The Journey Within

I have had a few days to reflect back on our 15-day adventure through west coast USA, with a stop at the last Blockbuster in the Universe. Mostly, I have slept or head-bobbed at my desk trying to catch up on my writing. That was a lot of stops, a ton of hours in the RV, and not to mention multiple time changes over the course of those two weeks.

Around Las Vegas, I had a change of heart about my anxieties regarding trekking through mountains in the RV. To say that I wasn’t  still nervous about the high elevations ahead and especially the last stretch into the familiar territories of Interstate 5, would be a stretch, but my opinion on what these anxieties represented had now changed.

Perhaps it was all of the mountains between that second day in Mt. Hood to Las Vegas that led to this change of heart? Maybe it was climbing gigantic boulders at Skull Rock? Whatever it was, I was now seeing these fears as adrenaline. I was after all carrying precious cargo – my family, through some pretty terrifying terrain whether it was a mountain summit, or alone on a road for hours through the desert.

Of course, I didn’t want to slip up and kill them, but I came to determine that I wasn’t anxious – not really. Anxiety was back in California when I was desperately trying to find a way back to Canada that didn’t involve mountains. It was sleeping in a parking lot in Bend, Oregon – worrying about my family and of course, that something might happen with this RV.

Bend. That’s right. I left that part out or more adequately put, I blocked it out. That might just have been one of the more scarier days and nights of my life.

I wrote about how much Mt. Hood petrified me; so much so that it put a bit of a damper on our venture through Blockbuster that second night of our trip. I was able to forget about that horror and the debilitating fears of the roads ahead to California long enough to enjoy the Doctor Who trip down memory lane, but Mt. Holy Bleep was never far from thought.

Then to top it all off, night quickly came upon us and technically, we had another few hours left on the road to find warmer ground. We had an RV site booked in Grants Pass (Riviera RV Park to be exact), Oregon, but speaking to locals about a storm watch ahead and still fear-struck from the days RV adventures, I made the judgement call to find a parking lot to bunker down for the night.

You see, we weren’t supposed to stay anywhere below freezing temperatures, and later in the night it was supposed to drop to about -4 in Bend; that, and the fact that I didn’t want to be driving in the dark through unknown mountainous territory on day three of driving an RV. I had to choose my families safety as the priority in this decision, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t extremely nervous about our first parking lot stay.

Many people told us about this phenomenon in the US of parking RV’s in parking lots over night. Mostly, people stay at Walmart’s. Not all of them allow you to do this, but many do. I am told Cracker Barrel’s do as well and in our case, we didn’t get any pushback from Aarons furniture store. That’s where we stayed. It was just across from Blockbuster.

I had done a bit of research on staying in an RV below zero, and what was recommended was to open the cupboard doors where any pipes were, crank the heat, and hope for the best. It wasn’t going to be below zero for long, so we also avoided using the water and instead used bottled water to flush and wash our hands with. We also started the RV every hour or so to ensure we didn’t drain the battery.

For the most part, Tara kept watch from the front of the RV. I did try my best to sleep with a long drive ahead, but my mind was swirling all night.

What had I gotten us into? I didn’t plan this well. I had no idea we would be going through mountains like this. Why didn’t I turn on the terrain level when I mapped our route out? I wanted to put my thumb in my mouth and call out for my mommy. Could someone just beam me home? Can this all be a wildly realistic dream? Can I get a third party to drive this beast home from California?

Other than Tara witnessing a drug deal mid-morning, our family and the RV were no worse for wear and by 6 AM, we were up and ready to hit the long road to anywhere in California where the temperatures weren’t below zero.

As I wrote about on day three, Mt. Shasta and that whole drive from Bend was also quite scary, but as the trip progressed, my mindset started to change as well. This is adrenaline – not anxiety.

Sure, the first half of the vacation was mostly fear of the unknown roads ahead. That feeling never truly went away but by changing the definition, I saw my feelings as more of a protective rush to make sure I was on the ball because with transports whizzing by, large cliffs to our left and right and sometimes with little to no protective barriers – not to mention ice, snow, and torrential rain – being on the ball with hands at 10 and 2 for most of the trip, was critical to our safety.

When I started to tell myself to stop looking too far ahead – to just stay focused on the road right in front of me, I started to see that focusing 30 yards at a time, was the best way to continue the journey; that 9 times out of 10, the unknown beyond the feeling that the worlds edge was ahead, was usually nothing and even when there was something worthy of kicking my adrenaline into gear, it was always okay. I wasn’t in a rush. I was alert and focused and mindful of my surroundings. That’s all I could do.

In the end, I was calling on the next climb and yelling “Is that all you’ve got?” For the most part, the mountains never really were that bad – except Mt. Hood. That was an icy mess, but The Happy Glampor handled well. I just went slow through those summits, and let my adrenaline ride us through the high elevations that were in store for the entire route of our trip.

Had I planned these little details, I probably wouldn’t have suggest this trip. My fears would have gotten the best of me. I hate heights – hated; past tense perhaps? I was forced to face my fears these past two weeks and as we ventured through the last mile of the Snoqualmie Pass, I finally left them behind.

From the beautiful sites along the way, to the kind seasoned RV’ers who offered both support and advice, we saw firsthand what a stunning and kind country America is at its core. Our eyes were also opened to the homeless problem far beyond our own borders, evident in old RV’s lined up on California streets, in the underground drainage basins in Las Vegas, and in perhaps an increase of people choosing to live in trailer parks full time. This adventure both provided social and political education, and forced me to face internal hang-ups face on; at mountains edge. I am not sure any vacation could ever give back as much to its participants, than this one gifted our family of 5. Both Tara and I felt stronger – invigorated; like we could accomplish anything in the world, after navigating our family through everything the land and Mother Nature thru at us.

What were the highlights of our trip? The last Blockbuster is at the top. It’s the reason we decided to do this and it lived up to its nostalgic magic. I have to say that that the border guard saying ‘Welcome home’, was a very cool way to end our vacation, too. It was all perfect in the end. Every moment played a part in both creating lasting memories, and ensuring our safe return home.

America, you are beautiful. Although Canada is far from perfect, it was still nice to be in the ‘True north strong and free.’

Now, ‘we’ve got friends out on the coast.’

Thanks to Amy in Lynden, Washington, for introducing me to Chris Stapleton. These lyrics prove a perfect soundtrack to this transformational family adventure.

There truly was something about this trip that made us feel like we were starting over – empowered to whatever the world had to throw at us.

Starting Over, by Chris Stapleton

Well the road rolls out like a welcome mat
To a better place than the one we’re at
And I ain’t got no kinda plan
But I’ve had all of this town I can stand
And I got friends out on the coast
We can jump in the water and see what floats
We’ve been saving for a rainy day
Let’s beat the storm and be on our way

It don’t matter to me
Wherever we are is where I wanna be
And, honey, for once in our life
Let’s take our chances and roll the dice
I can be your lucky penny, you can be my four-leaf clover
Starting over

This might not be an easy time
There’s rivers to cross and hills to climb
Some days we might fall apart
And some nights might feel cold and dark
When nobody wins afraid of losing
And the hard roads are the ones worth choosing
Some day we’ll look back and smile
And know it was worth every mile

It don’t matter to me
Wherever we are is where I wanna be
And, honey, for once in our life
Let’s take our chances and roll the dice
I can be your lucky penny, you can be my four-leaf clover
Starting over
Starting over

It don’t matter to me
Wherever we are is where I wanna be
And, honey, for once in our life
Let’s take our chances and roll the dice
I can be your lucky penny, you can be my four-leaf clover
Starting over
Starting over

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