“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” ~ Mac McCleary

Snow completely covering a road in Clifton, Virginia during December Blizzard 09

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~ H. Jackson Brown

Vintage Christmas Card

Today is the day I slated to do my Christmas cards . . . finally. Look. I used to be very anal about getting my cards out before the middle of December. In the past few years, I have found myself to be quite pleased if I managed to post them by Christmas day. This year, if they make it to the post office before New Year’s Eve, I will be content.

Anyway, we received so few cards this year that I am truly beginning to think that people just do not take the time to send things via regular post any more, and that, dear readers, is a shame. Opening Christmas cards and holiday greetings from friends and relatives is such a wonderful moment in time, even if the sender does nothing more than sign a name. I mean, at least the presence of the name in ink means that someone took at least a few seconds out of the ever-decreasing free moments in our lives to remember my family and me.

But this is not a discussion on the dearth of letters and cards that arrive in the mail, making all of the accompanying bills and flyers pale in comparison. No, this post is to update everyone on the saga of the December trip to Ohio . . .

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.  ~ Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

So, how was this latest trip to Ohio?

Oh, not bad. After the first twenty-four hours in the vehicle, your body is so numb that you really don’t care any more.

Twenty-four hours? Are you serious?

Actually, it was twenty-seven. We actually pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.  We pulled into their driveway on Saturday, December 19 at 10:40 p.m.

DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C., December Blizzard 2009

No. It’s more like 696 miles, give or take, depending on which route we use.

So why so long?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because we were driving in snow, ice, and blizzard conditions. Or maybe it’s because once we got past Newport News, the traffic began to move at about 30 mph. Or, it could be that for every five miles that we traveled, we saw at least one car in a ditch, or on a tree, or upside down.

We had scanned the radar for the entire area, and the usual route through the western part of Virginia was out of the question. They were expecting 12-18 inches of snow, and there were warnings that some roads might be closed. That left going north around DC, into Maryland, and across to Ohio. Little did we know that there was no good route.

Then there was the little problem with the windshield wipers.

What happened to the wipers?

Well, at first, we thought that we needed new ones because one entire area of the driver’s side wasn’t clearing with the swipes back and forth. So when we finally made it to Fredericksburg, a trip that normally takes about two hours but took about eight (I mean, we didn’t make it to Richmond until after midnight, and that’s a 90-minute drive), we stopped at that bastion of American consumerism, Wal Mart, and bought wipers and Rain-X spray to keep the windshield from freezing because by then we realized that the wipers themselves were freezing.

That worked better, for a while, but then there was that whole Pennsylvania turnpike thing after we stopped for breakfast in Maryland. Of course, we only stopped because I threatened Corey with bodily harm if I didn’t get the chance to get out of the van and use a real bathroom. But trust me, I was only thinking of him . . .

I mean, Corey hadn’t had a break since the Wal Mart and he was getting grouchy (wonder why), so I suggested that we stop for a real meal and rest for a bit. We pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Maryland and ate. I drank about four cups of coffee and tried to convince Corey to let me drive for a while. No go. That whole male driving thing. Don’t ask me because it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Doesn't even begin to depict the conditions

Why did you go on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

More coffee and a bathroom. Actually, I thought that since it was such a heavily-traveled road that surely the snowplows and salters would be out (because they certainly weren’t out on the other interstates) and that we would be able to travel faster than the snow. Wrong. It was worse than I95, which was virtually a parking lot.  But by the time we stopped at one of the driver’s centers on the Turnpike, Corey was clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought he might break it, so I decided to drive. He relented, but only from exhaustion. (More of that it’s not safe for you to drive in this, ya da ya da ya da. I lived in Blacksburg for God’s sakes. Snow is a way of life there.  Bah.)

As I was pulling out of the driver’s center, the driver’s side wiper broke, as in the arm just limped, kind of like a drunk slug. Of course that was before the flat tire.

What flat tire?

Well, we got directions from the first toll collector to an auto parts store so that we could try to fix the wiper. We found that store fairly easily, but when I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over something, probably the curb that was buried under three feet of snow. One of the employees in the store came out and looked at the wiper and tightened it, and it seemed to be working again. 

Another stop for coffee, and then I drove off, feeling somewhat relieved until the wiper flailed and then died again as soon as I got back on the main road.

So we got off on the next exit as I was trying to see the road through a space of about 12 inches square and got directions from another toll collector for an auto store that was supposed to be eight miles down some state road. (Exactly why are there toll collectors on interstates that are paid for with tax dollars? Another story.) This particular store was not quite so easy to find, and we found a NAPA auto parts store first. We pulled in, and the guy next to us said, “Do you know you have a flat tire?” Lovely. Just lovely.

NAPA didn’t have a part of any kind, so Corey bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (another miracle product), and we tried to find the other store, but when we got there, it was closed. We pulled into the lot of a dollar store and Corey came out with the universal fix-it: duct tape. Apparently, the bolt was stripped, so Corey wrapped the tape around it, and we made a make-shift coupling.

Duct tape is a wonderful thing, just like Windex, but again, I digress . . .

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Beautiful but Treacherous

Corey went back to sleep, and I drove with the window partially down, sticking my hand out in the snow and then rubbing my face with my cold, wet hand. It was refreshing, and I knew that in spite of two gallons of coffee, I was not going to be able to drive that much longer. I just don’t have that y-chromosone-related driving non-stop thing going on. I made it to Washington, West Virginia (there’s a Washington in every state, by the way), which is right on the border of Ohio. By this time, it was about four on Saturday afternoon, and I had told Corey’s parents in the last update not to expect us before four.

Obviously that anticipated arrival time had come and gone.

Then what happened?

The duct tape held for the most part. We had wipers. The Fix-a-Flat seemed to be holding, and the snow finally lessened almost to a stopping point. There was the one incident around Columbus, though.

What happened in Columbus?

Corey missed the bypass, so we went through Columbus, and then we missed our turn. Consensus was to take one of the state roads the rest of the way in. I think that was when I started to see things.

It was probably due to a combination of the coffee, need to go to the bathroom, exhaustion, and the fact that my teeth felt as if cotton balls were glued to them. Of course by this time, we were all punchy from exhaustion. Everything was funny, even when it wasn’t.

But did you get there safely?

Safely is a relative term. No, we didn’t go off the road, although we did spin once. Our bodies were in one piece, but the van had all kinds of sensor lights flashing at us by the time we pulled into the driveway. And I believe that I aged at least two years in two days. Other than that and the fact that when I finally got into bed I had the spins (now that hasn’t happened in a long time), everything was fine.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.

Plowed Roads on the Way Home

So ends the saga of our trip to Ohio. Our journey home to Virginia was the complete opposite. We left at 10:30 in the morning with the stated goal being 10 a.m., rather a record for us. We drove to Marion to get the wiper part, and then we headed down to Cincinnatti to go to a branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers, my favorite bookstore in the world, well, at least in this country. The best one is the original JB, though, in Lexington Kentucky.

We ambled through the store for about an hour, and then we had a nice relaxing dinner at Don Pablo’s, a chain Mexican restaurant that actually has quite good food. Apparently, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos. Corey and Brett each had their fill. I abstained from coffee, and we got back on the road by our goal time. We took our preferred route, which is down Route 35 to I64 through part of West Virginia and into Virginia. No storms, no ice, no car problems (well, other than the sensor lights still going off in the van), no major drama—just the way I like it.

I have to say that I do enjoy visiting Corey’s family, and the time that we spend there is always full, but I really, really hate actually making the trip. Corey and I thought about it, and I don’t think that we have ever had an uneventful trip to Ohio, whether it’s the weather, car trouble, more car trouble, getting lost, not having enough money for gas, whatever. So with that in mind, we have decided that next time, flying is the way to go.

More later. Peace.

Traditional German Christmas Carol (no, not ready to stop posting them, yet): “Still, Still, Still”


Reconnecting with the outside

Within the past five days, I have had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with old friends on two different occasions, which I find to be wonderfully karmac after just writing about how much better it is to keep old friends in my last blog. Friday, I had lunch (yes, I actually left the house and drove somewhere) with three of my former co-workers and one of their spouses. The occasion to warrant such a gathering? Jammi and her husband Kyle were in town on their way to the Outer Banks, and she wanted to have lunch at her favorite Mexican restaurant, so it was very much like old times. We passed around some pictures, took some new ones, and promised to e-mail the new ones to each other. The great part is that it’s a promise that will actually be kept. Digital photography makes it so much easier to keep promises like that. I wish that we could have sat around for another couple of hours, but unfortunately, some people still have jobs to go back to . . .

And then my dear friend from high school came into town to celebrate his birthday this weekend. It’s a tradition for him to celebrate milestone birthdays with one particular friend of his (I won’t reveal which birthday) because their birthdays are so close together. He loves to see his old neighborhood and reminisce. He had told me well in advance that he was coming, and then he sent me a card with the phone number of his hotel. I don’t think that he actually believed that I would call, but I did. But when he said, “Let’s go to lunch,” that’s when I balked. But he came up with what he believed to be the perfect solution: he would bring pizza from the best neighborhood pizza parlor to my house and we could just talk. What a sweetie. How to tell him that my house is a disaster, and I am too embarassed to let anyone see it? But then he reminded me that he is a mail carrier, and he regularly sees hoarders’ houses on his routes: newspapers stacked floor to ceilings with only pathways through, and cats and cat smells. My house is not even nearly that bad. I relented, and I’m so glad that I did. We spent a wonderful few hours talking about nothing and everything, and being the kind of person that he is, he really did understand my growing discomfort with being around crowds.

I’m writing about these two separate events for several reasons: First, it really was incredible to see these people again and spend some time with them, even if it was just a bit of an afternoon. These were people who meant something to me, each in their own way, and still do. But more importantly, it made me realize something about myself: I can still be comfortable around people who matter to me, no matter where it is. Corey has become concerned, as have I (if I am to be honest) that I am allowing myself to become too addicted to my comfort zones, so much so that I do not want to travel beyond them. In my situation, having finished school now and being on disability, it would be very easy to spend all of my time at home, writing on the computer, floating in the pool, and reading in bed. That way, I wouldn’t have to encounter the masses at Wal Mart on Saturday who test my patience. I wouldn’t have to get behind the wheel and deal with Hampton Roads’ drivers who, for some reason, drive five miles below the speed limit. In other words, I wouldn’t have to deal with reality.

And as we all know, as tempting as that prospect may be, it isn’t really living, is it? One of my jobs, believe it or not, was as a sales manager at Dillard’s, and that meant dealing with the public constantly, and contrary to what some people believe, I was good at it. I was very good with the people who came into our store, even if I had been there since 8 that morning, and it was 9 o’clock at night and I had been wearing high heels all day. Several of my jobs have had the element of working with the public, and I have always managed to do that part of my job well. Granted, everyone has bad days, but you never let your clients see that. I once sold one of my repeat clients $1200 worth of the new Ralph Lauren line off the rack before it had even been put out yet. Of course, since I was the manager by then, I gave the sale to one of my associates, but it was still fun that my old client had sought me out.

Could I do that now? I’m not sure. It takes a lot of patience for one thing, and a lot of stamina for another. I don’t believe that I have either any more. Maybe the patience, but definitely not the stamina, and I think that’s why I’m so reluctant to go places–it’s that whole idea of being a burden that really grates on me. Sometimes, when Corey and I do go out, and I am having such a nice time being out of the house, I push it, but then I pay for it by being completely wiped out for days afterwards. Part of it is my back, and part of it is the fibromyalgia. But if you were to ask me if it was worth it, I would say yes. Buying plants at Lowe’s versus looking at the four walls of my bedroom? Yes, it was worth it.

I’m not ready to be sedentary. It just seems like it sometimes. I just need a little push, and maybe a car to drive that my 17-year-old son hasn’t trashed. My Izzie Trooper just isn’t what she used to be, full of boy stuff and smelling of Axe. But that’s another story.