My Cross Country Solo Adventure Comes to an End…

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Day 9 (Last Day of the Journey)

I wake up in one of those motel rooms that you really Don’t want to stay in but you just need a place to crash. My beloved Jeep is already at the car shipment port, ready for transport to Maui. The airport shuttle arrives on time and I find myself teary-eyed as I wait at the gate…

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When my flight hovers over Oahu, I can barely breathe with anticipation. It’s been a long adventure to arrive at home. I left Hawaii July 2013 thinking I’d find something by moving to Philadelphia, where I grew up. What I found is that Maui is my home because that is where my heart is. It’s been a LONG two years to come full circle.

I switch planes at the inter-island terminal and I am crying with joy already and in 26minutes, I see my home…

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Now, if you’ve ever flown into Maui, the ride is almost always dippy & bumpy but not today. Today we fly in smooth. I know the tourists on the plane are really confused. Who cries like a baby when staring at Maui when the plane descends? I can’t explain to you the feeling of relief that overwhelms me. You ever been away from home for a long time & not know when you’re going back? You know what you long for? Sitting in your favorite cafe with your BFF; food shopping at Safeway; working out at your home gym; picking up your child from school; going to Jamba Juice…you miss the daily routine that defines your life.

I had A LOT of alone time to reflect on my life while I drove across country this week. I realized that for the very 1st time in my life – I don’t have a goal. I don’t have a plan. Everything I want is about to come true. I don’t care if nothing else comes true for me. It’s a weird place to be in life: Going home and totally open to what unfolds next. no wishes; no apprehension.

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I journeyed across this amazing country for this EXACT moment. Yesterday I sat for two hours with a cup of coffee & my BFF at the wall at Cove Park watching…

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our sons surfing together. Take a moment when your dream comes true. Twice I’ve landed on Maui with an uncertain future. The 1st time around Maui brought me a son, a house, and a 2nd career that I love. This 2nd time has got to be just as unbelievable…

When you drive across country, here’s what I learned:

Planning it all out makes everything easier. You can deviate from the plan but have one. Give yourself plenty of time for rest & unexpected breakdowns!  (Read over my Day 3 and Day 5 experiences). If you have low back pain, buy a BackJoy (it’s well worth the $30). Take time to visit friends along the way. See the Grand Canyon. Just be open to whatever happens during your adventure. What seems like a mishap at first ALWAYS has a silver lining.

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Day 7 and Day 8 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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Day 7:  I am feeling a bit melancholy already. It has been a long journey and I’ve had a couple of car mishaps BUT I must say, I would do this over again at least 10xs ! Not kidding there. Being alone with the open road, no schedule, no to-do list and plenty of time just “be”. I don’t even want to think! I just wanted to enjoy the scenery & enjoy driving. Call me small-minded. I didn’t want to listen to audio books. I didn’t really meditate. I sang tunes over & over again & loved that day’s song (today’s was “My Songs Know What You did in the Dark” by Fallout Boy).

So Day 7 started off in a leisurely fashion. My GF and I made protein banana-blueberry smoothies…

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and spent all morning catching up on the happenings with all of our friends & family. The rest of my day was just running errands in Las Vegas. Laundry; shipping all the items in the jeep to Maui; washing the Jeep in order to prep it for shipment; getting some snacks; and …FINALLY, getting to a real gym!!! Yay, I can lift weights! And the gym had real weights with people who clearly are passionate about weight-lifting.

I felt right at home  🙂     Edge Fitness in Las Vegas:

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Day 8:  Today, I had to get on the road early. The land journeying part of this trek to Maui is coming to an end. I thank Keilani for having me and give her a hug g’bye…

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Now, I’m on the road to downtown San Diego in order to ship my Jeep from San Diego to Maui.

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The landscape driving from Las Vegas to San Diego changes beautifully. The Mojave Desert and gorgeous mountain chain. It’s another beautiful day of driving through desert heat. I’m taking in the changing colors of the mountains and contemplating the end of this time of discovery.

I hopefully fly tomorrow back to Maui. I wistfully say g’bye to my Jeep at the dock. Serendipity strikes again. I meet a woman who is in line in front of me for vehicle drop-off. She is also shipping her vehicle to Hawaii. And as we talk, we discover that we are from the same town on Maui & in fact, we have at least one friend in common! She also tried to live on the mainland for over a year & found that Maui called her back.  Even in a cross-country trek when I am witnessing how immense this land is, I come across someone from home. We share a cab back to our respective hotels & promise to get in touch on Maui. The Universe always sending signs that Maui is home for me & my boy….

Tomorrow – the journey across this U.S.of A. comes to a melancholy and yet joyful end. Tomorrow, reflections on discoveries along the way and advice for anyone wanting to explore this nation totally solo…. Tune in for the Close of the Adventure.

Day 6 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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Day 6:  Y-A-Y! A trouble-free day that goes smoothly and beautifully according to plan (Woo-Hoo!) Oh, I forgot to mention ONE good thing that happened yesterday… In all of the emotional and logistical upset of my Jeep breaking down, once I got on the road I needed gas. (Is New Jersey the only state left where an attendant pumps your gas?) So after I fill my tank apparently I had forgotten to replace the gas cap! I always set my gas cap right on my back light resting on the back light guard grill. Well, I drove some 190 miles (In case you didn’t know, Jeeps get horrible gas mileage!) with no gas cap on!  Fortunately it was STILL there resting on my back light when I filled up for gas again. Now THAT’S lucky!

So, I start from the motel before 7am. The gas station clerk recommended I take the scenic Route 180 up to the Grand Canyon – a lot less traveled & going through so gorgeous forestry. And she was right! A long, winding road through amazing flat plains of farm country (I even saw a statuesque cowboy- full on with the hat, leggings, bandana) astride a beautiful pinto). The farm country turned to magnificent pine forests as I went higher up in elevation. A gorgeous drive which took 20minutes longer than the tradition route but worth every minute (and I am a stickler for time-efficiency,lol)

Once I get there – SERENDIPTIY! August 25th was the 100th Anniversary of the U.S.National Park Service and entry to any national park yesterday was totally free. No entry or parking or tour fees! WooHoo! I saved at least $50.00. I took the tour/shuttle bus service run by the Park Service and stopped at every scenic view along the route. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend doing this! The driver calls out a little information about each scenic point so you can decide whether to get off or go on to the next stop. forgive these MANY breathtaking pics..

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I can’t pic a favorite view!! It’s all so majestic! (My favorite stop along the shuttle bus route is Pima Point, the other just don’t have the same view of the Colorado River and the various strata) I stood & stared at each scenic point for many minutes. I saw a black bird flying through the canyon & imagined what it must feel like to be that free to fly over such an awesome place and with that thought the bird flew within 50 feet of me so I could really see him. It was as if he read my thoughts & was saying “Yep, I’ve got it made!” I enjoyed every second of viewing this immense and breathtaking wonder. I was SOO lucky today. The weather, as you can see, was perfect up until the time I finished at the gift shop at Hermit’s Rest and as I boarded the bus back to the parking area, it started pouring down rain! How lucky was that!!! An absolutely idyllic day that could not have been more perfect!!!

I spent 4 glorious hours at Grand Canyon National Park – another Bucket List item complete! Drive across the country – check. See the Grand Canyon – check. Time on the road makes you reflect about the past and look ahead to the future. After six days on the road all alone, I have come to the conclusion that I am FINALLY & definitively A-O-K being without a partner. It may not always be this way but I feel SOOO  content on my own, in my own skin. I don’t long to hold someone’s hand or wish I were with someone on this trip. I treasure being all alone. This wasn’t always this case in my life.

Back to hit the road for 4 hours to Las Vegas, Sin City, (thank god for Monster drinks! Whoever invented the stuff is a genius!) to stay with my good friend, Keilani, for two nights. She just bought a house & car in Vegas so I am looking forward to catching up with her!

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Warning, if you are driving from the Grand Canyon to Vegas. Fill up on gas!! There are 58-65 mile stretches with no gas stations! (this is true in New Mexico too!) I had two close calls where I was biting my lip praying for a gas station to appear out of nowhere. But the mountains are very pretty, lol!  Finally, I reach Keilani’s house & spend the evening touring her new house & catching up since I haven’t seen her in at least 2 years…

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Day 6 will be hanging out with Keilani & running errands before my final drive to San Diego where I ship my jeep off to Hawaii & fly back home to Maui! It’s been a long two years here on the mainland…

Day 5 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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Day 5:  I fully admit that I was SOO exhausted from the events of Day 5 that I am writing this post on Day 6 of my journey because I eventually checked into my hotel in Tulsa, OK 6 hours late & passed out. What happened that I was 6 hours late?…  This is how Day 5 of my journey started…

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Wait, didn’t this just happen to her back in St.Louis? Is she just re-posting? Or is she re-living it? Nope. My Jeep broke down not just once but twice!!  (I must’ve had car failure in my vibration before I started this trip!)   So for those who know me, this sight is the last thing I would ever want. My Jeep is the only material thing I care about.This is how Day 5 began. A six-hour experience… I almost cried & called my mom but I slowly got myself calm. I tried to start looking for a silver lining. At least my radiator cracking did not occur in the middle of the desert. I had only driven 3minutes from the hotel so I returned. I wasn’t stranded. I had food, water, a bathroom & Free Wifi, lol!  The hotel staff were very helpful in finding a good mechanic. Less than 5 minutes from this picture, we pulled onto the Historic Route 66 and arrived here:

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At first I was upset but as Kerry & Jeff & others started working to get the Jeep repaired, I realized that this scene was reminiscent of my boy’s favorite movie, Cars, the Disney animated film. Tucumcari was probably the town that Radiator Springs was modeled after. Mechanic shop after mechanic shop and small corner stores and family run motels. As I was thinking this, Jeff, the mechanic said, “Yeah this is a sleepy little town but when people come through, they get stuck here – just like you.” I felt just like Lightning McQueen!

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I sat there for hours as they replaced my cracked radiator and my non-functioning thermostat (at least it wasn’t the brand new water pump that Mark at Firestone installed in St. Louis two days before). Tucumcari’s entire population is just over 5 thousand folks and I think all of the men in town gather at this mechanic shop with their cups of coffee to discuss football or the current events of the town. It was like the neighborhood barbershop and I had a front row seat. If my Jeep hadn’t broken down for the 2nd time, I wouldn’t have experienced Tucumcari. I would’ve checked out of my hotel and left without a 2nd glance.

After Kerry & Jeff fix up the Jeep & give it a test drive, I am back on the road with an 8.25 hour drive ahead to Flagstaff, AZ. Now 6 hours late! I was hoping to check into my hotel in Flagstaff by 3.30p, It was already 2pm…I decide to just start my drive because tomorrow I really wanted to see the Grand Canyon!  I start on I-40 West and choose my song for the day, Pompeii by Bastille, great tune! I begin my trek through New Mexico. My goal is to reach Flagstaff by 10pm. Luckily for me, there is an hour shift  as I cross a timeline in that drive so technically I’d only be 5 hours late, hehehe. Trying to look on the bright side. Traffic is actually OK with the exception of hitting Albuquerque at rush hour. But if I can handle rush hour in Philly then Albuquerque is a piece of cake. More desert landscape that looks like an old Western film…

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and soon, I am watching another sunset as I pass this sign…0824151802_0001

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I look for things to appreciate to make the drive go by…Sunset as I cross into Arizona is beautiful.  I wish I could say the same for my motel in Flagstaff. No matters, I am late arriving, I just need a bed & a clean bathroom. This motel provides me both & nothing more. OK, Free WiFi, lol! A really challenging day behind me. Tomorrow, the Grand Canyon!!

Day 4 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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Day 4:  I am seeing a pattern develop on my morning starts during this trip. I woke up to lightning/thunderboomers & downpours.

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This pic was actually during a 45sec break from a downpour,lol! Well, on the bright side, the heavy rain washes away the mashed bug remains stuck on my windshield which were bothering me. Although this motel in Tulsa wasn’t the greatest; it at least had a microwave – which means popcorn for breakfast! Popcorn, multi-vitamin, cheese stick and a hard-boiled egg make up my breakfast. If one could call it that. Being on the road means improvising everything – Working out too. This morning’s workout was weightless squats, walk-out push ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, side crunches, bulgarian split squats & leg raises. Personal trainers are masters at torturous exercises with no equipment at all, lol!

So my agenda today is to drive through Oklahoma (a state I’ve never been in, even on a lay-over) Actually, I’ve never been in Indiana or Missouri either… But I digress, so drive through Oklahoma, then the top of Texas and into the town of Tucumcari, New Mexico! I have no idea what Tucumcari is famous for but I am about to Wikipedia it, lol!

Traveling through Oklahoma…this is America’s heartland, right? Pastures, fields, cows, barns and tree lines. OK was actually very green. I expected it to be acres of brown, harvested crops. That was to be later in the day. Right now, Oklahoma is quite green with some small hills. I noticed a number of Native American Reserved Lands. Haven’t ever seen those…

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Then as I cross the state border into Texas, I see these! Now wind turbines I’ve seen before! There are some 26-30 wind turbines erected in the West Maui mountains. Later as I got further into Texas I see what I was expecting – thousands of acres of brown, dry, flat land and thousands of wind turbine fields! Just miles & miles of wind turbines. If you’ve never seen this with your own eyes, it’s…different. Not great but not bad either. Obviously the nation needs to pursue greener forms of energy…I have mixed feelings about how many wind turbines I am passing.

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I stop at a Visitor’s Center in Texas to grab a few photos…. On to New Mexico. Strange.. OK is distinctly green pastures. Texas is distinctly brown, flat fields & wind turbines. And New Mexico is the landscape straight out of the cowboy western films where the stagecoach gets coach-jacked (?). Greener than Texas but definitely not lush and now there are mountain-like formations of rock everywhere. I get to my hotel & Y-A-Y, it has a beautiful, quiet indoor pool!

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I enjoy the pool today & tonight because tomorrow it’s on to… Arizona! I am now 63% of the way across this fair nation 🙂

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Day 3 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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Day 3:  Doesn’t start out the way I wanted… Rolling thunderstorms throughout most of Missouri says weather.com, Yep, they’re right. 0822150944

But I remind myself to stay positive. After all, I woke up in Jean’s beautiful house & can spend some of the morning with dear friends! BTW, did I mention that 2 hours after I arrive at Jean’s house, her daughter, bless her heart, falls off of her bike & breaks both bones in her forearm?!  Emergency room visit  😦   So “broken” was a theme throughout my stay in Missouri. In the morning, after breakfast (a protein shake, of course), we head to her son’s soccer game. I notice that water is spouting out from under the hood of the jeep. I pop the hood in the parking lot at the soccer field & TROUBLE!  Something is clearly wrong, there is water-coolant mix sprayed all over my engine. (WTF!!???) Luckily I am with Jean & the soccer game gets cancelled due to rain. (predictable) So Jean calls her mechanic. Thanks for being open Firestone! So…

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5hours & $460 (f-kng dollars!) later, I have a new water pump & coolant flush. What a nightmare… Good-bye kisses & thank yous to Jean & her family..

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and I’m back on the road. Now I’m worried about making it to Tulsa, OK before it gets dark. I hate wandering around a new city in the dark  😦  I drive & need gas. Wow! Gas dropped suddenly overnight! $2.81 in Illinois & today I pay $2.45 in MO. I have to question the wisdom of the person that came up with the name of the chain of gas stations in this region: Kum & Go…Really?! Might wanna re-think that. But it gives me a chuckle every time I drive by the signs off of 44W.

Trying to be grateful for small blessings. OK, OK, I do realize in the scope of things that this is a blink of an eye. I should be grateful that I’m not a political prisoner in Darfur. This mechanical problem combined with the thunderstorms today threw off my great mood. I start jammin to Nikki Minaj “Super Bass” (Love that song!). Then I come across a great lil road, MO-100, that eventually leads me to Rte.44-W. MO-100 is a wonderful, curvy road through hilly mountains in Missouri. It almost reminded me of driving Upcountry or in Iao Valley on Maui! The sun came out while driving on that road & my mood picked up as I passed Gray Summit.

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Me looking worried about making it to Tulsa, OK before nightfall…

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I notice a lot more cows out here on the Western edge of Missouri. (Eastern border- corn/Western border- cows)  The sun starts to set as I cross into OK. Did you know that there is a Miami, OK? I never knew that!…

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I switch my jam to Flo-Rida “GDFR” and as I find my motel, check-in & park the jeep, I notice that I am at 1,305 miles into this cross-country trek. Almost 1/2way!! Outside of the $460.00 I blew on the new water pump, I have loved the drive!! Half-way through this bucket-list adventure!

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Day 2 of My Cross Country Solo Adventure

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So today I travel through the “Corn Belt” of this country. I passed through Western Ohio, Indiana, Illinois & the part of Missouri that I drove grows corn. And now I must say that other than seeing Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (home of the Indianapolis Colts – whom the Eagles crushed in the 1st pre-season opener!), it was all flat road & corn fields. Scenic but monotonous as a drive!

 

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Random thoughts: Did anyone realize that if you hit a construction worker on the road that the penalty is a $10,000.00 and 14 years imprisonment? This is news to me! My drive consisted of flat roads, endless construction zones, rude&considerate truck drivers, lots of Fords and Chevys (with the exception of an occasional Camaro or Challenger- no one owns cool cars out in the Mid-west?) and this very pretty cloud sky-scape  🙂

My cruisin song today was Fresh Prince – Summertime. The perfect song for a hot, long drive, hehehe! And my fave snack on the road today was red Twizzlers. Fresh Prince & Twizzlers and an open road – good combination!

Then at the end of the day – my reward!

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I arrive at my high school friend’s home! She introduces her kids – who are adorable! We start to make dinner when…her daughter falls off her bike and breaks two bones of her forearm. After the emergency room, we finish & eat dinner and talk WAY too long. The drive to Missouri was a mixed bag but generally a good time. Thanks, Jean! Luv ya!

This morning – a totally different story! Torrential rain & major car problem. Yikes!!!  Stay tuned for the story as it unfolds…