East to West: Cross-Country Drive in My Subaru and The Associated Life Journey

Posted: March 28, 2019 in Uncategorized
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Monument Valley. This picture does not even do justice. Behind is my Subaru Crosstrek, where I loaded “my life” inside a few garbage bags.

How do I even begin to talk about this 5-day journey to the west coast? I wanted to write about it without being too dramatic, as my god daughter would say. But I think skipping emotions from being part of the writing would be difficult, as part of this move was because of a surge of emotions that has been bottled inside—something similar to “Waiting to Exhale.”

Let me start by saying how much of what prompted this move stems back in October of last year, having come from Greece. However, I want to say as a caveat that to be fair to any circumstance and individuals who were quasi-involved, my return from Greece in October was not solely the triggering factor. It was primarily self-propelled. I always loved the west coast and I have been coming to visit California for years.

It all finally boiled down to that trip in Amsterdam, when, upon a friend-coworker’s advice, I sent a message to a former coworker about helping me find a job. He responded quick enough and said he will submit my resume to his boss. Fast-forward March 18, 2019, I took my white Subaru Cross trek, 2 dogs, and only a few hundred dollars to a 3, 351-mile drive to the west coast.

I didn’t think I would have quite a lot of things to pack, but I did. The dogs were left to be cramped in the front seat because of all the garbage bags, where I placed my belongings in.

It was a trip I started after dropping Mariska in school. I walked the dogs at the park then started the drive slightly before 0900. I admit to packing for this west coast move only 2 days before the departure. If you know me better, you will learn I work under pressure, better under pressure. However, packing 2 days prior to the trip left me with taking only those I  deemed essential at this point.

I was off to a wrong start, when I took the wrong ramp, leaving Jersey City. I think that’s when I cried. Perhaps, the only time I cried during the earlier part of the trip. But it was not long. I had a few minutes of second-guessing, as well, and, for a while, doubted whether I should have sucked it up and continued to live out in the east coast.

However, it must have been the prospect of the long drive that killed the emotions.

When people found out I was driving alone, they asked how long I planned to take the trip. I said 3. That was pretty ambitious. The second question was stop-overs. I didn’t have that plan, either. So what I did the night before was figure out how long I can handle driving in a day and find a safe place to check in. Because it was winter, I had to terminate plans to sleep in rest areas because of the cold.

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Route: Jersey City to Joliet, Illinois to Wheat Ridge, Colorado to Tempe, Arizona to Bakersfield, California to Milpitas, California.

Day 1: It was a long trip to the Midwest. I think that’s where Illinois is. The Midwest.

I don’t know how I came up with Illinois. ‘Must have been the distance. I hit up my college friend, Darlene, to ask where in the Midwest she lived. Apparently she’s in Michigan and not Illinois. She tried to hook me up with discounts to Marriot hotel chains but we couldn’t find any available outside Chicago that was pet-friendly. I decided to check on Motel 6. Eureka! Not only are they pet-friendly, pets stay for free!

It was a long drive through Pennsylvania. And boring. Pennsylvania became Ohio, which was another long drive. And it rained. It was past 9 pm, when I reached the Motel 6 in Joliet. It was further down south of Chicago’s south side, I believe, and quite close to I-80. As soon as a I got there, I checked in, showered, and passed out.

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At a stop-over in Ohio, I think. Drivers have showers!

The thing with Motel 6 hotels is, it is a hit or miss. I have seen nicer Motel 6s but this one was not only in a rather dicey area (I did see a woman get off from an SUV and the guy throws a big cup of soda, a can, and a bottle—almost, if not, hitting the car parked in the hotel) but also, the room was not clean, at all. Yes, there was hair on the bed. And holes on the sheets. And stains. And gaps in the walls and floors. It was, by no means, the best place but that sufficed, given I was going to be up early anyway the next day.

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I woke up the next day and went for a quick run before leaving. It was hilarious because given that it was so close to I-80, I didn’t realize at one point that while running, I was not on a sidewalk anymore but was on the ramp to the interstate and fast-moving cars and trucks were coming my way.

Day 2. I believe earlier this day I was still not totally decided whether to go to Cheyenne, Wyoming or hit Arizona via Denver. I had a raging urge to go to Arizona, however, and that was only sensible if I stopped in Denver. I remember plugging in Cheyenne, WY and then Denver, CO a few times… tossing between these two cities. On the side, however, I was in talks with my friends from Colorado and Arizona about the possibility of me swinging by to see them. The utmost urge, I admit, was to go to AZ. I love Arizona to a fault.

As a natural progression, Denver was a “collateral.” I looked up on another Motel 6 but didn’t want to book it at the time yet because, somehow, even when I had plugged in Denver with some finality on my GPS, I still debated whether there was a “point” to go to AZ and prolong my already-long drive. And incur more expenses for the hotel, as that might mean spending one more night on the road, rather than hitting California by Wednesday and making it to my physical check-up appointment on Thursday.

However, I figured making it to Northern California for my Thursday appointment would be pushing it, mentally and physically. So I called Stanford Hospital and asked to move the appointment on Friday, as was already suggested by them as a back-up schedule. I guess that sealed the deal, along with my friends, Lisa and Bruce, in Wheat Ridge, CO, offering me to stay at their place for the night.

It was a long day and night driving to Denver. I passed Iowa and had an urge to see my aunt but decided against it. I drove to Nebraska and was just thankful none of the roads that got hit by the flooding was on my route. IMG_5588

Admittedly, I was the most exhausted on this day. I had a nagging neck pain, one that I have been having intermittently the past months, and that really worsened the discomfort from driving.

(By the way, leading up to the drive and during the trip, I had been taking prophylactic doses of baby Aspirin, to prevent blood clots. I am not a doctor and I do not suggest doing it, but consult with your doctor. I figured, however, for my benefit, I could pop some ASAs. I did the same for my long flight to the Philippines back in December.)

Anyway, I was a bit disappointed when I reached Colorado at night. I wanted to see the Rockies during the drive in, to break the monotony of seeing ‘Braska—a name Siri came up with for Nebraska, each time I dictated the word “Nebraska” because it couldn’t clearly pick up my accent.

I was swerving on the road towards the end because I was so sleepy and exhausted. I didn’t want to tell anyone about this because I didn’t want any sympathy and worries. But it was, perhaps, the longest day in the whole trip.

My friends, Bruce and Lisa, were both kind enough to wait for me ‘til late. Bruce told me they normally went to bed early, so I was ever so thankful for them and recounted how fortunate I am to have met them in 2014 in Moab after a race. They’ve been good friends since, despite the distance.

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Always lovely to see Bruce and Lisa. So thankful for them sharing their home in CO.

Day 3: I woke to good night’s rest. I didn’t even bother shower the night before but that sleep was unlike any other. I chatted with Bruce and Lisa for a bit, let the dogs out in their backyard along with the Wilsons’ greyhounds, DeeDee and Monkey, and left.

Because I have been doing a run-streak since January 1stthis year, I stopped by a nearby park on my way out of Wheat Ridge.

The drive out of Colorado was beautiful. The Rockies just never fail to amaze me. The snow-capped mountains, the ski slopes—all wondrous and mesmerizing. If I weren’t driving, my phone might have lost memory from me capturing photos.

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After the snow-capped mountains, the scenery changed to red rocks and canyons. Utah was another state that captivated me the first few years I traveled for races to the west. I fell in love with Moab when I came in 2014 and then fell in love with the Wasatch Mountain Range when I came back a few months later that year. It amazed me how desert mountains (not exactly sure if that’s an appropriate word) and alpine mountains stand in close proximity.

I had many unexpected surprises during in this journey. One of which is that I would actually drive through and see Moab again. I didn’t know that to go to Arizona, I would see this place one more time and somehow, I was so excited because that is where I met Bruce and Lisa before. I have fond memories of Moab. I also didn’t realize that coming from Colorado, Moab would actually be closer than if someone came from Salt Lake, which is what my friend, Joe Delano, and I did in ’14.

I stopped at a gas station in Utah and grabbed food. At this point, on Day 3, I learned to just grab food and eat en route, rather than waste minutes that would translate to mileage.

Utah eventually became Arizona after a while.

That was when the scenery even became more surreal. IMG_1236

It must have started with a butte. Then more buttes. And when I thought I had seen series of buttes, I would come around and out a winding road and see more buttes.

When it became absolutely astounding—and familiar—I realized I was in Monument Valley!

I was at a loss for words. Dumb-founded.

I didn’t really come out of my car for photos during this trip, besides that time I detoured towards an overlook in Utah to see a range of canyons but this one was a no-brainer. Forrest Gump. That’s all I could think of. I only saw this in a movie.

I was nothing but full of appreciation for being given this chance to see this scenery. I know I would not have seen this if I decided to skip Arizona.

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Monument Valley

Finally I continued along a stretch of road. There was no cell service. I realized thar was because I was in the desert. That was normal. However, I panicked when I reached Flagstaff and still couldn’t get cell service. I had been to Flagstaff before and did not recall losing service. Verizon almost has the perfect service. I was nervous because I was supposed to meet a friend for drinks and had to redo my hotel reservation because, apparently, I missed checking out the reservation.

After an hour or so of that state of fear, I decided to reset my phone and my service came back. Phew.

Past 9pm, I reached my hotel in Tempe, AZ. I have an affinity for Tempe at this point as I always stay in that town when I am in AZ for the proximity to the airport and for the multitudes of choices with recreation and food, as it is close to the Arizona State University.

Bess and Walmsley. The dogs were tired. I could tell from how Bess would just lay on my lap during the drive. Being cramped inside the car and on one seat, I think, wore the dogs out.

I was tired, too. But I managed to shower and still go out and meet my friend for drinks. I figured at that point that I deserved it, being my last night on the road and with the following day, Thursday, as my last day to drive. I even decided to sleep in the next day before heading to California.

I went for drinks with my friend and stayed up until 2am, hitting 2 bars that night.

The dogs and I stayed at another Motel 6. This was a better one than the last Motel 6. Tempe can be borderline sketchy, as well. Also, as s sidebar, my friend told me how a nearby dorm of ASU had, at one point, the highest STD rate in the country. Okay…

I recommend food st Snooze. This is Pancake Flight, recommended if you cannot decide on flavor.

Day 4. Homestretch. Or so I thought.

I woke around past 6 that morning and had breakfast at a really good pancake place in Tempe, which my friend recommended. I’ve never had a pancake flight until that morning and I suggest Snooze to anyone coming to the Phoenix or Tempe area. It was sooooo good.

When I said I was going to take my time, I was not kidding. I left the hotel nearly 11am, around check-out time.

I attempted a run at nearby park but, somehow, my stomach became unsettled and I had to abort the mission.

I was in full spirits at this time. I smelled California and the prospect of reaching the state was there.

Because I had a late start, I decided to not proceed to Northern California. I texted my best friend and asked to stay with her.

It was still quite a drive coming out of Arizona. But I saw many interesting places, including Native American communities, that I wanted to go back to.

Finally, at 2:20 pm, I hit the border of California, where a sign would say “Welcome to California.” And that was when all these became even more surreal. I cried. I texted my coworkers and friends, who had all been witness to this journey—the symbolic and literal journey that led me here, to my decision to come to California… an “adventure,” which I described as something where I “run the risk of losing everything.” I texted my coworker and friend, Lisa Menotti, and when she responded, her words just made me lose all emotions from wherever they might have been hiding at and I just let the tears fall. I never thought all these would happen: moving out, packing, traveling by car alone, leaving with barely any money, and leaving Mariska thousands of miles away.

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But eventually, all emotions were going to be overcome by another bout of exhaustion especially as my route took me to I-10 and I-5, where I finally had a grasp of where I was in California and how much longer it would take me to my friend’s house. Thankfully, just as I was drowning in this physical and mental fatigue, my other former coworker and good friend, Cindy, called me and we talked for over an hour about everything under the sun—from nail polish to kids.

This whole time, I was telling Cindy and another friend how hungry I was and needed “real food.” Past 9 pm, I reached my friend’s house eventually and a feast of real food was ready. I ate like there was no tomorrow. And, of course, I went for a run. Crashed. Slept.

Day 5. Man, did I not say I was just going to finish this drive in 3 days?

Well, Day 5 did not even count. It was a mere 4-hour drive. Of course, at this point in my life, anything that didn’t involve a 10-hour drive is a short drive for me.

I will not forget that, officially, at 11:23 am, I arrived in Milpitas, California and I REACHED THE END OF THIS JOURNEY—the literal part of it. That hit right there. My arrival in my new “home” was slightly anti-climactic, as I felt the highlight was when I passed that California border the day before. Yet this will always remain significant in that this was when those long days and long drives would stop. I was “home.”

It is now nearly a week since I arrived in California. I went to church on Sunday to thank God for everything (yes, I do go to church when I can).

I started work 2 days after arriving in Milpitas. I have been, slowly, transforming my empty apartment into a quasi-home with my Bess and Walmsley. Mariska is missing. I managed to buy a doormat that said “Home Sweet Home” the day after I arrived and I cried when I saw that at Ross. I cried, but that door mat—well—that marked the start of a new life I am trying to build here in Northern California.

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It has not been an easy transition. I was out of job for a week and I am cash-strapped like I have not been before. But I learned who my friends are. I learned friends can be better than family. I learned how to live wisely, because this experience highlighted my mistakes in life—how I failed at being smart, how I didn’t know how to be an adult and get ready for the worse, how I wasted money to run away from things that annoyed me, bothered me.

At the same time, however, I am being a big girl. And I am actually appreciating this new-found sense of independence, of this ability to make do with what I have. This is a hard lesson I learned but one I would remember and learn from now on. Things that I took for granted and hope to never take for granted again.

I learned, as well, that if I just let go of my fears and stop stressing about things—no matter how big they are—they will find their “solution,” not “inadvertently” by chance but more from every “vibe” and stars aligning, as my friend Dave Wiskowski would say. Or something in that context.

Most importantly and I might have said this already, there were people who were with me in this journey. A lot of them. Many of my coworkers cried with me, hugged me, gave me support. There were a few friends who knew what I was fighting and going through inside me that made me so depressed for a while and these friends stood by me. And, well, there were people who failed to be there, as well, who I hoped would be, but were not. I guess it is high time to really “rethink” them but it will happen at its own time, I guess. What is important is that I learn to look at the glass half-full now.

The journey is not over with me reaching Northern California. It just started. Cliché but, oh, well.

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Go where your heart wants to go and figure out the rest after-” Paige Banks.

 

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