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?  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. 


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.


Jason Langlois said...

Such a terrible first day. Yet you survived it like good steel, and not cheap iron. I'm so impressed (mix with horrified).

Victoria said...

Thanks. It really was. I did survive it, although it didn't feel like it at the time.

It's funny, I am in an odd mood this morning (maybe the weather?)and can read this like a story.... not something I went through and it's quite a story... which feels very odd. :/

Jason Langlois said...

Maybe this is how we deal with things this unpleasant. Turn them into a narrative that gives us a distance from the events, and allows you not to fall completely apart.

I can say I am very, very glad you survived. And glad to learn you are capable of doing something like this... while hoping you never have to again.

Victoria said...

Could very well be part of our human dealing/coping mechanism, you're right.

And thanks. I also hope I never have to again!!!!!

Jonathan said...

Reading your memories makes me realise how very boring and pedestrian my blog/life has become, and how much I filter everything for fear that somebody will read it, and object to any part of it.

You kind of rule, you know...

kandijay said...

Several years ago, my best friend's father died after a short illness. Her mom had died when we were in high school, she's an only child, and she really needed me. So I drove the 6 hour trip (which took 8 hours) through a torrential downpour which somehow lasted through all 4 states, including Chicago during rush hour. I spent three days with her, planning the funeral, reminiscing, crying and laughing, and then the day before the funeral, I drove back home so I could board a plane the next day for Connecticut for a work conference. That I was in charge of running.

I flew to White Plains, New York, and because of delays got there in time for rush hour. New York City rush hour, which I foolishly believed I would miss because I was several miles from New York City, but it turns out NYC rush hour covers several states. Seriously.

So I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted, driving in an unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads with different laws (really east coast?? You have to come to a complete STOP on an entrance ramp before merging with 80 mph traffic?? WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA????) and one hour drive to my hotel actually took almost four. When I finally got to my hotel, I checked in with a smile, took my bags to my room, and collapsed on the floor and sobbed. For three hours. I cried until I was sick. I don't remember anything else about that evening, besides the crying.

I made it through the conference, but I made a coworker drive my rental car (and me) back to the airport when it was all over because I just couldn't.

My point? You are a rockstar. There is no way on God's green earth I could have done what you did. Truth.

Victoria said...

I might write differently if I had a spouse and kids J. I live in enough fear with just my friends and family and I do still edit. And cringe at posting some stuff, for sure.

Victoria said...

Oh Jeez Kandi! I'm horrified just reading that! BIG BIG HUGS. Oh man...I feel ya. And thanks. Your comment made me cry (but in a good way if that makes sense... thanks for making me feel strong)

kandijay said...

You are strong. Even when you don't feel it. :)

Victoria said...

Thank you. :)

(Way to make a girl cry again!) ;)