Unless I was actually smelling sulphur and I was driving by a mineral spring. It’s possible. Oh well! Back to the music!

All the people sing “woo hoo”

I decided to eat something but I didn’t want to pull over so I took a cucumber and the peeler and peeled it into a plastic bag mainly by touching my way around. I was imagining what it would be like to be blind. When I finally turned the light on I realized that I had done a pretty thorough job. Whoever said you can’t be gluten free and dairy free while on the road.

This time the smell was worse than before. I couldn’t decide between stinky socks or overripe cheese. Either way, it was bad! Poopsicle! Oh well!

Clap your hands everybody. Everybody just clap your hands.

And then a pleasant surprise — my nose was saturated by the feeling of damp earth. There is something so wonderful about that smell. I’ve always found it really reassuring and deeply satisfying. I’m not sure why those are the emotions evoked by the aroma of wet ground but I realize that smell is the only one of the senses that goes directly into the sub conscience. Smells don’t go through the filter of our mind. They just are!

I made it safely to Krasi and Iliya’s house and now it’s time to sleep. Maybe tomorrow’s entry will be a little more full of life and a little less tired! He He!

Nov 12