Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How Is It Only Day Two?

Somehow it was only Saturday morning and I both felt so far away from home and so nowhere near where I was going and all I wanted to do was nothing.  Not leave camp.  That's all I know.  I wanted to not leave camp.

But I was packed, and it was nearing eleven and, well... I didn't really have a choice.

So I crossed my fingers that the van wouldn't be too hard to start (spoiler alert, it was) and I don't even remember what I put into the GPS to be honest... somewhere in Oregon, but I forget.  Jason and I had talked about something and I'd committed to some route or other rather than something, it all is a blur now, but I was hoping I could maybe even do ok and get... you know, far?  So I headed out, thankful that so far the windows were closed because the temperature was normal (!) and I could hear at least a little bit of music (the speaker I'd bought was better than nothing, but still not all that great, but hey, I was just happy to have some sound.)  I headed slowly out of the camp ground and topped up with gas (again, why so cheap?!) and was rather stunned that the gas pumps had televisions. 

Televisions in the gas pump.  Just... sitting there... broadcasting away.  So bizarre.  I sat in the van another while, after washing my windows (and perhaps topping up oil, I forget) not wanting to actually get on the road.... and then I just forced myself and headed out.

The idea for the day (as best I can recall it) was to head straight down the I5 (big highway) and get as far south as I could.  I was hoping I'd been through Portland (busy city highway portion) already but... I wasn't... so I was nervous about that stretch (it always makes Connor a bit nervy too) and maybe to hopefully be mid way through Oregon by day's end... maybe even Klamath?  That would be great.  So I headed out and onto the big highway.

The sun did kick in, but the heat was much better... yesterday had been SO bad heat wise.  I could cope with the heat today with the fan I'd bought and the windows partially down, which allowed me to hear a little bit of music.  So both these things helped.

The driving was still incredibly stressful and challenging.  I did prefer having the multi-lane highway there so that people could go around me, but hitting the Portland area with its multiple exit/bridge/not that way, this way/ not that lane combos was nerve-wracking and I was really really relieved to get through there.  (Imagine one of those metal bridges with multiple traffic lanes and exit lanes and everyone's going pretty fast and it feels really tight and you're trying not to get hit or hit anyone and following the GPS which you don't really trust yet and you're pretty sure it's this lane but that might also be an exit and HOLY CRAP that guy just cut in front of that car and they almost crashed and I DO NOT have the brakes to avoid the darting in and out that people keep doing this is hairy as hell and man oh man... Portland...Geez.)  The GPS would warn me that there was traffic ahead and I could see the giant road signs telling you go this way and it'll only be 20 minutes delay or whatever and I just... kept going the main way.  And in fact, I came to love traffic.  Because you know what happens in traffic?  We all slow down.  And when we slow down, my van is way way way nicer and easier for me to drive.

So I came to a point for the first time in my life where I was happy to be in traffic jams.  YAY FOR TRAFFIC!!!

Yeah... never though I'd say/think that.

But the slow traffic jams in and around Portland let me relax.  And sip my water.  Even have sips of my protein drinks I'd brought just for the road! 

The traffic on the other side looked horrific, and I made a mental note to see if I could avoid this route on the way home, or at least avoid high traffic times.  Half an hour in slow traffic is one thing.. I didn't think I'd want to be heading home and getting stuck in hours and hours of traffic.  We'd see how it went, I guess.

I think it was on this day that I decided to pull into a rest stop.  I hadn't done that at all on Friday because I'd been so stressed and panicked and I hadn't really thought it was something I *could* do... which doesn't make sense, I know, but nothing made sense that first day.

So at some point after the traffic cleared somewhat, I pulled into the next rest stop for a break and some lunch.


Rest stops.  You guys?  New favourite thing.  You can rest!  (Duh) And pee!  And... sit and chill (aka rest) OH AND THERE'S SHADE!!!!  So nice.  So so nice. 

So I stopped.  And I walked around, and I peed and I ate some lunch and I tried to plan out what route and where I might go (Jason had suggested an alternate route he was wondering if might have less traffic, since the "they're pushing me to go faster" feel of heavy traffic was really hard on me) and he suggested I ask some truckers, which I tried to but they hadn't heard of the highway I was wondering about.  I tried asking some other people but again, they had no idea.  So much for Jason's idea that "people in rest stops will know."  Yeah... no.  I did ask a state trooper but even he wasn't all that helpful and I decided to just stay on the route I'd at least been on before (with Connor, the last three years) rather than taking an unknown route just in case it felt easier.

I also sat eating my leftover... breakfast attempt, and a banana, and an older gentleman came over and struck up a conversation (I try to avoid conversation just because I find I end up "caught" in them longer than I'd like to be) and showed me the meteor (meteorite?) he'd found and I forget what else he talked to me about... the war, I think... and Canada (I guess I have an accent) and he, out of nowhere asked if I was a spy (he nailed the job I do for reals, which weirded me out!) and I packed up my lunch early so I could stop the conversation and I went for one last pee, and as I was tidying up my van to leave, he came over and handed me a pack of disposable wipes (for the potty) because he had "so many extra" and I was very touched (and slightly amused!) because that was a lovely thought and kind.  (Even though they are the devil's work at Burning Man and you CAN NOT use them in the potties, even if they are "flushable")

But yeah, rest stop break for the win for sure.  Filled up my water bottle too.  Which was great, because it meant I was hydrating!  YAY! 

All morning I'd been terrified.  The slow down for traffic had helped, but I still had so many moments of asking myself why I was doing this.  I distinctly remember saying "I could be home on my couch right now."  It was not enjoyable at all.  The van is terribly physically uncomfortable to drive.  And that's assuming the heat is reasonable.  It just is not comfy to drive.  So it isn't fun to drive.  Or comfortable to drive.  Or easy or enjoyable to drive.  Driving that van, by myself, really really sucked.

There were still lots of times I felt like I was being tailgated.  And at a certain point there was roadwork ahead and it came on me a lot faster than expected and I had to wave my hand out the window at a giant red 18 wheeler to hopefully let me in, which he did, thankfully, and when he passed me later, I waved at him, not sure if he could see me, but he got in front of me and blinked his lights and I assumed that was him waving back and I started to cry.  There were at least *some* nice people on the road.  I'd asked for help, he'd helped, I'd thanked him, he'd acknowledged.  It's enough to make me start crying again now.  That kindness and help when I was having such a tough time and was so scared.  Thank you red truck driver, for not being a scary jerk.  Really.

I also got a nice honk from an RV that'd been behind me (decent space) for a while and when they pulled ahead I saw their Burning Man sticker (I had taped a "man" onto my van) and that made me cry too... a happy hello for someone else on the road with me.  Someone else who didn't hate me and my driving.  Thank you Burning Man driving RV people. 

Those were the good parts of the day.

At some point after all this, because it was a tenth of a percent easier I started to get sleepy.  The stress made me panic which is/was no good (not to mention not safe) and that must have added to the exhaustion.  I talked to myself a fair bit.  Especially when the bluetooth speaker ran out of power and I couldn't pull over to plug it in so I was, yet again, out of music.  Sigh.  I was still really miserable and I got to some town.

I forget where, but I was done.  Physically and emotionally drained.  But I'd driven past my planned campsite and now I had no idea what the plan was.

I pulled into some parking lot and parked in a shady spot.  Texted Jason.  Was starving.  Wanted food.  Was tempted to go drive to a sushi restaurant but also needed to know where I was going for the night.

He called at some point.  I was angry.  Tired.  Hungry.  He kept offering solutions. "Oh, down the road there's this camp site or this National campsite looks nice"  How far... are they booked?  I can't risk not having a place to stay, I am done, done, done.

He tried to have me look up a place he thought I could get to.  I couldn't get it on my phone... because I was talking to him on my phone.  I got more frustrated.

I'd been sitting in the parking lot for close to an hour.  Mad that I hadn't thought to get food right away.  Meant I had no idea when I would be eating.  Or where I was staying. Somehow this was his fault.

He said he had no idea I was that exhausted.  I said I hadn't either.  That it had been sneaking up on me and then just hit all of a sudden when I reached this town.

Could I do another twenty minutes?  I don't know.  He gave me a place.  I typed it into GPS and google maps and steeled myself and headed out.

Ugh.  It was not good.  As I got close to the place, I made an executive decision and turned onto a road that lead to ...somewhere.  And then I felt lost.  I'd thought I'd come the right way, but now I was in a very small town with no help from my technology and no idea where to go other than I was worried I'd get shot by accidentally, unknowingly trespassing somehow.  I was so done.

I headed back out onto the highway, and was IMMEDIATELY dangerously tailgated.  Very very badly.  I was scared for my safety.  And theirs.  It was bad.  And as I tried to stay safe, the GPS indicated that I had arrived.  WHAT?

Turns out it was one of those locations RIGHT NEXT to the highway that the technology somehow thought was... not quite where it was, and the small local roads weren't really programmed in or something and meanwhile there was a vehicle on my ass trying really hard to get us both killed and I had no idea what to do.  It was scary. 

There was a "scenic turnoff" ahead and I pulled into that lane and for the first time in my life gave the middle finger to another driver.  It was that scary and unsafe.  And lo and behold... it was a vehicle with a rental Budget trailer and a bunch of bikes as well.  Someone heading to Burning Man.  More specifically, someone SO OVERWHELMED with not wanting to miss anything that they were rushing hard core towards the midnight "early" opening they'd announced for this year.  I was furious.

We're not supposed to be like this.  People who go to Burning Man are supposed to be better.  To know better.  We're supposed to be good people.  To look out for each other.  To have been put into such an unsafe situation by someone going to the same place I was?  Was so so so disappointing.  And really upsetting.  It was the scariest thing I'd experienced all day, and the first time I'd felt like I was being put at risk by someone else's actions.  It was horrible.

I pulled into the scenic spot (which was really beautiful, and I'd been there before, my first year...and the scene of a memory for all of us that first year, when Connor went to use the porta potty and found the gentleman in there pooping... hadn't locked the door!  Heh) and called Jason and, once again, lost it on him. 

Poor guy.  He was the recipient of all my stresses and fears and anxieties and there was a lot of it right then.  I was lost.  With no way to get where I needed to get and I was done. And I'd just nearly been killed.  Really.  How did people not understand what and how I was driving?  That I leave a gap so I can stop in time, because I can't stop in time otherwise?  And that driving through Portland just because there was a gap between my vehicle and the vehicle in front of me didn't mean there was space for you to pull in!  And now this guy nearly killed us all?  Because he wanted to get to gate AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?  AND NOW I HAD NO WAY OF GETTING TO MY CAMP?  WHAT THE FUCK!

I, again, don't remember what I yelled but I was scared and angry and exhausted and I really had just had the scariest driving experience of my life.  Yes, even after everything from the day before.  The guy going to Burning Man, tailgating me at full speed on a curved single lane road in beautiful Orgeon in the evening had nearly caused an accident I would not have been able to handle in that vehicle.  I was done.

I think Jason called the RV spot and got directions or something but I kept trying to explain that I couldn't get there and now was on the wrong side of the highway to boot.  I was screwed.  Going to be lost. 

But again... I somehow got myself back on the road... turned back on to the street I'd turned onto before and this time I SAW the sign that indicated that an RV campground was that way....

Man... if I'd only seen that before...  You know, before someone with mad fear of missing out tried to get us both killed.  Sigh. 

I pulled into the place, and was working on filling out the late arrival stuff when someone came up to the office and said "Oh yay, the big van made it!"

I guess Jason had called them and told them to keep an eye out for me, which I really appreciated, because now that I had arrived and could rest, I was crashing hard, and emotionally too.

I got signed in and pulled into my spot and moved everything around and started to try to make some sort of dinner.  Which ended up being gluten free macaroni and cheese from a package and it was pretty terrible.  But I did what I could to keep myself fed but yeah, it was gross. 

And I'd brought no bug spray or bug screens.  Not that it matters when only the driving windows open (the windows that were all sealed shut happily had bug screens... but that's no help) but it would have been nice to get a breeze in the van, but I had to keep things shut up because of mosquitoes and sigh.  So I ate, and then I showered (bliss) and then I pulled out my laptop and got some wifi and said hi to you guys.  And I tried to write some more notes, but quite honestly they weren't very helpful, or particularly detailed... or even in order.  I was pretty out of it and a little sketched out.  I think I felt less safe/comfortable in this particular place than I had the night before, but once I was in my van with the doors locked I felt pretty ok.  It was night before I got to the showers and they were pretty run down and had a drippy leak I wanted to fix but couldn't but I did make a note that camping by myself is nice.  I did like that.  Not having to talk to anyone, or work around anyone, just doing what I wanted when I wanted, how I wanted.  Driving by myself, not so nice, but, yeah, camping by myself was nice. 

When I talked to Jason (once fed and calmer) he pointed out that I was about half way.  I was surprised by that.  I wrote this in the post I wrote at the time "I don't think I can, or should do the full push to Black Rock City tomorrow.  I'm around eight hours away and you never know how long gate road (entry) will take and the possibility of a twelve plus hour day just doesn't seem smart, especially knowing where I'm going and the physical strain I'll be under once there.  (It's so hard to adjust and get your body used to the heat and altitude (and heat!) while trying to set up your camp)  So although I'm feeling sad that I'm not already there (today was my "hit the playa" day) and would rather not "miss" another day, I think I will do what needs to be done to be SAFE!  And that means being smart and rested and fed and hydrated. "  And I still stand by that being a good, and safe decision.

Could I have pushed straight through and made it to Burning Man on Sunday?  Probably.  But I decided not to, even though that made me pretty sad, on top of everything else.  I think the scare I'd had with the horrible driver that evening really made me feel like my personal safety was the most important thing and pushing myself to do a very long day just wasn't smart.

So I went to bed, planning on hopefully getting, once again, as far south as I could the next day.


Jason Langlois said...

Well, it's too late but I'd advise trying to drive around Portland, rather than through it. The mess of on and off ramps in the heart of the city is just so confusing and intimidating... it also feels easier to get off outside the city, take the surface streets to get around, and get back on the highway on the otherside.

But too late for that.

I'd also have mentioned the rest-stops as being important. One of the great things about the US highway system is those rest-stops. And truck stop diners, too.

And man, you can sure eat up miles fast on the US highways... it's sort of like driving the Trans-Canada once you're out of the Rockies. The miles just drop away at 60mph.

I'm glad there were more moments of light on this day. And glad Other Jason kept taking your calls. That's a good friend.

Victoria said...

Avoiding Portland was FOR SURE in the original plans. And secondary plans, if I recall. And then when I was so late leaving.... well, yeah. And yes, rest stops for the win for sure! :)