Friday, 30 September 2016

My First Day - And Somehow It Ended

I'm really, looking back now, not sure what state of mind I was in.  It wasn't good, and I most likely shouldn't have been driving.  I take some small comfort now in the fact that I'm a good driver.  I'm a safe driver and I was *more* than paying attention, so perhaps my "better than some" driving skills allowed me to be average under these circumstances. 

I've sort of smushed together the rest of the day.  At some point I got out of the woods (heh)... I mean, literally out of the woods and on to the main, big highway.  Which was a bit less terrifying than the windy roads because at least I could be in the "slow" lane and let people go around me but I still had trouble not just staying with the flow of traffic and felt I should keep at the speed limit.  (Which I now know was fast... like I was probably going 100km an hour or more and, well, I didn't enjoy it.)

I hated the driving.  The physical discomfort alone was enough to make me miserable.  Again, I was overheated (it being upwards of 35 degrees INSIDE the van, with the sun ROASTING me through the massive, un-tinted front window) and I was dehydrated (couldn't reach for my water bottle when driving, or anything) and my stress level was at the max... with no music, and the windows wide open to try to cool things off (just the front windows, the other windows in the van still being sealed shut, minus the one Jason managed to get open, cracking it in the process, but that didn't actually give any air flow while driving) but all they did was make noise and allow me to hear vehicles passing at high speed.  Even when I was going the speed limit!!!

I mean that's an aside.... I was going the speed limit.  Pushing myself and the vehicle to do so but I was going the posted speed limit and STILL getting passed.  Where is everyone going and why so fast?  Are the limits not there for safety?  For a reason?  It made me feel even slower to constantly be getting passed even though I was going faster than I was comfortable going.  Ugh.

And my mileage and gas situation confused me greatly.

Every time I stopped for gas (and it was a whole lot less often than I thought it would be) I would text the mileage and amount to Jason.  I tried to do the math myself but came up with really weird numbers that made no sense so I kept track but stopped trying to figure it out.  I filled up pretty regularly, partly because I didn't trust the gas gauge.  I used to have an older car and it would eat up the last quarter tank SO MUCH FASTER than the first three quarters... so I didn't know how the van's worked... it seemed to take a long time to get through a quarter tank and this made me nervous and suspicious.  I never got under half a tank and every time I filled up I was thrown by how little it cost.  Half of this giant (I assume) tank is under $15 dollars?  Wh...at?  Why?  What is going on here.

So my mileage and gas costs had me nervy.  And terribly confused.  And by the time I was more than completely done with it all, I was still more than an hour and a half away from where I was trying to get to.  And it was already past six. 

How on earth that happened, I have no idea.  Especially since I was driving TOO FAST and had taken the shortest route and tried not to linger when I stopped.  I mean I hadn't even stopped for food.  Not even sure I peed.  (Which I probably didn't have to because no frigging water all damn day, ugh!)

So then the next freakout came into full effect.  I was not going to get to the camp site before close.  Then where would I stay?

At the final gas station I tried calling the place, but no answer.  I told them I was coming but wouldn't make it and had no way to call them on the road while driving so I had no idea what to do.  I felt utterly helpless.  Sure, I was in a camper van and could, in theory, just pull over wherever and stay for the night but everything was packed.  Including the emergency pee/poop bucket and, well, I wanted a shower and some civilization.  Ugh.

I called Jason too, furious.  I was rushed, and had no idea how to reserve.  I asked him to help and he emailed them.  Which made me even angrier.  You EMAILED THEM?  Do you not understand I'm in small town America where an email isn't going to get instant response?  What good is you emailing them going to do and you said you would help this is awful!!!!

Somehow I arrived at the site.  And pulled in to some alternate universe full of country music and dogs barking and RVs and I was dazed.  Very relieved to have arrived somewhere.  And I stopped at the office and was extra relieved to see they had a late sign in.  Seems stupid now, but I didn't know.  Had asked Connor when we usually arrived at similar sites and he'd said dinner.  Their site had said they were open til 7 so I'd figured 7 was my arrival.  I'd made it at half past.  (Yeah... remember I *thought* I'd be generously there by five?  Not so much.  Two and a half hours of hell later than google said... ugh.)

I was trying to read my way through the late arrival stuff when someone came to the office and offered to sign me in.  I tried not to cry as I paid for the spot and listened to .. something and then I went back out into the country-music fuelled evening and drove around unable to find my spot.  Sigh.

Then I found it, somehow backed into it (got out, looked, eyeballed the tree, and managed not to back into it) and got out. 

Fuck.

I was miserable.

Completely, utterly, in every way miserable.

And I couldn't even eat because to do so would mean cooking.  And to do so would mean moving everything out of the way to get to what I needed.  Fuck.

I sat on the floor and called Jason.  And I let him have it.  That's all I remember.  I remember being so angry with him and the situation and everything that I wanted to throw my phone and I said I was as angry as he gets (this is very very angry.)  I have never been that angry before in my life.  I was miserable.

Overheated, in a van that was still in the high thirties inside.  In a camp site that was not cool.  In a camping spot that didn't have a table or a seat and for me to eat or sleep I had to move stuff around and I didn't have the energy for that... nor was I willing to put my overheated body through more exertion.  It was awful.  And day one.  What had I gotten myself into?

Jason scolded me for taking the I-5.  I yelled back that that was the only choice I had and I'd still only gotten this far.  He asked me to take photos of the van at the base of Mt St Helens.  I lost my sh*t over that one.  Never mind that I was NOWHERE NEAR the actual mountain (just in the area), I wasn't even going to get to see it myself and I was beyond exhausted and in this awful state and you want me to be artistic?  And do you a photography favour?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME????????  Clearly he had no idea how angry, upset, miserable and done I was.  I was never touching a camera again.

I also couldn't get wifi.  Not that it matters, but I didn't want to needlessly use data if I didn't have to.  I wandered to the.. whatever it was called room that had wifi reception and, oh glory be, it had air conditioning.  I sat for a while, letting myself cool down both physically and emotionally.  Air conditioning was my new most favourite thing in the world and I wanted to marry whoever invented it.  My god it is beautiful.

So I cooled down.  Getting my body to a reasonable temperature (and pounding the Gatorade I could reach) helped a great deal.  I was also hungry, and wanted to get myself fed and showered before dark.  Which was creeping up.

So I struggled through moving things around.  There was nowhere outside to lock up my bike so it just got pushed and smashed and struggled forward.  As did the boxes of my stuff.  And then I realized I couldn't lift the effing cooler.  Because it was filled with block ice.  Oh for crying out loud are you kidding me?  Because that's where I need to sleep.  Right there where that massively heavy cooler is that I can't lift. 

Tears of frustration are the worst.  Especially when you're alone.  Because you know they're not going to help and you know you can't wallow in how upset you are because there's no one else here going to do anything.  Not even yell-texting Jason was going to get anything done. 

This was awful.

I grabbed out my propane BBQ thing and my chair and I put them out behind my van.  I fired up the stove thing and I tried to cook a steak on it... forget the potatoes I'd planned to make... my water wasn't accessible.  Yet another reason I wanted to pack the van myself... So that I would have thought through my evenings and known what I needed to get access to.  So forget everything but a steak I would try not to burn and try not to make raw.

I'd never cooked a steak this way before and by now it was dark.  I got out my headlamp and more Gatorade and I sat there trying to cook myself a steak, while not losing my cool (ie. not curling up on the floor and bawling) while trying to ignore the fact I had to do all this again tomorrow.

I ate the steak.... or some of it anyway.  It was fine.  Bland.  Cooked fine enough.  I figured it would be ok for dinner again tomorrow.  I was kind of proud of myself.

I took a photo.  Sent it to Jason.  My headlamp lit weirdly cooked steak on my little Coleman BBQ stove thing.  And the one giant knife I could find cutting it.  Sigh.

But yeah, I was kind of proud of myself.  I'd never camped alone before.  So never cooked like this before.  And there I was, in a campsite in Washington, eating a steak I'd bought and cooked myself.  All by myself.  I guess that was pretty cool.

I put things back in the cooler.   Managed to move it (to the floor, but whatever works) and make a sort of makeshift bed that I would be ok enough sleeping in for the night.

I had a shower.  That helped cool me off too.  But... the van was not cool at all.  And I couldn't leave the front windows open without risk of bugs.  And no, I couldn't access any bug spray.  But I left them open and pulled the curtains and it was so uncomfortably, miserably warm.

I was very sad about the time.  I was supposed to be sleeping in a hotel in California... and I wasn't even out of Washington.  I was supposed to be arriving in Black Rock City the next morning... but I wasn't even in Oregon yet.  This sucked.

And I had days and days of this misery and heat to go.  I did not want to keep going.  At all.  This was all so very much not ok.

I lay on my bed (naked, with a sheet covering in case anyone could see in through the cracks in the curtains, but that sheet was even too hot) sad and drained and exhausted and unhappy, and I tried to make some notes so I'd eventually be able to write out the day for you.  I'd brought my computer with plans to type the day out each night but I was too exhausted for that... and no way I wanted to move anything else... so the most I could manage was a few hastily scribbled words.    And the last word on the page I wrote stuff on was "sigh"

Yeah.  Sigh. 

This was not how this trip was supposed to go.  None of it.  Not even a little.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

My First Day - It's Only Just Started.

I'd not been on the road fifteen minutes and I was already hating it.  Overheated, no music to calm me down, and no control over the frightening ways the vehicle was being moved around.  And no experience of how to handle it.

Other than hearing Jason's voice in my head "if she starts to wobble and you try to compensate, you're dead."

Great.  I'm dead.  Fifteen minutes into the trip and I'm dead.  This is not ok.  Not at all.  And I am terrified. 

And, that, you guys, was kind of as good as it got for the day.  As in, it only got worse.  Yep.

I'd planned out routes using Google Maps and while initially Jason and I figured three hours of driving a day would be a reasonable amount for me, I was now running late (I had a hotel booked for this night waaaaay down in California... seeing as I was supposed to be arriving Saturday, but... well, chuck that in the "money that got thrown away" bin and, well, yeah) and thought I would push a bit further each day to make up for ... things.  I'd made a couple of routes, one the "short drive" route, the other the "longer" route and as the day progressed (in a combination of slow motion and never ending high speed horror) I realized there was no way I was making the "longer" route.  So I headed for the stopping point I'd planned... a site near Mount St Helens.

Washington state, for whatever reason, seems to take forever to get through.  I find this frustrating, and because it always looks like a short, squat state, the idea that I wasn't going to even get out of it on my first day was disheartening.  But I was also stunned by how difficult it was to travel.

Jason, at some point in the planning, had tried to suggest that the time line google maps suggests is actually several hours short of what the trip would actually take.  He pointed out that the google maps time doesn't take into account several things... like traffic, or speed, or pee breaks, or gas breaks, or stretch your leg breaks (etc) and when he mentioned this I just kind of shrugged... whatever.  I wouldn't take any more time than google maps said, that's why they're google maps.. they KNOW stuff.  So from where I landed to where I was going, Google maps said it was four and a half hours.  So let's be generous and say five.  I'd left the Safeway (with no ice!) around noon, so I'd be getting to my camp spot by five.  In my mind, that was early enough in the day that I could actually keep driving if I wanted to... maybe make it to an Oregon spot after all.

But, yes, this was all thought out before hand... and typed into the GPS before I got on the road and found out I was probably going to die every damn minute.

One of the things about entering Washington state where I did is you don't have a lot of driving choices.  You can go down the 101, or you can go along the coast.  (Or other longer routes beside the 101 but I'm simplifying.. )The coastal route was the initial (months ago) plan but I now had no time for pretty, slow drives, and the "other route" was an unknown to me and as I was trying to cut down time as much as possible, the 101 to the I-5 (big, main highway, fast and straight) it was.

So once I got.... I dunno, off whatever portion of highway buffeted me with crosswinds and whatnot, I headed into what should have been quieter, no longer double lane forest lined roads.  I had never been there before.  Ever.

But hey, that's what GPSes are for.. it was leading me the way I had/needed to go... so just keep trucking I guess.  (Turns out it was the exact same route Connor and I have taken every year... things just look so different when you're driving.. it's crazy.  At one point, I had just finished calling Jason ... from the side of the road, I'm not a moron...  and telling him that I had NEVER been on this road before ever, which wasn't helping when I got back in the van and drove past a place Connor always points out on the trip.... Oh... guess I have been on this road before... weird.)

And this particular portion of the road was so much more stressful than the high winds (at least in my mind) "big" highway portion of the drive.... because now there was nowhere for people to pass me.  And it was windy.

Not windy as in wind blowing, but windy as in twisty.  Curvy... mother trucking curves on a road with people pushing behind me and me doing my best to keep up to the speed limit while not dying.

And seeing the occasional sign that said "slow vehicle pullout ahead" but going so fast I couldn't see them in time to pull into them and even if I had I would have likely slipped on the gravel and had some kind of accident.  So it was awful.  It was awful because I didn't feel like I had any safe control of the vehicle.  I was barrelling along, trying to keep myself on the road (Oh, hi rumble strips!  I appreciate you but you scare the bleep out of me and now everything's vibrating and I have to try not to yank the wheel too hard away from you FUCK) while avoiding the oncoming RACING traffic and it's dark in here because trees and winding and I don't handle the curves well and I can't even pull over to let the angry people pass me and holy hell this is awful.  It would be awful if there was no one behind me but there are people behind me and I'm literally scared for my life every time I hit a corner.

Oh, and please, let's remember there's no music.  There's nothing but the open windows making noise and the fact that my lips are cracking because I can't reach for my water bottle and I can't let go of the wheel to wipe the hair out of my eye or take off the sunglasses and this is horrendous and terrifying and I can not keep doing this.  Plus it's hot and I'm covered in sweat in the most uncomfortable way and this van isn't even comfortable to sit in and everything hurts and what... it's been not even an hour?  And I'm supposed to keep going?  Screw this.

And at a certain point in this death road of curves and pullouts I can't slow down enough to get into I see a turn to a building on the left and I turn off and into their parking lot.  Which is when I call Jason.

And I try try try to explain how awful this is, while I sit in the shade in the back of a parking lot in the middle of some Pacific Northwest forest you have to basically die to get to, I feel completely screwed and stuck.  Because I'm not going back that way.  And I do not feel safe or comfortable enough going forward.  And as I'm sitting there trying to calm down talking to him time is ticking away.  I do not have time.  I need to get places.  Why am I doing this?  This is stupid.  It's NOWHERE near fun.  Like, at all.  And not only is it not fun, I hate it.  Oh, and not only do I hate it, it is completely unsafe.  Like, I recognize this.  I know that what is happening is unsafe and I am at a real risk of being so un-prepared for this drive, in this vehicle, that something bad may end up happening.

Jason listens (I have no idea what I said) and reminds me the speed limit signs are the MAXIMUM one is supposed to drive and that I should not be trying to drive them.  He tells me that neither myself nor the van will do well at those speeds and that I should not go over 50.  At all.

Well, I've already been over 50 several times (miles, by the way, and the van's spedometer is in miles anyway so I can't even mentally tell myself "hey, that's quite fast, it's X km", because I just see 50 and it's what the sign says and what people are pushing me to do and I can't not) so screw that, and I try to explain to him the pressure I feel from the vehicles behind me.

He tries to explain that they know I'm a big, old, slow, camper van and aren't expecting speed.  I tell him he's not here.  He's not seeing or feeling what I'm going through and I can't slow down.  I just can't.  (I hear myself say it and the logical brain says Oh Victoria, of course you can, but I really really was not able to go any slower than what the posted signs and pushy flow of traffic wanted.)  Again, minutes tick away... I tell him I HAVE to go.  I head into the store, pick up some cans of propane (because the Safeway didn't have them either... or much at all really) and I tell her how scary it's been on the road and how awful people have been.  She nods and agrees, and tells me how bad it was for her her first year working here but that it's better now.  Somehow this makes me feel a bit better... that it's not just me.  That these roads are not fun or easy to drive.  But it doesn't make them go away.  I still have to push forward.

So I get back in.  And I try to keep going.  While trying to keep on the road, while maybe trying to sort of kind of go a bit slower.  It helps if I look in my side mirror less (can't see the person on my tail) but I feel I need to know who's around.  At times, there is no traffic behind me and I slow a bit and it's easier.  Still not good, but easier.  It is scary.  And so curvy...windy.... I am miserable.

And we turn one corner, see cones, and there's a flipped semi.

Yes.  An entire, large, however-many-wheeled-semi fallen over on to its side.   And it's this very frightening and visceral reminder that I do NOT have to go fast.  He went fast and that feeling I keep having on the corners of maybe tipping?  Yeah, he did that.  A professional driver tipped on these roads.  I could too.  I need to be careful.  This is a sign I feel I can take that it's ok to slow down.  Take those corners in a way that won't have me ending up like he did.

This doesn't calm me.  Just frightens me more.  Because the fears I had in my head of losing control of the van are now made all that much more real.  A flipped semi.  I'm not comfortable.

I'm really, looking back now, not sure what state of mind I was in.  It wasn't good, and I most likely shouldn't have been driving.  I take some small comfort now in the fact that I'm a good driver.  I'm a safe driver and I was *more* than paying attention, so perhaps my "better than some" driving skills allowed me to be average under these circumstances.

I've sort of smushed together the rest of the day.  At some point I got out of the woods (heh)... I mean, literally out of the woods and on to the main, big highway.  Which was a bit less terrifying than the windy roads because at least I could be in the "slow" lane and let people go around me but I still had trouble not just staying with the flow of traffic and felt I should keep at the speed limit.  (Which I now know was fast... like I was probably going 100km an hour or more and, well, I didn't enjoy it.)

I hated the driving.  The physical discomfort alone was enough to make me miserable.  Again, I was overheated (it being upwards of 35 degrees INSIDE the van, with the sun ROASTING me through the massive, un-tinted front window) and I was dehydrated (couldn't reach for my water bottle when driving, or anything) and my stress level was at the max... with no music, and the windows wide open to try to cool things off (just the front windows, the other windows in the van still being sealed shut, minus the one Jason managed to get open, cracking it in the process, but that didn't actually give any air flow while driving) but all they did was make noise and allow me to hear vehicles passing at high speed.  Even when I was going the speed limit!!!

I mean that's an aside.... I was going the speed limit.  Pushing myself and the vehicle to do so but I was going the posted speed limit and STILL getting passed.  Where is everyone going and why so fast?  Are the limits not there for safety?  For a reason?  It made me feel even slower to constantly be getting passed even though I was going faster than I was comfortable going.  Ugh.

And my mileage and gas situation confused me greatly.

Every time I stopped for gas (and it was a whole lot less often than I thought it would be) I would text the mileage and amount to Jason.  I tried to do the math myself but came up with really weird numbers that made no sense so I kept track but stopped trying to figure it out.  I filled up pretty regularly, partly because I didn't trust the gas gauge.  I used to have an older car and it would eat up the last quarter tank SO MUCH FASTER than the first three quarters... so I didn't know how the van's worked... it seemed to take a long time to get through a quarter tank and this made me nervous and suspicious.  I never got under half a tank and every time I filled up I was thrown by how little it cost.  Half of this giant (I assume) tank is under $15 dollars?  Wh...at?  Why?  What is going on here.

So my mileage and gas costs had me nervy.  And terribly confused.  And by the time I was more than completely done with it all, I was still more than an hour and a half away from where I was trying to get to.  And it was already past six.

How on earth that happened, I have no idea.  Especially since I was driving TOO FAST and had taken the shortest route and tried not to linger when I stopped.  I mean I hadn't even stopped for food.  Not even sure I peed.  (Which I probably didn't have to because no frigging water all damn day, ugh!)

So then the next freakout came into full effect.  I was not going to get to the camp site before close.  Then where would I stay?

At the final gas station I tried calling the place, but no answer.  I told them I was coming but wouldn't make it and had no way to call them on the road while driving so I had no idea what to do.  I felt utterly helpless.  Sure, I was in a camper van and could, in theory, just pull over wherever and stay for the night but everything was packed.  Including the emergency pee/poop bucket and, well, I wanted a shower and some civilization.  Ugh.

I called Jason too, furious.  I was rushed, and had no idea how to reserve.  I asked him to help and he emailed them.  Which made me even angrier.  You EMAILED THEM?  Do you not understand I'm in small town America where an email isn't going to get instant response?  What good is you emailing them going to do and you said you would help this is awful!!!!

Somehow I arrived at the site.  And pulled in to some alternate universe full of country music and dogs barking and RVs and I was dazed.  Very relieved to have arrived somewhere.  And I stopped at the office and was extra relieved to see they had a late sign in.  Seems stupid now, but I didn't know.  Had asked Connor when we usually arrived at similar sites and he'd said dinner.  Their site had said they were open til 7 so I'd figured 7 was my arrival.  I'd made it at half past.  (Yeah... remember I *thought* I'd be generously there by five?  Not so much.  Two and a half hours of hell later than google said... ugh.)

I was trying to read my way through the late arrival stuff when someone came to the office and offered to sign me in.  I tried not to cry as I paid for the spot and listened to .. something and then I went back out into the country-music fuelled evening and drove around unable to find my spot.  Sigh.

Then I found it, somehow backed into it (got out, looked, eyeballed the tree, and managed not to back into it) and got out.

Fuck.

I was miserable.

Completely, utterly, in every way miserable.

And I couldn't even eat because to do so would mean cooking.  And to do so would mean moving everything out of the way to get to what I needed.  Fuck.

I sat on the floor and called Jason.  And I let him have it.  That's all I remember.  I remember being so angry with him and the situation and everything that I wanted to throw my phone and I said I was as angry as he gets (this is very very angry.)  I have never been that angry before in my life.  I was miserable.

Overheated, in a van that was still in the high thirties inside.  In a camp site that was not cool.  In a camping spot that didn't have a table or a seat and for me to eat or sleep I had to move stuff around and I didn't have the energy for that... nor was I willing to put my overheated body through more exertion.  It was awful.  And day one.  What had I gotten myself into?

Jason scolded me for taking the I-5.  I yelled back that that was the only choice I had and I'd still only gotten this far.  He asked me to take photos of the van at the base of Mt St Helens.  I lost my sh*t over that one.  Nevermind that I was NOWHERE NEAR the actual mountain (just in the area), I wasn't even going to get to see it myself and I was beyond exhausted and in this awful state and you want me to be artistic?  And do you a photography favour?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME????????  Clearly he had no idea how angry, upset, miserable and done I was.  I was never touching a camera again.

I also couldn't get wifi.  Not that it matters, but I didn't want to needlessly use data if I didn't have to.  I wandered to the.. whatever it was called room that had wifi reception and, oh glory be, it had air conditioning.  I sat for a while, letting myself cool down both physically and emotionally.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My First Day - Across The Water

So there I am... it's not yet noon and I'm driving off the ferry towards Burning Man!  I did it!  (Well, the first part/fear anyway... I got on and off the ferry... and no, my van didn't smash into anything despite my lack of e-brake, sweet!)  I was really happy I'd made that ferry.  It meant I could get further along on my drive than if I'd been on the next ferry.  Success!

I always get a little nervous going through borders, but I always have a smooth time so I was my usual amount of nervous.  I had my passport and polite smile ready and was keeping my phone out of my hands (the temptation to text that I'd made it was high!) and I told the border guard where I was going and all was well and he handed me back my passport and told me to just pull over there for an RV inspection.

Wait.. what?  A... I... oh...crap.  I kind of immediately went into calm panic mode.  Pull over where?  Just let me make sure?  Behind that van?  Ok, thank you.

Panic, panic, panic.  See, I grew up near the US/Canada border so went through it quite regularly.  For milk, gas, and cheese, of all things.  And new runners.  But going through so often (and so slowly) you see things.  And hear stories.  About vehicles that get pulled apart.  Quite literally.  And inspected for.... whatever.  And then just left.  I'd never been pulled over before.  Not with Connor.  Not with my parents or when I was a teenager.  This... was ... new.... and possibly not good.

I texted Jason.  "Getting inspected"  And I tried to maintain my calm.  I quite literally had nothing to hide, so there was nothing for me to be nervous about them finding.  This was something Jason and I hadn't talked about as a possibility other than him pointing out that if I was at a border I should get out using my driver's door (the locks don't work very well and so the passenger side door is stuck closed... and I almost broke a key off in it, which Jason spazzed about... no... really... so it's safest... key wise, to get in and out using the middle van door, but Jason had said guards wouldn't like that.  So... I unlocked the middle door and the driver door and sat with my passport at the ready... being calm.  Half smile on my face... because calm.

I then saw the guard walking over with a bag of fruit and I was relieved.  Ok.  This wasn't a trash your vehicle kind of inspection, this was a "looking through coolers" kind of inspection.  Phew. 

I figured.  Probably.  Right?  Calm.

So I lifted up the lid of my main (empty except for "fake ice" packs... which OMG leaked later in the week I've just remembered that!  Don't get the soft side ones, they can puncture UGH! I had to clean stuff and dispose of them a few days later!) cooler in the main part of the van and the red one (pictured above!  See?  There was a reason for me to repeat use this picture!  I bought this cooler for my first trip and have used it as dry goods storage every year.  I don't know if this thing has ever held ice!)  And I waited patiently.  The nice border guard came over and took my passport and the slip of paper (with magic code I guess) I'd been handed and asked to see inside.  "Sure, side door's open, come on in!"  I said, really not having any idea of proper protocol here.  Did I... open the door for him?  Just sit there?  I had no idea.

He asked if I had any food, I said no, just dried goods like chips and crackers.. you know, not so healthy!  "So processed goods."  He said.  Ok, I told myself, not really a joking situation... got it.  "Yes, processed goods."  He looked inside the big cooler and dug through the small (dry goods) one a bit and then asked about the back.  I'd forgotten I had another (empty) big cooler in the back storage area and suddenly wondered if he'd think I was trying to hide something.  And then I didn't know if I could easily get to it BECAUSE JASON PACKED MY VAN DAMNIT! But I got the door open (a little fiddly) and I only had to move one thing a little and I opened the empty cooler and that was it.  "Thank you, have a nice trip."  "Thanks!"  Phew.. relief.

Until I saw the other two border guards walking over towards me.  Aw crap.

Smile and calm, Victoria... smile and calm.

"So, where are you headed?"  they said, and I told them Burning Man and we talked about the weather (so brutally hot, I always say, because it's so true) and there was some small talk and I realized that's all this was... just small talk.  I was relieved.  And polite.  Of course.  And I mean I imagine that if they'd chatted with me and I'd seemed off in some way they might have.. who knows, whatever their job entails.. inspected or something, but I also wonder if maybe the single woman with the giant old camper van is a bit of an interesting thing on a regular old Friday.

One of them left and the other chatted a bit longer, mentioning how nice the tires I had were.  I explained that my friend had insisted on them and he told me again how great they were.  (I dunno.. tires are black and... uh.. have knobby bits on them... I don't know, except how much they cost... oh, and Jason had insisted I bring all my receipts with me in case someone at the border thought I'd bought things in the states.... like the shiny new tires.)  But yeah, apparently the tires on my van are impressive.  Not that I knew what that meant when the border guard (who I'm still at this point kind of nervous about) points to my van and said "you've got mud flaps on there."  And I think, oh man, have I screwed up?  Is my vehicle in trouble somehow?  But the blank look I gave him was followed by him pointing at the tires... "nice tires..."  Oh... right... thanks.  Geez.  "Where are you off to now?"  He says... "Uh... Safeway for... ice?"  I say... wanting to be polite but also wanting to get out of there before they change their mind and something bad happens.  He gives me directions which I don't understand at all and only half listen to and I thank him and wish him a good day and I get back in the van and text Jason that it's all ok and I fire up Google maps (faster than getting the GPS out and I type in Safeway and I... drive away.  Made it through the border and woah.. I survived that.  An inspection.  First time for everything I guess.  Connor and I never got inspected.  Maybe it's specific to camping type vehicles.  But.. I don't think we were inspected our first year either (when he had his camper thing)  But hey... it turned out fine in the end, just was a little nerve wracking.

So I head up the road to Safeway (not sure why there in particular, but that was the destination that'd been chosen) and I top up the gas tank (after getting a "postal code" or whatever they're called... Zip code) and it costs like... nothing.  I get kind of weirded out.  Text Jason... uh... a quarter tank cost, like, ten bucks?  Is the gas gaugue broken????

No, he says, that's just how much cheaper gas is in the States.

Woah.

I park.  "Park"  because Jason's told me it's ok if I take two spaces... a little extra in the back so that I don't feel blocked in, but the parking lot's not too full so I don't feel too bad.... plus I'd like that extra room to pull out into... still trying to figure out the turning radius or whatever.  I call him.  In the parking lot.  Because I'm revving pretty high stress wise and he's the one person I can count on.  He's also the one person I know who's working from home right now so I can actually call him.  No idea what we talk about.... I mention the border.  The cost of gas.  How it's hot and I'm scared.  I just want to stand there talking to him on the phone and never leave.  Or maybe just come home.  I keep talking to him.  Watching the people.  I know I should do something... get on the road... find my grocery list...  but if I just keep talking to him I'll be ok.  It'll be ok.  I can just not... do anything.

But eventually I tell him I should go.

I head into the store.  I buy things... like booze I told my camp I'd pick up.  It's expensive but who knows when I'll be at a grocery store again.. not sure of my time line.... so I may not be shopping in Klamath Falls like usual and I'd hate to show up without what I said I'd bring so better safe than sorry... get it now.  So I get booze and fruit (but just for today, can't take it across into California... they inspect) and a steak... because I'm camping for the next few days and... Jason has talked me through managing my ice in my coolers and suggested I try cooking a steak.... which I've only ever done at home but ok.  And a few things for the trip.  Like Gatorade.  But they don't have the big bottles.  But again, for whatever reason, I'm feeling a lot of stress about getting what I need NOW.  So I do.  And I ask about getting ice as I'm paying, and they tell me they're out.

The store is Out.  Of.  Ice.

Fuck.

Our entire plan revolved around me getting ice at this stop and doing my food cooler this way and my ice only cooler than way and now I have no ice. 

I look on my way out and there are a few bags of block ice.  I go back and buy them.  (They were part of the plan and better than no ice at all because I bought a steak damnit!  And cheese!  And why am I doing this I am so not prepared for this I never camp by myself.  I haven't camped in ages anyway and now I'm going to do it by myself AND I'm going to try to feed myself and what the bleep am I thinking.  This is such a stupid idea.

But I go back to the van to unpack my stuff.

And someone has parked RIGHT behind me... in the 3/4 spot I left.  Cuz Jason said I could.  Sigh.

I open the van.  It's roasting in there.  Like super hot.  Ugh.

I transfer my groceries into whatever areas I can.  Remember... I didn't pack the van.. I only discover what's there as I'm going.  While maneuvering around the bike and coolers and good lord it's awful.  And hot.  This is stupid.

I pack my food into the cooler that was supposed to have more ice in it than it does and I just cross my fingers that I don't poison myself.  The steak should be fine, and the cheese too... not much else that would kill me but still... who sells out of ice, I tell you...

I check the thermometer... it's 40 degrees "outside"... I take the part of the thermometer that's meant to measure outside down off the window because it's not helping to have it register that hot.  The thermometer says it's 35 degrees "inside"... which is.. where I'm sitting.  With both windows down... and this is so uncomfortable and I'm not even in the desert yet.  Could this be any dumber of an idea?

But I sit, and text Jason, and pull myself together and I program.. wherever.. into the GPS... and Google Maps and I connect my phone to the bluetooth speaker I got and I have some tunes and I have some food and I'm heading to Oregon!  Or at least as far south in Washington state as I can get before it's either dark or I'm done for the day. 

I start her up (she's fine once you've had her going for a while and it's not the morning cold start.. well she's not fine, but she's way better) and we pull out and on the road we go and all of a sudden I'm beaming.

Look at me!  I'm driving!  By myself! This big old van!  In the States!  I'm doing it! I'm on a solo road trip!  ME!  I'M DOING IT THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!  YES!!!!!!  Here I go!!!!!

And I'm happy.  I'm happy and I'm proud and I'm actually seeming to drive her ok and yeah, maybe I can't see out the rear (no mirror) but I could see out of the side mirrors if I was relaxed enough to look at them and no, I can't glance down at the gagues but my GPS has a readout of how fast I'm going and it glows red if I'm too fast so I'll be ok.  Oooh and it beeps when there's a school zone!  Thanks GPS! 

And then the crosswinds hit.

Or not maybe even crosswinds.  But they felt like crosswinds because the entire van started to wobble.

Which wasn't fun.  I realize now that I'd made it out of town and onto the highway so the speeds were higher, but at the time all I knew was that I wasn't really feeling like I could control the van and it was wobbling and I felt like I was going to get pushed over and toppled over and now all I could hear was the wind rushing by, no music at all, and the zoom of drivers as they passed me by at full speed.

F*ck.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

My First Day - First Things First

A.K.A. Day One.

A.K.A. Ugh.

So, I drove myself to Burning Man.  And it was awful.

No.  Really.  (Here's what I said about it... while in the middle of it... "Yesterday was horrendous.  I don't want to exaggerate, but nor to I want to under-ggerate.  (Not a word, I know) but it was awful.  I was miserable.  And scared out of my mind.  And that's just the tip of it.")  It was horrible.

The month leading up to me was completely stressful and not at all fun, and the week (or two) leading up to it was even worse.  I hated it and wanted it to just be done.  All of it.  It was whatever synonym for awful you want to use.  Really bad.  And then, I'm afraid, it got worse.

So here we are at my attempt at recounting the trip down.  Pretty much a month to the day after it happened.  Which hopefully means I have some distance from it and won't have to relive it quite as intensely.

While I had booked the first ferry for Friday morning, that meant getting up and out of the house before five a.m. and after the terrible evening Jason and I had just had and the hours of final organizing and packing I'd done after he left, I didn't think it was wise to aim for that one... but still, I was up early, with very little sleep and a body that did not want to participate.

Jason had said if I wasn't awake by whatever time, he was calling.  But I was awake, and not wanting to be.  My body doesn't do lack of sleep, or early mornings and it was rebelling the main way it knows how... stomach stuff.  I felt awful.

Jason said he was coming over.  I asked him not to... somehow I just wanted to avoid anything.  But he headed over.  I can't quite remember the details, but my stress level was beyond.  I brought down the things I needed to pack and Jason got mad.  Something about how I should have brought them down last night and I just couldn't handle it so I yelled back.  All while trying not to wake up the neighbours.  Brought down more bags (my travel bag, camera bag, purse, etc.) and he had loaded things.  My bike.  My bedding.  I was furious.  How was I supposed to un-pack and re-pack the van every night when he had packed it!  How was I supposed to know where anything was, nevermind put it back together the next morning when I had to leave again?  Why had he done this?  I scream-yelled like I never have before.  A giant "FUCK!" that I don't think has ever come out of me before but I was so so angry and done and unimpressed with everything and this whole entire cluster-f*ck of a stupid situation.  I didn't even know how he got my bike inside.  Or how he'd secured it.  He did it and he didn't even show me and this was pretty much my last straw.  I continued to express my extreme upset at this whole situation while I un-did the bungees around my bike to see how he'd set them up.  Which then had him yelling because I'd un-done and somehow ruined them.  You guys, it was the worst.  Just the worst.  I wanted nothing to do with him ever ever again.  Ever.

And Jason and I have these moments.  They may not be the loveliest, but he is the only person I have in my life that I can tell exactly how I feel (without filters) and even feel or say that I never want to speak to him again and know that once I (we) calm down, we'll hug and support each other.  I still hate the bad times, so very much.  But they are what they are.  (And these were awful.)

I don't even know how or why it happened but all of a sudden there were no more bags in my apartment to bring down.  Everything was in the van.  I triple checked my "last minute" list (passport, ticket, etc.) and everything was in.  Crap.

I had no more excuses.  None at all.  Everything was packed.  The van was prepped and ready to go.  Thousands of dollars had been put into making her safe.  It was all done.  My apartment was ready.  Jason was going to water my plants and check my mail.  I had committed to being on playa and working certain shifts.  I... had to go.  Now.

Jason kept smiling.  I kept crying.  Jason kept taking photos.  I kept trying to not cry when he did.  

I think it was probably just around eight.  Probably a little earlier to be honest.  It had been a hellish couple of hours between my body and the awfulness with Jason and I and both of us being stressed beyond belief and me feeling like I had to do this thing I really really didn't want to do.  I wasn't even sure I could get to the ferry.  Jason offered to drive in front of me.  I tried to start the van.  I was reminded she doesn't like to start.  Or doesn't start easily.  "Doesn't like the mornings, just like her Mom"  I joked.  Because ha.  You have to try to laugh or it'll all just kill you even worse.

Seeing as this was my first time driving her alone in the day (the night before being my first time ever driving her by myself at all) I was grateful it was early and there wasn't a lot of traffic.  I tried to get used to things.  I tried not to hold my breath that I wasn't going to hit something or she wasn't going to... stall or break or die or something.  I mean, I *know* my car.  I know when she sounds or feels a little weird.  I know how much happier she is (and feels) after an oil change.  I didn't know this van at all.  Other than I had driven her for a few the week before and scared the living sh*t out of Jason.  Not reassuring.  I had no sense of her size or width and I had no rear view mirror, and to be honest, I wasn't looking at anything other than the road.

Her turn signals don't work.  I mean, they do, for the observer, but you have to hold the right one down and you have to turn the left one off yourself.  And there is no working horn.... or air.  Or radio.  Or knob on the window to make it easy to roll the window up or down.  And no rear view mirror.  Just these giant mirrors on the side that I wasn't even looking at because I was trying so damn hard not to slice into the side of a parked car or something.  Oh and well maybe it would be kind of ok... I got into the ferry terminal ok.... but looked like I wasn't terribly likely to make the ten.  Which meant sitting in the van until whatever the next ferry was.. the one?

Jason wanted to take more shots, but wasn't allowed in, so I waved from the van and went to the gate and gave him a hug.  He was emotional.  I was scared and emotional but trying to be strong.  Felt sort of strong and determined and, well, I was doing it, so.. here goes.... And then he left.

And I sat there.  In my van.  By myself.

I tried to organize the front area.  I'd bought a plug in fan, so I got that going because yes, it was already hot.  I plugged in the thermometer but then decided to ignore it when it told me it was thirty something degrees in the van.  At not quite nine a.m.

I messaged C-Dawg... "in ferry lineup."  Just kind of sat there.  Being there.  It was weird.  I'd usually done this with Connor.  With him driving... and taking responsibility.  And me not having to do anything but sit there and be a good passenger.  Usually with a gravol in my system.  Because my stomach hates early mornings, and Connor and I are always on that first ferry.

Nothing in my system today though. Just trying to organize my driving area, while not looking suspicious to border guards, while wondering if everyone was looking at the single woman in the giant old camper van.  It was weird.

And when Connor is the driver, I sort of let him worry about the border stuff.  It's not on me somehow, in that situation.  But this time it was *just* me.

And I'd heard about a few people who'd been turned back at the border on their way to Burning Man and there was a part of me that maybe secretly hoped I'd be turned back and would have an excuse to not do anymore.  "Oh man, I couldn't do the drive, I got turned back.  Sorry, I couldn't make my shifts/commitments, I got turned away at the border.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry."

I went into the lineup, got through the border questioning (no idea what they asked, but I imagine it was something about the length/reason for the trip or something)  and got through more questioning (I'm always honest about where I'm going and why and when I mentioned I was volunteering this time... when they asked where I was staying, they asked if I was being compensated in any way.  I wanted to laugh, but just said no.  I didn't say that I was actually paying for the privilege of volunteering and and working and staying with said camp... but anyway... it was different.... doing it myself.)

Then the ferry started to load.  And line after line went in.  And then I went forward... and the loading guy said "we'll get you on Ma'am" and... I was happy.  I'm ON THIS FERRY!!!! I don't have to wait hours!  I'm on this... I... oh... I have to park on this ferry.  Deep breaths.... deep... breaths....

And there was room!  I didn't feel like I would hit anything!  It was SO MUCH EASIER THAN I'D IMAGINED!!!!  Go figure.

And then they asked me to put on my e-brake.

I nodded... but don't have a functioning e-brake.

This freaked me out.

Jason had had me buy... uh... triangle thingies for under the tire but I didn't know where they were (see why I didn't want him packing!?) and I didn't feel I had the time to go digging and probably couldn't have anyway (damn bike) and so I just... locked my doors and hoped maybe they would put block things under my tires.  Crap.

I was so scared during the ferry trip.  It was a pretty wobbly ride and I kept imagining my van sliding into the van next to it and causing damage.  But I knew I couldn't go down and look so I just tried to ignore what might be happening.  I kept texting Jason... "it's really bumpy... will she move?  will it be ok?"  He was... not all that reassuring.  "Tires should help her grip."  .... SHOULD?  SHOULD?  I HAVE NO E-BRAKE WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!!???

And then there was the nausea.  For which I didn't want to take a gravol (plus, they don't kick in fast enough) but this is another reason I've typically taken one on this first travel day... I can get a little motion sick and this ride wasn't a good one for that.

Plus, it's awkward when you're by yourself and have to pee.

I'd brought up my map book and a novel as well as my purse and I didn't want to carry them all into the washroom so I asked someone next to me if they'd mind watching my stuff (and I took my purse with me anyway) and I had that nervous pee thing where I'd go and then get back to my seat and have to go again and didn't want to bother the person again so I just kind of tried to hurry which meant I had to pee again!!! when I got back because I hurried and so I just told my body that no... we just peed... there was nothing left, you're fine.

And then I was on the other side.  America!  Me!  And my van!  We were off the ferry!  I was happy!!!!  I DID IT!!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Dodged That One!

Computer is back!  Miracle!

Or, ok, not really an actual miracle, but they only had it a couple of days and the "issue" was covered by Apple so all it cost me was the diagnostic charge and couple of days.  So happy.  And relieved.

There were a couple of days this week where I wasn't sure how my bank account was going to survive.  Because I'm already in a lot of hot water with the van stuff and then the computer went and I thought I might need to get a new (or at least gently used "new") one and then my car went in for a checkup and I was half convinced it was going to be deathly ill but then my car was fine and my computer was fine and I backed up my system and phew.  I really came out on top of things this week.  Thank you, whoever!

So, yeah.... computer is back in my possession and my fingers are so much happier to be typing on a keyboard rather than a phone screen.

Yay for easy, inexpensive fixes! 

(PS  Back up your computer, k?)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Itsy Bitsy (Screen)

So I'm typing this with voice recognition on my phone. It's a little bit better than trying to type on my phone with my fingers and thumbs, but it's still weird.

 For those of you who don't read comments or didn't read the comments in the last post or two, my computer completely died two nights ago and is in the shop. I don't currently have a replacement or stand in computer, just my phone.

 Because of the timeline of me being away and all that entailed, I was going to back up my computer but didn't....  So here's hoping they can recover the last month's worth of photographs.

 It's strange the things you take for granted when you have a computer and access to the Internet. It's also strange how you tend to forget passwords when your computer usually automatically signs you in. Sigh.

 I thought using voice recognition might be a good way to write but I really don't like it! So that's gonna be all for now and cross all sorts of fingers and things for an easy fix and a fast computer return.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Sigh.

Hello "Dark at 7:40 pm" how are you?

Can't say I've missed you at all. 

*Stomps off, pouting*

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Writer's Self Talk Exposed, You'll Never Believe What Happens Next!

Part of my conundrum in trying to write about the travel portion of my trip is that in remembering the trip down, I feel like I lose part of the drama of the trip back. 

Connor, when I messaged him from the hotel room I was stuck in messaged back that the trip down was easy, it was just a difficult trip back.  I said no.  No.  The trip down was awful.  The trip back was worse.

I had thought I would start by telling you about the day I left playa, but then yesterday I started writing about the week or so before I left and I just let that happen.  Now I can go forward from there... talk through the week down... or I can skip right to the day I left Black Rock City.  And then go backwards.

It's odd to talk about how to talk about things but I suppose since I started where I did, I should continue going forth from there.

Plus, how crooked is this photo when you stop to look at it?  Very.  *scratches head*

Monday, 19 September 2016

Really, Really Awful

I feel like I curved my way through Summer.  There was a lot.  From Spring on, there was a lot and I wasn't particularly comfortable.

But I did what I could.  And I made my way inexorably towards the end of Summer... which for a few years now, has meant Burning Man.

This year was stressful.  Incredibly so.

There were many many times I felt it was best to just not go.  But I just kept moving forwards so that I wasn't cutting myself off from whatever might work out.

And the vehicle situation did not help at all.

I don't remember what I wrote about here, but hindsight tells me it's better for me not to just blindly trust people to carry all my eggs in their basket.  And for me to not be so concerned about bothering someone who is doing me a favour.  (I want to put quotation marks around those words but am resisting that desire.)

Burning Man opened on the 28th this year.  I was going to leave town on the 19th.  Travel slowly but surely along the coast down towards Nevada.  Going very slowly, because I'd never travelled by myself and we (Jason and I) weren't sure how many hours worth I'd be comfortable or enjoy doing a day so we planned for less than three.  (Except on the last day or two when there's not much to do besides keep going... plus we figured by then I'd be excited and wanting to arrive.)

(Repeating what I think I've blogged before) By the start of August, I still hadn't heard from the fellow who was finding me a van to take down.  (The fellow I'd given money to and who had found two vans that turned out be lemons.)  Jason had started working on possible backup plans but I was very much in panic mode.  Which tends to freeze and therefore incapacitate me.  It was bad.

I called buddy, he said he'd get on it.  Time passed.  Somewhere around the 15th, he had a van.  I started to adjust plans to maybe leave a bit later and take a shorter trip down.  I was going to be arriving on the Saturday the 17th since I was volunteering and blah blah blah one day early entry.

The van wasn't released to buddy.  I didn't know what to do.  A week passed.  Nothing.  It passes the day I had intended to leave.  I am panicking for reasons.  Many.

Jason finds an old camper van he wants me (us) to look at.  I'm feeling pretty screwed at this point.  We go look.  It's old.  And big.  I am not comfortable with it at all.  Someone else shows up wanting to buy it.  I feel stuck and pressured (I HAVE NO WAY TO GET THERE!  AND I HAVE TO GO!) so I buy it even though I try to drive it up the road and hate it and don't feel safe and comfortable and can't afford to buy another van.

We buy it.  We get possession of it on Monday.  (I was going to leave three days ago... re-jig travel plans.)  It is awesome in some ways and not in others.  No one who sells it to us (family and their Dad and brother who'd helped maintain it) feel it's in good enough condition to "get that far and back"  Jason feels it can.  I feel whatever slightly less than "horrified" is.  Terrified?  Utterly frightened?  So not ok with this?

Jason goes to town trying to get the van in as good shape as possible.  I keep trying to push the driving so I can still not drive too many hours a day... maybe I can leave Wednesday?  I book ferries.  Jason does what he can to get a mechanic friend to help him look stuff over.  They are happy with what they see.  I am not.  The license plate has no lights... they try to fix it, they can't.  The windows are sealed shut... this is not a good thing.  There is no radio.  The steering wheel is sideways.  The blinkers don't work, nor does the horn.  No one's sure about the electrical system.  I learn things that I don't really quite understand... like... solenoids.  (Did I even spell that right?  Things to do with batteries in cars?)

Jason is in charge here and I'm just wielding the VISA while trying to keep some sort of budget in mind.  New battery, ok, I'm down with things that will make it work better.  Meanwhile his truck has a major brake system meltown and he loses it and I try to help by offering to pay for parts or something and I just want all this to go away and stop and this is nowhere near fun and I don't feel ok.  Oh, and it wasn't a nice feeling to be in his (old) truck when the brakes started doing the bad thing and I just keep thinking of how I should not be taking this old van all the way to Burning Man.  This is so not a good idea.  At all.

Jason insists on things I have no desire to argue with, but what's left of my meager savings is slowly, frighteningly falling away.  New tires.  Ok, fine.  Safety first, yes please.  And the tire guys say the brakes seem fine (although the back one was impossible to get to but yeah) and suggest we get it lubed before the trip down to the desert.

Again, I know little about vehicles so trust Jason (and friends) to their smarts to keep me safe.  I'd planned (re-planned) to leave Thursday morning (after booking Wednesday's ferry and missing it...) but Jason insists he wants to take it in for oil change and lube.  I get so freaked out Thursday morning that I dry heave from nerves.  Never done that before.  This is bad.  I don't see how I can do this, and I don't feel comfortable but I don't see a way out.

Jason tells me I don't have to do it but I feel like I do (signed up for lots of volunteer shifts and work and feel like I now "have" to go... plus I said I would... and sort of set myself that task and damn... this is awful.)  Jason also tells me he's not comfortable or confident with the van and me driving it.

Great.  Now I feel like I'm going to die.  Literally.  Not in that dramatic emotional way but I actually feel like I am doing something dumb and unsafe.

Oh, and Jason also wants to get the solar set up.  With an inverter he found.  (And we had a massive fight because I kept asking questions to clarify how it all worked and he felt this was me not listening and we had to try to stay calm and explain that this was how I learned and ugh... it was the worst week followed by a week so awful we both probably should have stopped.)  And to see if he can get the fan hooked up (more electrical) But he takes it in to get an oil change and the guy there looks underneath and says no.  Your friend can not drive this as is.  Break the key in the lock if you have to, but this is not safe to drive.

Which sends me back to the vomit panic mode because I was just about to drive it.  This is so not ok.

So.  Not.  Ok.  At all... and I am now beyond what I had in savings and I don't want to do this and no one is cheering me on.

Thursday afternoon he takes it in for a brake job.  They fix... things and new brakes and oh my lord does that ever feel better and Jason is finally relieved and happy with the safety of the van and is going to rush things this afternoon to get the electrical set up.  (Even though he's not 100% confident in his electrical work... but he's pretty sure he can do it without dying.  Oh lord, please make it stop.)

I keep thinking about how both of us are stressed beyond what's ok and that at least when I leave he gets to relax.  I leave and have a week of stress getting down, a week of stress dealing with the heat down there and then a week of stress getting back.  I get no relief.  This is not ok.  I just want to give up.

I clearly miss the ferry I book on Thursday.  I rebook for Friday first thing.  Fourth booking I've tried to get to this week.

Jason fights against the dark (in a literal way) and we are both reminded how poorly we work together under stressful situations.  He is awful.  He tells me I'm being wimpy.  I tell him I'm trying not to lose it dealing with his awful mood.  It's bad.  Things aren't going smoothly and it's involving electricity which I do not like.  And he's not completely comfortable with either.  It gets dark.  I am desperate to get a window unsealed because it's awful and nasty hot in the van and I'm in Victoria... f*ck.

I tell him, in all honestly, that I'm done and not going.  His mood and the stress have killed me and I quit.  He yells back that that's fine but he's finishing this work no matter what.  I don't know how to make him stop.  I am frightened of him and the situation and I would leave him and go inside but I don't trust him not to yell at my neighbours so stick around to manage anything that might happen.  It's awful.  Why did I ever sign up for this?  I can not even tell you how awful this was.  After a week of hell.  Really.  The neighbour who is going to Burning Man shows up.  This calms Jason.  I am endlessly grateful.

He shocks himself.  Badly.  I want to cry/die.  I order pizza.  He doesn't eat it.

Somehow he finishes.  Something.  Wires.  I have power.  For... ? A fan I guess?  It's late.  I'm supposed to be on the earliest ferry.  Which means being up at 4am.

We "pack" the van.  Most of it.  Not my bike or essentials.  But the big bins.  And tools.  And whatever.

I am shaking.  Do not want to go.  Jason is done.  And mad.  Tells me fine. Don't go.  Or go.  You're going.  I don't remember.

He leaves.  I look at the clock.  Realize I can't be functional on three hours of sleep and decide I'll try for a later ferry.  I'm not getting there for Saturday now anyway... why try to rush?  I don't even think I can drive this thing onto the ferry without hitting people.  Because I haven't driven it.  I drove it for maybe half an hour.  Freaked Jason out, apparently (we didn't know but the passenger seat wasn't bolted properly so my driving felt really really bad to him) which didn't help because I was terrified of the size... plus, no rear view... plus no sense of space.  Jason yells at me that if I can't tell how big the vehicle is I shouldn't have a license at all.  I want to die.

I can't drive this thing.  I just can't.  And I can't get it to Burning Man.  But I can't not go.  I am stuck.

And so scared and freaked out I'm non functional.  And I can't talk to anyone about it because no one but Jason is really aware of what's going on.  And everyone will just tell me not to go... which I can't.  I have to go.  I just can't.

So I decide to not go for the first ferry, which means I have to move the van to a parking space that will allow me to sleep in.  So for the first time, I go out to drive the van by myself.  I don't put on a bra, because it's one or two in the morning.  I deal with the fact that the van doesn't like to start.  I drive slowly around the block.  The same block I'd driven around with Jason earlier, trying to get him to help me with seeing/feeling how BIG the van is/was.  Which is when he yelled.  Which made it all worse.  So I drive around the block.  I park a time or two and see how close I get to the curb.  Far.  It's not the size I see it as... ok.

I realize I'm driving the van by myself for the first time with no bra.  It fits somehow.  That 70s feel.  I try to take heart from this.

I tell myself I need to sleep.  But I don't.  (Of course I don't.)

I wake up at some point the next morning.  Jason has my car.  He drives over.  Gets mad that I have "so much more" to pack.  Bedding... travel bag... bike.  He loads it all.  Bungees stuff down.  I get mad.  Very mad.  Because he's packed the whole thing and I have no idea how.  I un-bungee things.  He gets mad.  I swear.  Quit.  Give up.  He tells me I'm getting on the next ferry.  Leaving now.  8 something am.  I am not ready.

I cry.  Can't do this.  Don't even want to.  I have had to try to quell the panic by breaking it down into chunks.  So all I'm going to do now is drive to the ferry terminal.  (Jason drives in front of me)  We get there.  I may not make the ferry.  He takes some photos.  I try to smile.  I am crying.  It is awful.  I don't want to do this.  I really really don't.  I will get to the other side and make a decision.  I am going to be late.  I will not make my first shift.  I do not want to drive this van.  It is hot inside the van and it's early morning.  My thermometer I got says it's 42.  Please don't let that be right.  I take the thermometer out of the sun.  It's still thirty something in the van.  It's not even 10 am.  Why am I doing this?  I do not want to do this.  I am by myself.  This isn't fun.  None of this has been fun.

Jason is proud.  Tells me so (via text.. he's not allowed in the terminal)  I feel there's nothing to be proud of.  At all.  I feel awful and am a mess.  I don't want to be here.

I don't do things on my own.  Why am I doing this?

Jason gives me some nickname from some driving movie he loves.  I tell him I'm not a driver.  I'm really not.  He's emotional.  So very proud of me.  I am just focussing on hopefully getting on this ferry.

It's now a week later than I had wanted to leave.  I have made several different driving plans.  If I can get this far, go to here.  If only this far, go to here.  I inform people on playa that I will not necessarily make any of my shifts (at this point I have no idea how long it's going to take me to get there.)  This is pretty much everything I didn't want to do.... Go in an old, unknown vehicle that I haven't driven at all until the day I left...

I am done and at a stress level beyond anything that's remotely ok and I haven't even left town.  And I don't know if it's stubbornnness or determination or un-smartness but I can't seem to not go forward.

I really had hoped to be this awesome, fun loving chick enjoying this wonderful solo trip.  Nothing in the weeks or days leading up to me being in the ferry lineup had been anything like that at all.  Not fun.  Not even close to it.  Just fear and anxiety and worse worse worse.  And no one there to comfort me.

You guys, it was awful.  So so awful.  With no break in sight.  August 26th, in the ferry lineup... hating everything while trying to be in the moment and positive.  Scared out of my mind. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Words

Ok.  So I did nothing this week. 

Well, that's an exaggeration.  I did not much at all this week.  (Other than what "had" to be done.)

I still have tidying to do, although a lot less than in previous years since almost all of my stuff and gear and packable items are still in a van in Northern California.  So at some point here today I hope to finish the tidying that I'd like to have happen.  Those final few things stored away... wherever.

I might go see my parents this weekend, although I'm really not sure of how much I feel like telling them about what all went down.  I'm not yet in a place where I have a succinct version of the telling of the story.  Even the trip home resonates with the echoes of the trip down.

I think having been home a week, I have settled somewhat and feel a little less like this is all a dream.

I cancelled as much as I could this week and did a whole lot of vegging.  Restorative vegging.  Un-thinking.  Chilling.

I will tentatively start putting one foot in front of the other and maybe interacting with people who aren't Jason.

Or not.  I'm tired and don't really care all that much.

Which somehow reminds me I should go drink more water.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Week

Happy Friday y'all.

A week ago today, I was waiting for the bus to arrive to take me to Reno to catch an evening flight home.

Life can be a strange, strange thing.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Odd

The first while sleeping at home after Burning Man is always a little odd and difficult to adjust to.

I think I maybe babbled about it the other day, but usually it's hard to adjust to there NOT being sound and noise.

This year, my sleeping was a lot quieter, partly because of where I was camped, but partly being in a camper van rather than a tent (more sound insulation). 

But each night since I've been home (which seems a lot longer than it actually is.... I've only been home for six nights, weird) I have the same oddness happen.

As I'm falling asleep, I remember that I still have to get/drive home.  And then I kind of come to a little and go through this weird moment or two of realizing that no, that's actually the dresser next to my bed... at home... in my room... in my apartment; I don't have to get myself home.  I don't have to drive/get this room home.  I am home.

It's a strange thing and odd feeling and it has happened each night so far as I'm falling asleep... that weird feeling of still having to get home....  bedroom and all.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Randoms

This is the shot I put up on my flickr account the first time I left for Burning Man (in 2013.)

(I was doing the 365 photography project at the time and knew I'd be away from the internet for the trip but would still take a photo a day... just not upload them til I got back.)

It was not long after I returned that year that I canned that particular flickr account and started one under something a whole lot closer to my name.

Something I could share with family and friends as it wasn't attached to a blog I try really hard to keep anonymous (ish)  and separate from my "real" person kind of information.

I remember coming back from Burning Man that year and wanting to be more open with my art and creativity.  And wanting to get back into making art and drawing and painting.  I felt inspired.

I also remember that year having no idea how I would get to Burning Man once Jay told me I couldn't travel with him.  There was NO WAY I could do that drive myself.

I still kind of stand by that, by the way... even having done it... or half and a bit of it myself.  I was right to think it would have been too much for me then.  It wasn't much fun four years later.

Unrelated to the drive, I've been eating gluten since I left.  And I haven't stopped.  Ugh.  And I feel utterly exhausted and swollen and not happy about it, but it was kind of like the floodgates opened and the first night I arrived it was spaghetti and I just said screw it and ate it and man I miss gluten.

Then I ate the pretzels and just kept saying "screw it" and then Oreos JUST BECAUSE and then on the trip back... when you're stranded in a small town you just eat what you can and then I came home and wanted more pretzels and ugh.

I need an intervention.

And someone to cook for me for a week so I can get back to decent eating patterns.  Eating out for a week, and gluten on top of that was icky.  I did what I could but gah. 

Anyway. 

I got angry and flustered with Jason today when he told me, again, what should have and could have happened with the van so it's still on my mind and I'm still playing the avoiding game.

I've also had far too much internet for the last couple of days so that's gotta change before I claw my eyeballs out or something.

Sigh. 

No banana tree peels either.  No... I mean, no banana peels at the foot of trees either.  Man, that was more complicated than it should have been.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

My Burning Man 2016 Experience (EXCLAMATION POINT, EMOTICON SMILEY FACE!)

AH HAH HAHAHAH!

(ahem)

Sorry about that.



Yeah, so this trip was rough.  Really really rough.

The week at Burning Man itself was fine (probably better than fine, but I'll need a while to get to that point) but the travelling portion was awful.

I'm actually actively avoiding writing about the trip home right now because it sets me off on a really upsetting mental path and I'm trying to let the "what might have happened" thoughts and images dissipate somewhat before I lay the story down on paper.


I'm going to try not to talk about the "should"s of the situation.  Like how I should not be ok.  Or how things should not have gone as well as they did, or how the vehicle shouldn't have done what it did.  But those will come up.

If you TL;DR: I hated driving by myself.  It was awful.

And when I stopped hating it, I really disliked it.  Over the five days of driving I did, there were maybe an hour or two where I didn't strongly dislike the experience. 

It might have been different had I been in my car, or a different vehicle, but that wasn't the case.  I don't feel strong, or proud or anything other than exhausted and not ever wanting to do that again.

Which is too bad, because the camping by myself I really did enjoy.  Oh, the irony.  (Just have to find someone to drive with me that I can then kick out to camp on their own at night.  Sigh.)

The trip down was awful and was preceded by an awful week, and would probably have outdone the trip back in awfulness had the vehicle situation that happened not happened. 

Which is what I'll get around to writing about as soon as I can, I promise.

But it's funny (not really) to me to see blog posts springing up and people sharing their photos and videos when I am still barely feeling functional from the fifteen days away from home I just went through... and the week... and month or two before that.

I'm glad so many people had wonderful experiences they can't wait to share.  That's awesome.

I'm just glad I'm alive and all in one piece.  And I'm hoping I can continue to recover emotionally and mentally from the last week... and at some point, figure out what all I took from the week in the desert... and the rest of the getting there and back and all the rest.

So many firsts.  (And hopefully some lasts.)  


Monday, 12 September 2016

I'll Be Ok

Shock is a funny thing.

I hear it's protective, and I can understand that, but right now everything's still in a bubble.  And even saying that doesn't quite make sense.

Typing is difficult.  My fingertips feel weird.  That's not the shock, that's the playa... what it does to your skin... your hands especially.  Although I seem to have taken better care of my hands and feet this year than ever before.

I'm not sure I'll ever make it back.  To Black Rock City, that is.  They say "don't divorce your parakeet" after returning from the event, and I won't.  Won't make any decisions.  Don't even need to, really, for a while.  Or ever.  But I don't feel, right now, that I can ever do that drive again.  And that's probably the shock.  Or what I went through.  Or both.  Or all.  I'm just trying to keep it together here.  To gather the parts of me that scattered or hid or are still floating in the bubble of survival mode.  I feel like I can almost poke the edges of the bubble I'm in right now.  Surreal as that sounds.  Today will be the first day I make it out of my house since I arrived back home some time after 1 am Friday night.

I'm ok.  I said that the other day.  I'm ok.  Physically all in one piece.  Things are just things and can be recovered or replaced... I don't care.  The money I care about, but that will sort itself out.  Or not.  With time. 

I, uh, have very little cleaning and unpacking to do.  Having come home with two bags, a carry on and a purse.  On an airplane.  Having left in a van.  With all my stuff.

I miss the scissors I bought.  And the blanket Jason gave me.

I forgot my computer was dying until I got home.  More money.  Mo money... said the rapper that lives inside the strange space that is the vastness of my mind.

I'm ok.  Shaken.  Not stirred.  (Slightly hysterical laugh from someone in the crowd at that one... crickets from the rest.)

I want preztels.  The gluten kind.  Food fixes nothing, but comfort helps.

I was away for 15 days.  I'm convinced this was three weeks although the math says otherwise.  Three weeks equals 15 days, just so you know.  Maybe it's because the month changed while I was away. 

"I need to process."  I hear that when people say it but I really do need to process.  It's like the old school printer has all jammed up and needs someone to come sort out the paper and feed it through again carefully and line up all those holes on the side of the paper that you'd then tear off, remember?

Jason saved everything.  All the days.  For me.  I don't know what to think about that except the gratitude I have doesn't feel like enough.  I hope he never felt helpless.  I think I would have had I been in his position. 

I don't know how we did this kind of thing before cell phones and GPSes and wifi and instant connectivity.  Maybe a solo road trip wasn't such a good idea after all.

You know how sometimes you have to open something that's been under pressure and you have to do it very very slowly, a bit at a time so all the fshhhhhhhhh leaks out in small, measured doses?  That's me.  That's my brain.  My feelings.  My coping with and dealing with and processing this.

I asked the Universe Friday night to please stop pushing my buttons.  I am all button-pushed out.  I'm learning, and growing, but please... no more pushing of the buttons.  Comfort zone effectively destroyed.  Pushed out of.  Trialed by fire. 

Whoever said "feel the fear and do it anyway" can bite me.

I might marry whoever invented air conditioning.

I should vacuum.
Please don't steal stuff from here, it's not nice. But leave a comment, why don't cha? And drink more water. It's good for you.

P.S. If you think you know me? You probably don't. If you're sure you know me? Pretend you don't. I'll never admit I know what you're talking about anyway.

P.P.S. All this stuff is copyright from then til now (Like, 2006-2016 and then some.) Kay? Kay.