Thursday, 6 October 2016

Burning Man Trip, Day Three (Sunday)

I don't seem to have taken any notes for my third travel day, (or maybe I did and just can't find them... who knows) so I'll be piecing together what I can from memory.

I woke up, again, happy for the cooler morning air, in the RV park and I think I at least texted Jason for a while if not called him.  I'd already made the decision to not push to the desert today, but I still had in the back of my head that I *could* if it turned out that I wanted to... I just didn't think that was very likely to happen.

I went through the process of readying the van for driving, and looking at maps and not wanting to get going again.  Because getting going again meant those roads and driving and people.  Sigh.

My texting companions were all already there or just getting there or whatever.  And I was not likely to be there for another entire day.  Oh well.  It was what it was and I just wanted to be ok, and not miserable and drained heading into the desert.  Arrival and setup are hard enough, no need to add a long day of driving to that... sigh.  A good decision, but not a completely happy one.

I wasn't actually sure I'd be making it for Monday either.  At some point I'd thought Tuesday might be my arrival... maybe aiming for early morning, but who knows.  When I'd initially thought about doing the drive by myself I'd told myself that just getting there at all would be an accomplishment.  Even if it meant I had to turn back around the next day to start heading home.  Which... now didn't seem like it was outside of the realm of possibility... we would see.  The plan for the day was to head through Klamath Falls (where we've always stopped, and shopped) and then to the next (and last) city/town before hitting the no-man's land of the final few hours.  I'd stay at the hotel I was supposed to stay in Friday night and have that final bed-shower-a/c luxury night.  Alright.  This was do-able.  Four and a half hours via google maps.  So... let's say six.  I could be there by late afternoon or early evening...

I did want to be on the road a bit earlier so I ate... whatever... probably something not very tasty... and I packed and I texted Jason about how I didn't want to do this all over again and then I went through the (scary and nerve-wracking every damn time) process of "starting" the van.

1.  Key in ignition, foot on gas.  Turn key, press on pedal, hold both a loooong while, while pumping the gas and hopefully it turns over.  Phew.
2. Sit with foot all the way down on gas pedal.  Wait.
3. Wait.  Foot still all the way down on gas pedal.  Wait.
4.  Worry that people are annoyed by you revving the engine.  Feel crappy.
5.  Ease up on gas pedal.  Feel van start to jutter (stall kind of feeling), so push back on gas pedal.
6. Sigh.
7.  Wait... more.
8.  Hope it's been long enough.  Ease up on gas pedal slowly... feel it not stalling... you did it, yay!  Take foot off gas pedal!  Phew!
9.  Hang head when van stalls.  Sigh.
10.  Repeat above.  Hopefully only another time.  Sometimes twice more.
11.  Eventually take foot off gas pedal and sit there trying to breathe while you wait to see if it caught this time.  Feel your nerves already shot.  But hey, once she's going she's going.  This is morning three of this... you know how it goes.  She's running now, you're golden.

I got the van started (frigging eventually, like every damn morning) and programmed the GPS (which I now discovered had a thing I could press where it would tell me how far to the next gas station so I could worry a bit less about that (I also know where the final two gas stations are on the end of the trip but that would be for tomorrow) and I hooked up my phone-bluetooth speaker-plug-them-in-too (this time) system and picked a playlist that matched the energy I was trying to feel (calm, mellow, happy so.... 70s music!) and "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat came on.  I smiled.  It was going to be a good day!  Perfect song.... serendipity.  Happy.  And I headed out on the road again.

Annnnd the happy didn't last long.  No giant surprise.  Sigh.

Once again, people were absolute (unsafe) jerks.

We were back to the fairly windy, (curves), fairly fast, single lane roads.  "Passing lane head" signs became my new favourite thing.  For real.  I would see one and cheer.  And then breathe a sigh of relief when I saw it and was able to indicate, slow, and pull into one.

At a certain point not long after I left the RV park though, I got badly tailgated again.  A guy pushing HARD and fast on my butt.  I pulled over, a little faster than I would have liked, only to see him pull into a recreation zone off the highway just up ahead.  Seriously?  You put me at risk so you could get to your lake five minutes faster?  JERK!  I was once again terrified.  And now without cell service.  So I couldn't connect with Jason to calm myself down.  But again... the people on the road made everything so much worse than it had to be.  And my inability to ignore them didn't help.

I kept driving, tense and unhappy, once I'd sat in that pullout for a while, trying to calm my breathing down.  I'd made it not very far at all and I was already terrified.  And probably having what was close to a panic attack.  Hyperventilating and scared out of my mind... the whole nine yards.  F*ck.  And no cell service and it wasn't safe to turn around and go back... so... it was sit and calm myself... and head back on the road, jaw clenched, knuckles white on the wheel, trying not to die or be killed.  F*ck.

I got to the first gas "town" and I'm not really someone who swears all that much (at least not in public) but I got out of the van, looked at the poor gas attendant (you can't pump your own gas in Oregon... go figure) and said "HOLY FUCK PEOPLE ARE AWFUL!"

I apologized right after but seriously!  I couldn't believe how dangerously people were driving and how angry they seemed as they tailgated the bejeeszus out of me EVEN THOUGH I WASN'T GOING SLOW AT ALL!!!!!!!

He sort of looked at me awkwardly and I said sorry but the driving on the road had been horrible.  He kind of shrugged and nodded.  "Yeah... sorry about that..."  Sigh.

I got my gas and pulled into their parking lot for a while to try to settle myself.

Got some more oil and topped up, while listening to the cashier inside tell me how angry people were that the pumps were doing some particular thing.  So... I dunno... maybe it was a bad day on the roads in mid-Oregon but seriously.  Come on people.  Get a grip.  Slow the eff down and stop pushing people.  Seriously.

I feel like it calmed down a bit after that (and I talked with Jason a bit, and he listened and talked me through yet another crying upset stress call) and the weather was warm but sort of not as horrendous as the first day and I used the rest stop I came across (which had less shade, but still a place to pee and stop for a few...) and at some point I got close to Klamath Falls.

Klamath has always been a bit of a marker for the trip for me.  Ever since the first year when we arrived in some kind of zombie movie moment.... and we've stopped there every year since.  Usually it's the last stop before we head to playa, but this year, I'd found one town closer and that was my stopping goal for the day.

I pulled into the first gas station I reached (on the very edge of the city) and I filled very happily with gas.  I'd pretty much made it.  I was there!  Wow!  I'd done it!  The gas station attendant (boss maybe?) came out to ask if I was going to Burning Man, and we chatted about how it was his favourite weekend and the amazing art cars he'd seen going through and how it all just blew his mind.  I was happy to be in a vehicle with some character, and kind of proud that I was just me, doing it by myself.  Cool.

I topped up and cleaned the windows and pulled into the lot to sit and text Jason.  "KLAMATH!"

Congrats, he said.  I was happy.

I drove to the place we always try to go for lunch and had what I always seem to get for lunch.  Gluten be damned, I'm having me my grilled cheese sandwich!  It was right before their closing time and I found I couldn't eat the whole shebang (a salad might have been wiser than fries) and they filled up my water bottle without me asking and the main lady (I don't know if she's the head waitress or co owner or what, but we've chatted with her every year and I never assume she recognizes us) was there so I said hi and she went, OH, it's YOU!  I didn't recognize you... where's your crew?  And I explained that I was trying it solo this year.  Wow, she said... aren't you scared?

Well, kind of.  Not really by being on my own, but the driving and drivers are awful.  Really really frightening.

We talked for a bit, she told me how brave I was, and she gave me the number for the restaurant and her home phone number "in case I needed anything at all."  Which was so touching.  I cried over that one.  People are wonderful.  Small town America is wonderful.  People are so good.  Really.

I took some photos of the van at the restaurant.  (A marker for me for sure) and I went to the grocery store and did some more shopping (again, wished I'd waited rather than shopping in Port Angeles, but oh well, lesson learned)  And I got my final fill up of ice.  YAY, they weren't out of ice!!!!

Jason and I had gone over specific ice routines (the main new one for me being taking the ice out of the bags it came in and putting it in ziploc bags... this turned out to be BRILLIANT, by the way) and I struggled a bit in the heat in the parking lot at mid-day and decided to just deal with ice later.  Too hot.

As I was putting away my groceries, with a door open to let in some air (because damn it gets hot in the van, ugh) when a woman came over and asked if she could look inside.  I... said sure!  My default to unexpected things is to be friendly and polite.  She explained to me that she and her husband were also travelling down to Burning Man in "a green one of these" and were wondering about the bed layout.  "Oh, yeah?" I said, making conversation but feeling quite uncomfortable... "what year is yours?"  She gave me a number, I gave her mine... I showed her where the bed was, she glanced around.  I got the DISTINCT feeling I was being cased.  That she was checking to see if there was anything worth robbing/stealing from me/the van... at some point.

I dunno.  Maybe it was just my "single woman on the road" paranoia kicking in fully for the first time, but I really felt like this was a sketchy situation and I was being cased for theft.  Ugh.  It made me really really uncomfortable and I suddenly wanted to get far out of town.

One of the friends I'd been texting with (who'd helped connect me with the camp and one of the volunteer positions) had texted that he'd forgotten a bike lock and a water bladder and might I be able to find him some?  So I found where the Fred Meyer was and drove there and parked under a tree (that I misjudged the height and scraped some leafy parts along my roof... oops) and as I was locking up, saw that same woman in the parking lot again.  And suddenly everyone seemed suspicious.  I wanted in and out of the store as fast as possible (I needed to pee but wasn't willing to "waste" the time) and I was half convinced I was going to come back to a broken into van... but I found what the fellow needed and I bought a battery or two for myself (Oh, and bug spray or something) and I headed back out and my van was fine.  Phew.  But I was very uncomfortable and feeling very vulnerable and unsafe and I wanted to be elsewhere.

I guess that's the flip side of solo travelling.  Not all that fun when you feel like people might not be trustworthy.


I nervously drove my way out of Klamath, about two (ish) hours of what I seem to remember being pretty driving ahead.  Country side road kind of feel to it... and as I left Klamath, the traffic seemed to evaporate and I was, for a lot of the time, on the road by myself.  Which really, really, really helped how I felt, and was a relief.

Almost too much of a relief at times, because I'd find myself reaching for my water or something and then I'd find the van wobbling and I'd have to remind myself that no... this wasn't a safe thing to do... just eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.  Geez.  I scared myself a few times that way.  This wasn't a time for even slightly distracted driving.  Nope.

Part of the drive (I'm consulting google maps) is through Modoc national forest, which is always nice and straight and has lots of passing lanes and dotted yellow lines, YAY!  It's also Connor's favourite part of the drive because it's so straight.  And I smiled to think of him driving it with his coffee in hand going "coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee".... I guess you had to be there...

It was warm and not all that comfortable but the lighter traffic was making things a bit less hellish.

I still had no idea where I was going.  Nor did I recognize much at all, really, other than, hmmm, these trees look like trees I've driven past before... hi trees.

And I had some music from time to time in a very quiet, tinny way... when the speakers weren't being drowned out or losing battery life.  (sigh)

I wouldn't say the drive was fun (at all!) but I knew I'd be at a resting point in a few hours, and I knew I'd be at Burning Man the next day and it was better than Friday, that was for sure.  It was exhausting and draining and by the time I approached my final stop for the day I was pretty done.

I filled up on gas (only spilling a fair amount of it due to some weird gas pump I had no idea how to use properly apparently) OH, and this randomly reminds me!  If you're travelling through Oregon, pick up ... I forget what it's called, but it's this thing you put in your gas tank with your first tank of Oregon gas because apparently the gas is that bad.  So yeah... get the gas... conditioning... stuff for Oregon!  (And you can't pump your own gas... but they also aren't "allowed" to check your oil or anything... sigh.)  because you can do that in California.... and I found the hotel and I got a room and I went inside and I.... nearly crashed with exhaustion.

But I forced myself up and out to eat (where I couldn't get the food down because ... too tired?) and I must have looked exhausted because the fellow serving me asked if I was ok... I told him I'd been driving all day.  He said he hoped I was going to rest now.

Which I did.

Couldn't get the air conditioner to work, which I found hilarious and well, no need to be upset.  It sucked but whatever, I was going to the desert tomorrow... what was one more day of being too hot?  Sigh.

I don't remember if I watched anything on my computer or if I just crashed.  I did go out to the van later that evening (probably around 10?) and transfer the ice into ziplocs and I tried to put up some of the reflectix I'd bought for the windows... but I did a not great job on that.  (It'd been in the plans for the week before but never got done)  So I cut it vaguely to shape and tidied things a bit for an early leave in the morning and I washed my hair and put myself to bed and tried (and sort of expectedly failed) to get some sleep.


Jason Langlois said...

Moving the ice to ziplocs from the cheap plastic ... that's a great idea. (makes a note)

Your perseverance in the face of all this is amazing. I'm glad there were, in the midst of the stress and awfulness, moments of kindness and light to help keep you going a little longer.

Weirdly, thinking on it, I don't think I've actually filled up my tank in Portland. At least, not any time in recent memory. The last time I was there, I think I hit a gas station in Vancouver, Wa. and then mostly had the car parked and walked or used city transit to get everywhere. Probably filled up on the way back.

Hindsight and all, but a camelback water system would have been so handy for you while driving. But then, so many things would have been handy while you were driving. I'm gaining a huge resentment towards your van for adding to your stress and problems.

Victoria said...

Yeah, the ziploc idea was fully Jason's and really brilliant! (Also, free water from contained ice melt!)

OOoh camelback could be useful for a trip, didn't think of that!

And nooooo, don't resent the van... not her fault! *sniff*