I open my eyes and tap the top of my watch, activating a blue glow that reads 2:07 am. The house is quiet – my parents asleep. We’d said our goodbyes the night before, and I remember the image of my dad, tucked into bed like a small boy, as I said goodnight and he told me he loved me. We’d stayed up later than usual, celebrating the end of chemo and the start of a new life on the road. Flipping on my side, I curl my leg around an overstuffed body pillow, pulling it close under my chin. Three hours of rest isn’t enough, and I fight the hand of anxiety slowly squeezing my chest. Forty minutes goes by before deciding I’ve given sleep my best effort and I bump my way to the bathroom.
Yiska stirs but doesn’t get up. With each pass, he wags his tail from his curled position and watches as I go back and forth from the guest room to the trailer. Shoving the last of my belongings into dark corners, I tell myself I’ll organize later.
The desert smells sweet before dawn, and as I turn the key in the ignition, I see it’s exactly 4 am. Pulling away from the curb there’s a slight tug of the trailer behind that sends a shiver through me.
This is it. I’m doing it.
I have over 400 miles of driving from Tucson, Arizona, to Idyllwild, in the hills above Palm Springs, and I figure the adrenaline of my first day will carry me through. Topping off the gas tank before getting on I-10 I wonder, how many times will I do this little job? I snap a photo with my cell phone and post it to Facebook. The phone begins to chime as messages from early risers and friends in other time zones wish me well.
Early morning drives are my favorite, watching the colors change from cool to warm as the sun slowly seeps into the desert casting long shadows off the mountains. A little fiddling with the dials and cruise control is set to 60 mph. I realize I haven’t needed to use it in years. The time passes quickly and, feeling elated when I cross into California, I begin singing at the top of my lungs:
🎵 Cal-I-Forn-Ya, here I come! Right back where I started from! O-pen up those golden gates! Californ-Ya, heerre eeyyy comme! 🎵
By noon we’re winding up the San Jacinto mountains along a curly road that reminds me of Mt. Lemmon, and I notice the Landcruiser has no problem towing Sarandipity. The road is steep and the topography soon changes from tall, yellow grasses, to Manzanita and pine trees. Thousand Trails Idyllwild RV park is tucked away at the end of a narrow road that passes through a residential area so I’m relieved to see the sign and know I’ve come the right way.
It’s just after 1 pm when I check in. Considering it’s a Saturday on the 4th of July weekend, I count my blessings when I find one last full hook-up site available. The park is large with narrow, winding roads that veer off in every direction, and following the map while trying to locate a spot among the masses is difficult. When I tell the neighbors it’s my first time backing into a site, the husband volunteers to guide me. I thought I was doing well, but by the time I work my way into position there are three cars waiting to get by and the guy in front lays on his horn and shoots me a dirty look as he passes. I wonder if I’ve violated some backing-into-site etiquette, but I can’t imagine any other way to get the job done without blocking the road for a minute or two.
I thank my neighbor profusely, unhitch and then take a moment to regroup as I sit in my chair with Yiska at my feet. I’m happy with the day’s drive and try not to let the stress of the arrival ruin my mood and feeling of accomplishment. In the past, my husband would drive and I was the map reader. We made a great team, both of us loving road trips, and having a partner for moral support and decision making was comforting. I feel him with me in spirit, but now I need to rely on myself. No one else can assess sites, read the map, drive the trailer, back it in, unhitch and set up. It’s overwhelming and empowering at the same time. I take a moment to give myself some positive talk.
There’s no problem that can’t be worked out. Others can wait. You did it!
The days are warm, too warm. But the nights air is cool and lingers until mid morning, so Yiska and I spend the early hours of each day doing short hikes around Idyllwild. I hold his leash in one hand and my camera in the other. The hiking muscles in my legs slowly wake, and each little summit is celebrated. We stop often to gaze into the valley below and take pictures.
The ground is dry and covered in a thick layer of dirt so fine that every step sends a plume of dust into the air causing Yiska to sneeze. In the afternoons I read my book and rest, catching up on sleep. I also work on a blog post about my final chemo session. The internet is only available at the lodge and is slow, at best, so after posting the blog entry, I take it as a sign to unplug the rest of the time.
After four nights, I’m ready to move on to the next location: Rancho Oso, in the hills above Santa Barbara. I hitch up the evening before because quiet hour is until 8 am and I want to leave early. All I have to do in the morning is tuck things away inside so they don’t roll around and I’m on my way by 6 am. As I drive down the mountain on highway 243 I’m gifted with the most beautiful view from above the clouds and further down it seems every turn reveals a scenic image within the misty rolling hills.
I stop often to take pictures – because I can – and I love that thought. No time frame. No one to bother with ‘just one more’ pull out.
The morning sun prickles my skin and my spirit is lifted by the possibilities that lie ahead…
…and the roads waiting to be travelled.