That last week in Washington was a whirlwind of tying up those last tenuous threads connecting us to life in the US, farewell lunches and dinners with friends, packing, working, laundry...all those daily things that still need to be done even if you are leaving the country at the end of the week.
It was with true sadness that I packed up my last few items from my desk, gave everybody one last hug and walked out of the office. I'm so lucky to have worked with such wonderful people for the last 10 years, and I will miss them all so much. But it was definitely time to move on and make my way south to get this new chapter of life started.
My lovely colleagues celebrating Australia Day with me.
Despite the commitment to living minimally, I still had a room full of crap to pack and transport to Mexico. I was originally planning to fly down, but with so much stuff it would have cost a fortune, so why not drive? I was going to sell the Fiat before I left but it made so much sense to drive it down. It would be really handy over the next few months as we finish up some boat work - we can pop back and forth over the border with a minimum of fuss and bother to get any difficult to source parts, zip around downtown Ensenada to organize our boatyard list and not least, find cool local bars with cheap beer and tacos. And so it was decided I would leave at 8am on Saturday morning. I was watching the weather obsessively as I was worried about driving over Grants Pass in snow. I'm an Aussie. I have a Fiat and no chains and even if I did, I have no clue of how to put them on anyway. It's just not a good idea, me driving snowy passes. Alas, the weather looked absolutely awful for the foreseeable future.
Saturday dawned, although one wouldn't think so, it was so dark. Constant heavy rain, low black clouds, wind and the beginning of a long weekend so there was potential for lots of extra traffic. I packed up the car and with many tears and my heart filled with gratitude, said goodbye to our wonderful friends Andrew and Maria, who had so graciously opened their home to me for the last 3 months. I will never be able to repay their kindness to me. My special beau Dexter made me cry even more with his big brown doggy eyes. Goodbyes are always so hard.
These pictures have been shamelessly poached from Facebook
Aside from that pesky Grants Pass and the looming arctic wind/cold front clash that had the potential to slow me down I was quite looking forward to the drive down to LA to meet up with Darrin. I've always enjoyed road trips and the prospect of driving on my own was never really a worry to me. I had recently taken to doing a short meditation in the mornings to help me deal with my fear of every.single.thing. in the universe, and I felt well prepared, excited, ready to take on this first challenge of my journey south. It took me until Olympia to stop crying and settle into the drive, and armed with all my favourite music, crime podcasts and spanish lessons I had plenty to keep me entertained along the way. I had planned on about 7 hours of driving each day before stopping for an early dinner and bedtime, ready to get moving again early the following day, weather permitting.
This picture was not taken by me, but it's what it looked like. Copyright SCMP
Speaking of weather - it was truly dreadful. Surprisingly, or perhaps not given the road conditions, there was little traffic heading south. Mile after mile of nothing but torrential rain and limited visibility all the way from Seattle to just south of Eugene in Oregon when finally a very listless sun made a sluggish attempt at breaking through the clouds. A little while later I arrived at my first stop for the night, Canyonville, feeling a great sense of achievement and relief for making it a third of the way without incident. I took myself out for a celebratory gin and tonic and dinner to the Seven Feathers Casino, gave my customary $100 donation to the Cow Creek Tribal Nation via a slot machine, and went back to the hotel for an early bedtime. The weather looked like it would be ok for the next morning, so I set my alarm for 6am and it was nighty nite for me after a long emotional day.
I was awake before the alarm, checking the weather and looking outside to see how it all looked. I had about an hour drive to Grant's Pass and per the forecast, it should be a reasonably easy drive until mid morning when the Winter Weather Warning was supposed to be in effect. So off I went, confident in the assumption that I would be over the pass before it started snowing.
Linda. Linda. Linda.
Heading out of Canyonville I was surprised to note the occasional snow flurry as I was driving uphill. Huh. Uphill. I wasn't expecting this at all, Grants Pass is at least an hour away. A bit more snow...a slushy road...and all of a sudden out of nowhere, a veritable blizzard of snow falling, accumulating on the road, and nowhere to go but onward. At this point I was a little concerned. Well actually that's a lie. Terror is a better word I think. I have had very limited experience driving in snow, much less on an unanticipated mountain pass, in a Fiat, going 10 miles an hour while road trains pass me. This is where I came back to my daily meditations and where I started my mantra...Fearless...Fearless....Fearless. I found a truck to follow along behind that made me feel a little less...umm...whats the word....petrified. Yes I think that adequately describes my mental state at that time, despite my mantra. I knew I had to keep going, stopping would have been a mistake. But it was snowing harder and the truck was going even slower and cars and other trucks are flying past me and finally I got to the top of...What? Canyon Creek Pass? I'd never even heard of Canyon Creek Pass.
On the other side it was weirdly but blissfully clear. No snow at all. At this time I realized my Fearless mantra was being chanted quite frantically and loudly and it could have been a little high pitched too. Pretty sure I could crack walnuts with my arse as well. Going down the other side was a lovely drive, sunny and pretty, but I knew I had Grants Pass ahead. And so after 30 minutes of easy driving, I steeled myself to take on the challenge of traversing this next colossal alpine mountain pass in my trusty Fiat. Trudy, my faithful GPS friend, was telling me I was getting closer. I was whispering my Mantra...fearless...Fearless...FEARLESS..as I started heading uphill again, my heart filled with dread, I steeled myself for the inevitable icy snowy slippery road and limited visibility. Except...nothing. Maybe a little damp from a passing sunshower. But no snow, no rain, nothing! I had been so fixated on how terrible this was going to be, and it was a complete fizzer! Not that I was complaining of course. My hands were still cramped from the iron grip on the wheel during the Canyon Creek pass, so it was nice to relax a little. Not for too long though, because then I found myself transiting Siskiyou Pass on the Oregon/California border, and while it was a little snowy up there, there was minimal accumulation as snow plows were keeping the roads clear.
Finally the weather cleared just before coming into Weed in California. Lest you think the town has a serious problem with dandelions, it actually gets its name from the owner of what was once the worlds largest sawmill, Abner Weed. The clouds lifted and I was rewarded with a glorious view of Mt. Shasta and as I continued on, mile upon mile of flowering apricot, orange and almond trees proved that spring had surely sprung in Northern California. With the mountain passes behind me, clear roads and some sun, it was time to bust out my best renditions of my favourite 80's tunes. Think The Vapours, Duran Duran, Soft Cell etc. and you'll have a good idea of my playlist to Stockton. Now for those of you unfamiliar with my love of singing, you should know that that nothing gives me more pleasure than singing at the top of my lungs. Especially 80's music. So you can imagine the pathos, the pitch, the perfect tune, the emotion that went into my version of Total Eclipse of the Heart (the original) when it came on. Celine Dion couldn't have wrung a single drop of ardently passionate intensity out of that song like I did. She couldn't have hit higher notes. It was epic. Drained of all emotion as I hurtled down the freeway and sang "turn around bright eyesssssssssss" in a tiny voice, picturing the creepy white eyed kid in the video, I knew that I would never sing that song as perfectly as I did then. I had reached the apogee of my somewhat non existent singing career...and no one heard it but me. Such a shame.
The day had been quite the roller coaster emotionally, so I was happy to arrive to Lathrop, despite the howling gale and dodging the tumbleweeds blustering along the freeway. Daz was about to leave the Phillipines for LAX and I planned to be up early to make the final leg of the trip to meet up with him.
I headed out early, no fear of snowy passes this time (or so I thought). A quick stop through Starbucks and I was on my way, catching up on my "news in slow spanish" before once again succumbing to the music of my somewhat misspent youth. There's not much between Lathrop and Anaheim, except there is a pass - Tejon Pass. And unbelievably, despite the sunny day thus far, it was snowing. Yes, snowing, going over Tejon Pass. So every pass along the way except for the only one I was worried about, Grants, had snow. Dropping down into Los Angeles, the traffic got a little heavier but not too much. It was a quick trip to Anaheim where I met up with Daz.
While I had fun on my road trip, I was glad that we'd be driving into Mexico together the next day. We had originally planned to drive straight to Ensenada but it had been a long day of driving for me already, Daz was jetlagged and as we don't make good decisions when we're tired, it was better to carry on the next day. Our trip down was uneventful, filled with chatter of boat projects, timelines, potential departure dates, lists of things to do and not do. It was quick and easy to get over the border and we finally arrived at the boat late afternoon.
It's so exciting to finally be here and be part of the journey Darrin started last October. So lovely to step aboard Eione and be home!