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On the Road; Day 2-7


Picking up where I left off, I truly wanted to give each day its own blog. Alas, starting a life from scratch took over and the months have passed, and here I am celebrating my one year in Los Angeles. I am emotional. It has not been an easy transition. There have been countless times where I thought I would just get back in the car and return. But I didn't, and so here I proudly finish the most epic story of my life to date. The time I drove my elderly Pomeranian, along with all that I had, across this great country to a new life on the west coast, an abridged, but nonetheless, very full account...

Day 2, I woke up in Springfield, Missouri, checked out of our charming motel, and had an eventful day of driving. One where I thought it was all over as I merged onto the highway as Route 66 would kick you off from time to time and nearly, I mean angels got involved, was taken out by a semi-truck. The anticipated merge lane was non-existent, it was just a cement divider to my right and the semi, which was not slowing nor changing lanes, to my left. I'm still not sure how we escaped certain lights-out. I honestly think I closed my eyes... Quickly after, I exited for gas. When I pulled up to park, a red car pulled up next to me and the chick slammed her door into mine to get out. This turned into a full on altercation. There were three of them, and they could not have cared less. They walked into the station and ignored me. I wasn't having it. They thought I would just go away, but they didn't know the Indiana AND the New York I had within. There was red paint and a dent in my sweet Rhonda, and I was pissed. We all had it out, and I was threatened many times by a woman that claimed to be both "street" and "legally blind," of which I felt canceled one another out and meant I might stand a chance. Finally I got the driver's insurance info, not that I was going to actually do anything about it, it was the principle and the fact that they literally waved me off. Mr. Jones was of no help as he snoozed through the whole thing. We sped outta Missouri fast.

We were in Kansas for a blink of an eye. Galena is the most charming ghost town you will ever see. I ran all over it snapping pics of myself. It was my personal playground. Also, I had a soundtrack. The most perfect mix of Eagles, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac was being blasted from an unknown location. If you know me, you know that this is actually the soundtrack of my life. So surreal, and so awesome, I had a time!

Soon we were in Oklahoma. OK blew me away. I came upon these magical fields of florescent yellow. I pulled off the side of the road immediately to take it in, it was breathtaking. A few pick-up trucks buzzed by honking and yelling and I thought, "yeah, mama still got it," and hopped back in the car. I had some fun in Afton, which is filled with deserted route 66 memorabilia and vintage gas stations. I was in tornado alley. No one was around. We stopped at the Blue Whale in Catoosa, which was pretty cool, then chose to speed through Tulsa. I saw the Round Barn then picked up a delicious beverage from Pops in Arcadia, which is undoubtedly a must see. Then I allowed for a detour. I decided to cruise around Oklahoma, take some backroads, get into it. I blasted, well, Tom Petty's Greatest Hits with my windows down, and just tripped out hard on the scenery. I'd never seen such vast, flat, empty fields for miles and miles, and again no one was around! The sun was shining, the earth was too - glimmering gold. I knew that I wanted to make it to this special spot for the sunset, so I checked into a beat-up, but clean enough, Motel 6 in Clinton, dropped Jonesy to eat and sleep in my clothes, and took myself to the White Dog Hill Restaurant, a magical place. The restaurant is housed in a native red-stone clubhouse that used to be the Clinton Country Club. The bar is a sweet rustic cottage just a few beats away from the main house. That's where I hung out. Perfectly placed upon maybe the only hill in OK, I watched the most soul-stirring sunset of my life, with a glass of chardonnay in my hand and tears in my eyes. I sat and reflected upon the journey so far, how amazing the day was, committing to memory the feeling of pride I had in my heart. Here I was out in the middle of America, alone, empowered, and fully alive, no - I will never forget how electric it all felt. The bartender and patrons were super friendly and I made a few friends that night. My story may have fascinated them.

Day 3 we'd make our way to and through the panhandle of Texas, stopping in Amarillo, Mr. Jones had to see the Cadillac Ranch, even though he almost blew away like the little tumbleweed he is. It was pretty special. Again, expansive emptiness. I crossed the state line into Texas and was able to get out and dance on it, filming the whole thing of course. Such a trip.

Once I crossed the New Mexico state line, things started to feel very real, like "shit, we're really doing this. It's a long way back now." But, New Mexico? Are you kidding me? It is like a completely different planet. The beauty is unreal, and unlike anything I'd seen. I got out of course once crossing over and danced, I was in New. fucking. Mexico!

The west is wild, man.

Tucumcari is the most unbelievable stretch on Route 66. Lined with abandoned motels with massive signs. It was notorious for being a rowdy western town with wild saloons and outlaws. You can feel that. I had total reign over it, peering into windows to see totally frozen-in-time interiors. I documented myself all over Tucumcari. I stopped in Santa Rosa, the town featured in the Grapes of Wrath, to take in the sapphire lakes. After, I was ready to get to Santa Fe where I would stay my third night. The drive there was the most enchanting stretch of earth, and then - Santa Fe, what? Now I understood the hype. I decided to splurge a little and stayed in the most adorable boutique hotel El Rey Court. I got dinner at a nearby local spot and it was the most delicious veggie burger and fries I'd ever met. We had the coziest room and our own beds. Mr. Jones had the best rest of his life! The next day I walked to get a coffee and spent some time hanging out in the courtyard. I took my time. It would be Day 4 on the road.

We swiftly made our way into Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail which takes you through the mystical town of Madrid, a budding artist colony apparently

reminiscent of Santa Fe before it got commercialized. We got out and walked around here, the people were all just too cool, and it was also where I overheard a shop owner informing a customer that the rattlers were out so to be careful. I knew that this message was meant for my ears, as off-roading was kinda my thing. It was also here that I decided if things didn't work out in LA, I would return to Madrid and totally drop out and drop in, you know what I mean?...

Driving through Albuquerque was super fun, and we stopped at the end of town for an ice coffee, as it was so hot, at the sweetest spot, Café Laurel. The owner's husband and I had a friendly chat and he told me lots of things about so much stuff, and was genuinely curious as to our adventure. He asked me, as I was getting into the car, if I was writing a book, and I replied, "always man, I am always writing a book," and sped off to get to Arizona. There was a certain corner in Winslow I had to get to before sundown.

Now, I thought New Mexico was a trip, excuse me Arizona??? For some reason, I was expecting just a desert. Wow. First of all the wickedest wind was blowing so hard I had to really stiff-arm the wheel just to keep Rhonda on the road, and the sky was doing all kinds of crazy. I thought a storm was going to kill my moment but it only added to the cinematic effect. I drove into Winslow, another ghost town, pulled into an abandoned parking lot of an abandoned motel and snapped it. I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

Elated, I drove on as the sun began to set upon the most insanely beautiful landscape. I had to pull off for another state line dance party celebration. I blasted Tom's Free Fallin' and filmed myself, my triumph. I got to Flagstaff, checked into a somewhat janky but okay enough spot for the night to re-evaluate. I was pretty tired. I knew that I had to see the Grand Canyon, but I also wanted to see Sedona, so I decided to stay two nights in Flagstaff, do the Grand Canyon in the morning, check out the town in the evening, and roll through Sedona on my way out the following day.

Day 5, the Grand Canyon. Now, if you've never been deer reader, make a plan pronto. I hadn't. I was 37 years old, Mr. Jones was 112! We stayed there for three hours trying to understand it. You just can't put it into words. I had a similar response to Niagara Falls just a year before. It was emotional. I carried Jonesy in his baby bjorn on my front and climbed over guardrails to see what we could see. Mr. slept through most of it, thank goodness I don't think he would have approved how out-of-bounds we were...

I would return to Flagstaff in the afternoon, drop Jones to rest, then I took to the town. I walked all over. Such a cute downtown. Then via Facebook, I crazily heard that a girl I played volleyball with in high school, who now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, was also passing through Flagstaff! I hadn't seen her in close to 20 years. We met up - had a glass of wine then went to a super cool spot for a whiskey. She and her friend had been to Sedona that day and were off to go camping in the Grand Canyon the next. We were trading places!

Day 6, I made it to Sedona. What?... Seriously, what?! Mars. That is the only way I can describe it - Mars! I drove all over and took a million photos. I climbed up and down all the rocks that I could, contemplated staying, but decided, I had to get going.

I cruised into Williams, so cool, then to Ash Fork, amazing Americana, and Seligman, a treasure filled stretch of Route 66. I took my time hanging out in these gems, and decided I would stay one more night on the road. I found The Ramblin' Rose Motel in Kingman, AZ. Guys, it was PINK! And, just perfect. It was the cheapest place I stayed (and let me tell you I stayed in some cheap ones), but the most darling. So, so sweet. I got Jonesy settled and went for provisions. I decided I would get a little onesy of wine to celebrate and some snacks and had myself a little ramblin' rose last night on the road motel party. I stared up at the moon which was approaching full in the blackest of skies from my second story balcony. "Cheers, Moon." I would whisper, "we've nearly done it."

Day 7, we checked out of the Rose and went straight into Kingman for a coffee. Another quirky little town. I took some pics and jumped in the car, we had to get to California! This is where Route 66 got really wild. Oatman, AZ is a crazy experience. Donkeys all over the roads and its lined with shops and touristy stops. I had to check it out. I bought a necklace, my one souvenir from the road, and was off. The weather was threatening, and the sky was devious. I stopped a lot to look. I do believe that I was a bit nervous to leave the road. I knew once I hit CA, I was going straight to LA. Then what?

So I took my time. I took it in. All that had transpired. All of the beauty. I was already starting to miss the road. I was made for it. Every day was such an adventure. I loved waking up early to do my morning yoga practice, meditate - PRAY, and pack up the car to hit up a heavily researched coffee stop. I loved talking to the people along the way, finding myself in strangers, making once-in-a-lifetime connections. I loved the freedom of the open road, listening to all of the music, looking out upon the most unspeakably beautiful scenes of American countryside, mountain ranges, golden fields, grey skies, trains passing by. The romance of it. Route 66 is the most romantic road I have ever traveled. It changed my life. I was able to reunite with the woman I had always been, on that road. The warrioress. I worked through a lot out there. It wasn't at all easy. I had breakdowns. Mr. Jones had his fair share of meltdowns. At one point we even snapped on each other, but made up of course once we both calmed down. I cried a lot, and not just at how profoundly beautiful it all was, but over all that I was leaving behind. How far I was going to do that. The distance that kept growing between me and all that I had known, my friends, my family, pulled at my heart, making each crossing of a state line bittersweet. So proud, so excited, and at the same time - so sad to leave a life I deerly loved. I knew that I was doing what I had to do. I was following instructions. I was going where growth lived, chasing courage over comfort. Before stopping on our last night, I pulled off and climbed atop Rhonda with my bare feet and lie down to stare at the wide open, Arizona sky and said a prayer of gratitude for this life. This wild and whimsical, unpredictable, heartbreakingly beautiful life as the tears rolled down my cheeks. It was just me, my Mr. Jones, good ol' Rhonda, and Route 66...

Not a single car passed.

I pulled into my friend's driveway in Los Feliz, in Los Angeles around 5pm, May 2nd, 2018. We'd done it. Mr. Jones and me. From Portland, Maine to Los Angeles.

A trip I will never, not ever, forget.

If you ever plan to motor west, Travel my way, take the highway that's the best, Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six! It winds from Chicago to L.A., More than two thousand miles all the way. Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six! Now you go thru Saint Looey and Joplin, Missouri, And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty. You'll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona, Don't forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino. Won't you get hip to this timely tip? When you make that California trip, Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six!

Route 66! by Bobby Troup

Click on the first photo to be taken through a slideshow of our journey...

You mustn't live so lightly,

Spin your stories, tell your tales,

Let them dance across the oceans

And set the wind upon your sails.

For every truth found on your travels

And in the pits of your despair,

Is a shout into forever

Of "I existed, and I cared."

~ Erin Hanson

Los Angeles, CA

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